When you find out that you are pregnant, two questions might be on the forefront of your mind: who do you want on your care team, and where would you like to give birth? Many care providers often have a preferred place where they would be authorized or comfortably situated to care for you, so these questions are typically linked with one another. The options you have for your birth plan have expanded as the idea of a natural delivery has become more widely practiced. Below, we explore some of the more popular alternative options you may have in and out of the hospital.
The most common place to give birth is in the hospital. If you’ve decided to have an obstetrician or family practitioner as your main caregiver, the hospital is likely where you’ll give birth. There are many benefits of birthing in a hospital, the most important being immediate access to skilled professionals prepared for emergency situations, should any arise. Despite this benefit, the hospital may seem more restrictive or medically invasive to some. Luckily, there are a few options for more natural births with less medical interventions for those who still wish to give birth in a hospital.
Obstetrics is the field of study that focuses on pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. Obstetricians are typically the main care provider offering assistance in a hospital birth. They are also physicians capable of performing any surgery necessary during labor, such as a cesarean section, or episiotomies. Obstetricians may be the preferred option for those who may have a high-risk pregnancy or labor as they can prenatally check for any conditions or complications as they arise and follow a plan for treatment.
Family practitioners include physicians who have studied multiple fields of medicine, including obstetrics, pediatrics, surgery, and internal medicine. Due to the comprehensive nature of this type of primary care, these physicians provide care for a variety of ages, genders, infections, diseases, and parts of the body. A family practitioner would be an option for those who are low-risk during pregnancy and labor and wish to give birth in the hospital.
Midwifery is the health profession and study that focuses on obstetrics, gynecology, pregnancy, and childbirth. Typically, midwives view pregnancy and birth as natural and treat both as such. Midwives are able to work alongside obstetricians in a hospital setting if you wish to have both present. Together with an obstetrician in a hospital, a midwife can be an option for those who wish to be emotionally supported, but may have complications due to being high-risk and needing to be in a hospital. As a solo care provider, a midwife can be a choice for those who wish to have an unmedicated, natural, and holistic pregnancy and birth experience and also are low-risk patients. If you wish to have a midwife as your sole care provider in the hospital, you will have to find a Certified Nurse Midwife in your area–direct midwives generally practice in the home.
Doulas are trained individuals that act as a secondary care person. They typically assist with non-medical emotional, social, and physical support. As such, doulas can be present at a hospital or home birth and can be a great option for pregnant individuals who want someone to walk them through the different stages in pregnancy, a strong advocate for the birthing mother, and some doulas may even offer postpartum support.
Labor Delivery Room (LDR) or Labor, Delivery, Recovery, and Postpartum (LDRP)
The most common place to give birth in a hospital is the labor and delivery room (LDR). These rooms are designed for all vaginal births and will have the necessary equipment and staff needed to take care of you and the birth of your little one. A couple hours after you give birth, you will be transferred to another room to rest and recover. Some hospitals have a labor, delivery, recovery, and postpartum (LDRP) room which allows you to give birth and rest in the same space. Since both of these rooms are usually only equipped for vaginal birth, you may need to transfer to a different room if a cesarean becomes necessary.
Operating Room or Special Delivery Room
If you plan on having a cesarean section or are in need of an emergency c-section during labor, you will have that procedure in an operating room or a special delivery room. After labor, you will then be transferred to a recovery room.
Birth Center in the Hospital
Alternative birth environments are sometimes available in hospitals. Birth centers are an option for many who wish to have a more natural and homey birth setting, but with the comfort of being in or right next to a hospital should any interventions be needed. Most birth centers are run by certified nurse midwives, but some also have obstetricians on staff. Depending on the birth center, birthing tubs and other natural remedies may be available.
Until 1765, birthing in your home was the most common setting for bringing your little one into the world; then, hospitals became more popular. If you have decided to have a midwife as your main physician for care, you have the option to give birth at home or in the hospital, depending on the midwife you’ve hired. You may decide to give birth at home if the ability to move around within your own home, a place that is more comforting and familiar to your senses, is important to you. Despite this, birthing at home or in a freestanding birth center is not for everyone, especially if you’re considered high-risk. Consider the options below if you wish to birth outside of the hospital.
When it comes to home births, midwives are the primary care providers. These physicians are trained for labor and birth at home which has no medical interventions, unless necessary, and is often very family-centered. For a home birth, you will want to seek out a direct-entry midwife, which includes one of these options:
In some cases, though very uncommon, obstetricians may be available to assist with home births. However, in any scenario, it will be important to meet with an obstetrician at least once during pregnancy to discuss the possibilities of a home birth. Their specialized knowledge, along with that of your midwife, will be able to guide you with regard to risk factors, and your ability to continue with your home birth plan.
Parallel with the hospital setting, doulas act as a secondary care-person who assists pregnant individuals with non-medical support in a home or birth center setting. Their services can be useful for many women who need a little extra guidance through pregnancy, delivery and postpartum.
Birth Centers are freestanding healthcare facilities that provide childbirth and care to the birthing parent who wishes to make informed decisions regarding her and her child’s health care. As such, birthing centers are run primarily by midwives, feel homey, and adapt to individualized birth plans as fluidly as possible. It is suggested that low-risk women utilize birth centers; if you are high-risk, it is suggested to give birth in a hospital or in-hospital birthing center.
Home births used to be the norm for women but after a hiatus, have recently gained a resurgence. The comfortability of a familiar environment is intriguing to many who want to feel relaxed and have more autonomy. With home births, the options are almost endless for how you want to give birth. Whether it be on your bed, seated in the living room, or even a water birth, your midwife will help you make that happen. Families must be aware of any risks or complications that may happen during a home birth before deciding on this option. Furthermore, birthing at home is not suggested for high-risk women.
When it comes to giving birth, there are a plethora of options. Luckily, to help with your choice, there are some parameters when it comes to birthing at home or in the hospital, such as being high-risk. Whether you are high-risk or not, you can choose who you will have with you during labor. Overall, your birth is yours, and whether you decide to go the holistic, alternative route or stay traditional in a hospital setting, you will find the right option that works for you.