by The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS)
Have you decided how to have your baby? The choice is yours! First, you should learn as much as you can about all your choices. There are many different ways of caring for a mother and her baby during labor and birth.
Birthing care that is better and healthier for mothers and babies is called "mother-friendly." Some birthplaces or settings are more mother-friendly than others.
A group of experts in birthing care came up with this list of 10 things to look for and ask about. Medical research supports all of these things. These are also the best ways to be mother-friendly.
When you are deciding where to have your baby, you'll probably be choosing from different places such as a birthing center, a hospital, or a home birth service.
Here's what you should expect, and ask for, in your birth experience. Be sure to find out how the people you talk with handle these ten issues about caring for you and your baby. You may want to ask the questions below to help you learn more.
1. Ask, "Who can be with me during labor and birth?"
Mother-friendly birth centers, hospitals, and home birth services will let a birthing mother decide whom she wants to have with her during the birth. This includes fathers, partners, children, other family members, or friends.
They will also let a birthing mother have with her a person who has special training in helping women cope with labor and birth. This person is called a doula or labor support person. She never leaves the birthing mother alone. She encourages her, comforts her, and helps her understand what's happening to her.
They will have midwives as part of their staff so that a birthing mother can have a midwife with her if she wants to.
2. Ask, "What happens during a normal labor and birth in your setting?"
If they give mother-friendly care, they will tell you how they handle every part of the birthing process. For example, how often do they give the mother a drug to speed up the birth? Or do they let labor and birth usually happen on its own timing?
They will also tell you how often they do certain procedures. For example, they will have a record of the percentage of C-sections (Cesarean births) they do every year. If the number is too high, you'll want to consider having your baby in another place or with another doctor or midwife.
Here are some numbers we recommend you ask about.
A C-section is a major operation in which a doctor cuts through the mother's stomach into her womb and removes the baby through the opening. Mothers who have had a C-section can often have future babies normally. Look for a birthplace in which 6 out of 10 women (60%) or more of the mothers who have had C-sections go on to have their other babies through the birth canal (VBAC)
3. Ask, "How do you allow for differences in culture and beliefs?"
Mother-friendly birth centers, hospitals, and home birth services are sensitive to the mother's culture. They know that mothers and families have differing beliefs, values, and customs.
For example, you may have a custom that only women may be with you during labor and birth. Or perhaps your beliefs include a religious ritual to be done after birth. There are many other examples that may be very important to you. If the place and the people are mother-friendly, they will support you in doing what you want to do. Before labor starts tell your doctor or midwife special things you want.