Birthing choices -- what are your real options?

by Julie Snyder

Birthing choicesAs soon as you saw a positive on the pregnancy test -- or maybe before -- you began planning your baby's birth.

Do you prefer a hospital, a birthing center to have your baby at home? Who will attend? A midwife, an OB/GYN, a doula? Should you have a water birth, flexibility in positions, epidural, planned c-section -- the choices surrounding your labor and delivery seem never-ending.

Birthing choices -- what are your options?

If you're healthy, you can consider giving birth in a hospital, an out-of-hospital birth center, or in your home with your choices of attendants.

Your best choice makes you feel comfortable. "Shop" for both your provider and your place of birth. The decision you make could be a life-changing one.

Choosing a location

Your place of birth will be the setting for one of the most intimate events of your life. Before making a choice, you may want to tour several facilities, even if you've decided one option meets your needs. Bring your questions -- hospitals and birthing centers vary in policies and philosophies.

Hospital births remain the most common option. Some families feel more comfortable having technology and skilled professionals on hand should something go wrong. With that assurance, you may find your options during labor and birth restricted.

Out-of-hospital birthing centers offer a personalized and comfortable place for childbirth in a homelike environment. Usually a midwife provides your care in a birthing center based on the midwifery model of care.

Home birth shares many qualities of birth in freestanding birth centers. In addition, it's your own familiar and private space. You don't have to relocate during labor or after giving birth. Most home birth caregivers are midwives.

Deciding on a care providers

Your midwife or doctor will be your best friend the next few months. They can make all the difference between a birth experience you'll cherish versus one you won't.

Obstetricians are specially trained to handle complications and any problems that may arise during pregnancy and birth. If you have a serious chronic illness, are carrying twins or anticipate other potential problems, you may want to consider an OB/GYN. Obstetricians normally do all deliveries in a hospital setting.

Family practitioners have completed schooling and training in various fields of medicine including obstetrics. They offer a continuity of care for the whole family. Family practitioners normally handle non-risk pregnancies and do deliveries in hospital settings.

Midwives: are trained to care for women having a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy. Women who deliver with a midwife generally have fewer complications, fewer interventions and report greater satisfaction with their delivery.

Doulas advocate for the mom or the couple during the birthing process. They offer non-medical care, such as emotional support, physical comfort or information. The presence of a professional labor support person such as a doula may decrease interventions and complications, whether your birth takes place in a hospital, home, or birth center.

That's a bunch of options! Which birth experience will you choose?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.