Becoming a parent means you’re going to have to make a lot of tough decisions – choices about medical care, education, discipline, and more. Before any of that happens, however, you’ll have to decide where you want to become a parent. That’s part of your birth plan and you’ll want to start thinking about it early so you have time to find the right fit. You have 3 main options: at home, at a birthing center, or at a hospital.
For the vast majority of human history, we have been giving birth at home – hospitals are a fairly recent invention on that timeline. Giving birth at home has a number of benefits. First, you’re in a comfortable and familiar place – no one ever accused hospitals of being cozy or inviting. By the same token, you have complete control over your environment at home. You can turn the lights up or down, put on music, light a candle, or do anything else that will make you feel better. A home birth is also economical – giving birth in a hospital can be very expensive even with insurance coverage.
If you choose a home birth, you’ll work with a midwife (or sometimes even a doctor) to plan your labor and delivery. That midwife will be there to guide you through the delivery process and monitor the baby’s condition as well as yours. Midwives can handle certain labor complications and will typically come prepared with an IV in case of dehydration, oxygen in case the baby needs it, tools for suturing tears, and other supplies to deal with any issues that arise. Note that you won’t be able to have an epidural for a home birth, so you’ll need to talk to your midwife about your options for pain management.
In general, a home birth is an option if your pregnancy is healthy and low-risk. However, home births are not recommended if your pregnancy is risky; midwives don’t have the medical training to handle serious complications and your home is not a safe environment in which to receive that kind of care. Home births are typically not recommended if you have a pregnancy complication such as preeclampsia or placenta previa, if you’ve had a c-section before, if your baby is in the wrong position for delivery, if the baby is premature or late, or if you have chronic health conditions like epilepsy or diabetes.
Even if you are a good candidate for a home birth, you may end up needing to transfer to a hospital if complications arise. One study found that about 40% of first-time mothers and about 10% of mothers who have previously given birth end up transferring from a home birth to a hospital.
Hospitals are the most common choice for women in the US – about 99% of babies in this country are born in hospitals. Giving birth is risky; childbirth is still the leading cause of death in many of the poorer areas of the world. So, many women choose to give birth in hospitals where they have easy access to care for any complications that may arise. Most deliveries are straightforward and simple, but the complications that do turn up can be deadly to mother or child. Serious bleeding, for example, is a common issue that can only be treated in the hospital. Complications that affect the baby may necessitate a c-section to speed up delivery; that can only be performed in a hospital. In addition, a hospital birth gives you the option of an epidural for pain management.
Of course, a hospital birth has its drawbacks. It’s expensive, for one. You also don’t have the ability to control the environment like you would in your own home, meaning you may not be as comfortable. Your options for delivery positions will be more limited and most hospitals do not have the facilities for water births. Hospital births are also more likely to result in medical intervention, such as the use of forceps or a vacuum, to speed up the delivery process.
The third option, a birthing center, falls somewhere between a hospital and a home birth. Birthing centers are usually staffed by nurses and midwives and may operate in partnership with an OB-GYN. They can offer more emergency care than a midwife can at home, although you’ll still need to transfer to a hospital for serious complications.
Birthing centers often offer full prenatal care, so you can go through your whole pregnancy journey with the same care providers. They’re designed to be more comfortable than hospitals but provide more medical support than your home – you can have both an IV and a water birth. They tend to encourage natural birth and can’t provide you with an epidural or pitocin. Birthing centers are also typically less expensive than hospital deliveries. One other thing to consider – giving birth is a messy process and doing it at a birthing center means you’re not the one who has to clean it up.
Where Will You Give Birth?
It’s an important decision, so it pays to look into the options in your area and decide what’s best for you. If your pregnancy is complicated, you’ll likely need to give birth in a hospital. Otherwise, the choice is yours! Check out the birthing centers and hospitals near you and talk to a local midwife to learn more about what each can offer you during your big day. Whatever you choose, work with the care provider or facility to ensure that they understand your birth plan and your needs.
Remember – none of this is set in stone. You can change your mind right up until the very end, so don’t be afraid to make a change if something doesn’t feel right to you.
How did you decide where to deliver? Tell us in the comments!