Deciding where to have your baby is one of the most important decisions you’ll be faced with. Your experience of labor directly affects how you feel in the first few weeks with your new baby. Fortunately, when it comes to choosing where to give birth, you have several options.
Although many women are put off by the idea of a home birth, in case things get complicated, studies have shown that home births are just as safe as hospital births for healthy women with normal pregnancies. If complications do arise, you will be transferred to hospital to get the care you need, and this is likely to be a result of factors such as the labour being slow, rather than as a result of an emergency.
During a home birth, a midwife will be with you throughout your labour. This will be one of the midwives who have helped you throughout your pregnancy, so you have the benefit of having your baby delivered by someone you are familiar with. Many women opt for a home birth because they feel more relaxed in their own home, and like the idea of being able to get into their own bed after the birth and having their home comforts around them. Having a home birth reduces your chances of having to have medical intervention in your labour, such as caesarean or forceps, but pain relief is limited to gas and air and pethidine, as midwives cannot give epidurals.
These centres are run entirely by midwives, with no doctors present, and are usually stand-alone units, although some hospitals do have birth centres in them. Birth centres strive to offer women a relaxing atmosphere in which to give birth, and often have facilities such as family accommodation, private birthing rooms, gas and air to relieve the pain, cups of tea, hot flannels, soft mats, beanbags and birthing balls. Midwives usually give one on one care throughout your labour, meaning someone is likely to stay with you, rather than coming and going, as is usually the case with hospital births.
Postnatal care tends to be excellent in birth centres, where women are often given a private room with en suite bathroom. Midwives encourage new mothers to stay until they feel ready to leave, and offer plenty of advice on breastfeeding. Pain relief options are limited however in birth centres, as epidurals can only be given by anaesthetists. Pethidine is sometimes offered, but not at all birth centres, and even then, only as a last resort. Also, like with a home birth, if your labour becomes complicated or you need a caesarean, you will have to be transferred by ambulance to a hospital.
Hospital births are led by consultants. The benefits of having a hospital birth are that you have the option of all types of pain relief, including an epidural and pethidine. You also won’t have to be transferred if the labour becomes complicated as all the equipment and medical staff are already there. Most women choose to give birth in hospital, as they feel it’s the safest place. Many hospitals have birth pools, so you can have a water birth if you choose.
However, women who give birth in hospitals are more likely to need medical intervention. This could be because the hospital environment isn’t very relaxing, which can slow down labour. Cushions, birthing balls, hot flannels and other comforts are unlikely to be available in a hospital. Hospitals often have strict protocols about time scales and intervention, which might clash with your feelings about your labour. There is usually no family accommodation for relative or partners to stay overnight. Also, unless your labour is very quick, you are likely to have several different midwives due to shift changes, and you won’t know them as they are different to the midwives who provide antenatal care.
When making your decision about whether to give birth in a hospital, birth centre or at home, think about what kind of atmosphere you want to give birth in, and how you feel about pain relief. If the idea of not being able to have an epidural if you want one makes you nervous about the birth, you might prefer a hospital birth. But if you prefer more natural methods of pain relief, you might want to consider giving birth in a more relaxing environment.
To help you decide, talk to women you know who have given birth to get their opinion on where they gave birth. Visit your local hospital and birth centre and compare them. Feel free to ask your hospital or birth centre questions about the care they give pregnant women, and ask if they are part of UNICEF UK’s Baby Friendly Initiative. Finally, remember, that you can change your mind at any point in your pregnancy about where to give birth. If you have planned a home birth, you can go to hospital, or if you have planned a hospital birth you can give birth at home with a midwife.
This article has been written by Alice from http://pregnancy.co.uk and she is interested in discovering the options that mothers-to-be have to give birth.