Hospital Births and Birthing Centers

For many years, the standard location for most women giving birth has been in a hospital. Although there are other options available to women now, many still prefer the hospital. The reasons for choosing the hospital, though, may vary from woman to woman.

Why Some Women Prefer A Hospital Birth
Some believe that it is the safest place to give birth and feel reassured when they are surrounded by modern medical equipment. Many first time mothers (and fathers) worry about every possible complication associated with childbirth and feel more at ease when they are in a hospital. Others worry about having to deal with the pain associated with labor and prefer to know that they can access a bevy of painkillers when they give birth in a hospital. Some women simply choose the hospital so that they can get a brief break from their hectic home life. But not every woman can choose where she would like to give birth.

When Is Hospital Your Only Option?
There are a host of medical reasons and conditions that can prevent you from giving birth anywhere other than in a hospital. Some of these reasons include having diabetes, a heart or kidney condition, preeclampsia, going into labor at least three weeks before your actual due date, or if your baby is in a position that could make it a breech birth. Also, if you have had numerous miscarriages or complications in previous labors, your health care provider may recommend a hospital birth.

Sometimes, your health care provider may urge you to have a hospital birth. Some health care providers feel that all first-time mothers should give birth in a hospital just in case something happens. Others feel that only first-time mothers over the age of 40 require a hospital birth.

Birthing Questions For Your Obstetrician
If you are having an uncomplicated pregnancy, though, you have more freedom to decide how you would like your pregnancy and birth experience to be. But before you decide to have your child in a hospital, there are some things you may want to consider.

If you are going to an obstetrician for your prenatal care, the most important thing to think about is whether or not you like her. It is definitely a bonus if your obstetrician is affiliated with a hospital that is close to your home, but that should not be the deciding factor when choosing your health care provider.

At your first appointment with your obstetrician, ask her some questions about their delivery methods to get a better idea if they can provide you with the type of birth experience you want. Some things you might want to ask about include: what kind of painkillers they provide; if they always order the medications; if they assess the needs of each woman individually; whether they encourage trying different positions during labor; what their attitude is towards lighting, bonding and drops once the baby is born; and how often do they induce labor.

Can I Have a Hospital Birth With a Midwife?
If you have chosen to go to a midwife for your pregnancy, remember that they are trained to deal with normal, uncomplicated pregnancies. If any complications do arise during your pregnancy, you will most likely be referred to an obstetrician, although the midwife can stay with you throughout your pregnancy to offer you emotional support.

However, midwives do not necessarily have equal access to all hospitals. Depending on where you live and the general attitude towards midwives by others in the natal care profession, you may encounter some difficulties with giving birth in a hospital if you have a midwife.

Take a Hospital Tour
If you have a choice of hospitals to give birth in, ask to take a tour of them before deciding on which one you'd like. Not all hospitals are the same. Some may have equipment or facilities that others don't.

Hospitals and Water Births
If you are interested in having a water birth, be sure to find out which, if any, of the hospitals is equipped to honor this request. Be aware that many hospitals use Jacuzzis or tubs that are designed for elderly and disabled people. While these will help you during your labor, they are not ideal for giving birth in. Additionally, many hospitals discourage actually giving birth in water even if they allow you to use a tub or Jacuzzi to help relieve labor pains.

Hospital Birthing Rooms
Another option that many hospitals are making available to pregnant women these days is a birthing room. A birthing room is a place that has been designed to make labor a more pleasant event for women.

Many women found that giving birth in a delivery room was a cold experience that didn't allow them to include their family or partner. As a response to women's complaints, some hospitals created birthing rooms. These rooms are intended to look and feel more like a bedroom than a sterile delivery room.

They are often equipped with different lighting to create a warmer atmosphere; rocking chairs, stools and handrails so that you can try a variety of positions throughout your labor; and are often large enough to accommodate you, your birth team and your family.

Birthing rooms often look very nice but be critical when you are assessing the quality of a birth room. Consider whether or not the furniture may actually hinder your movement during labor and if you really need all the equipment in the room. Some birthing rooms may be more fashionable than functional.

Birthing Centers
If you like the idea of a birthing room but are not convinced you would like to have your baby in a hospital, then you could consider using a birthing center. Like birthing rooms, birthing centers were created as a response to women's complaints about their hospital experiences.

However, birthing centers do not exist everywhere. In Canada, for instance, birthing centers are more likely to be housed within a hospital rather than as a freestanding organization.

Birthing centers are independent institutions and are usually staffed by midwives but have obstetricians there to back them up. There may also be other people on the staff like nutritionists, social workers, family doctors, and physical health experts. The centers are usually set up to resemble a home so that women and their families can feel more at ease and comfortable.

The Birthing Center Experience
In fact, birthing centers often encourage the entire family to become involved in the pregnancy care and birthing process as well as make informed decisions about the pregnancy for themselves. Another benefit of the birthing centers is that they are set-up to deal with all aspects of your pregnancy, from prenatal care visits with your midwife to birthing classes to the actual birth. They also have all the medical equipment available to them if an emergency were to arise during your birth.

If you give birth in a birthing center, you and your family will be left uninterrupted in the same room for some quality time after the birth. Many families like this better than the hospital experience where they are transferred from room to room. Generally, women return home from the birthing centers within 24 hours after birth. However, you might want to ask if the birthing center you are interested in has a high transfer rate to hospitals.

If you are considering a birthing center, be aware that you will be carefully screened to ensure that you are having a low-risk, uncomplicated pregnancy. Also, look for one that is accredited and/or is licensed (in the United States, not all states require birthing centers to be licensed; they should be accredited though).

Before deciding on a birthing center, ask to take a tour so you can see just what the facilities are like. You may want to ask about the center's history, how long it has been open and how many pregnancies it usually deals with. You can also ask about their cesarean section and episiotomy rate.

While many women have reported very positive experiences at birthing centers, a number of hospitals have begun to change their attitude towards labor and birth practices to make sure that women are just as happy with their hospital experience.

Whether you choose a hospital or a birthing center for the special day, remember that it is in your best interest that should be looked after. Give birth in the establishment that you feel most comfortable and at ease with.

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