Choosing Where to Give Birth

Julie Kirk
New born baby with his mother

If you do not want to go the traditional hospital route when you deliver your baby, you may want to explore the different birth settings that are available. It is important that you decide early on where you would like to deliver your baby in order to prepare and to ultimately have the best birthing experience possible.

Birthing Options

If you are experiencing a healthy pregnancy with no complications, you should be able to choose where you would like to deliver your baby. It is best to decide early in your pregnancy so you can find a health care provider that delivers at your preferred birth setting. Keep in mind that if you have had a previous c-section, your baby is not head down, you are considered high risk, or you're expecting multiples (twins, triplets, etc.), you are not a candidate for alternate birth settings and will need to deliver at the hospital.

Home Births

A home birth is when you make the decision to literally give birth at home. As long as you're having a healthy, low-risk pregnancy with no complications, this may be a viable option. You may feel home birth may be a good choice if you:

  • Want to be in the comfort of your own home
  • Want to be surrounded by family and friends.
  • Prefer not to have any medical interventions such as an episiotomy, fetal heart rate monitoring, an epidural or induction of labor
  • Want the ability to move around, take a shower, and eat if you'd like
  • Are not a fan of hospital care
  • Want lower costs than at a hospital

What to Expect

You will need to find a doctor, midwife, or other health care provider who performs home births. Typically, you would use a midwife. On your delivery day, the midwife will arrive with her medical supplies. She will also most likely bring an IV, oxygen, homeopathic items and other natural remedies. You will actually have control over your own birthing experience under the guidance of your midwife with little to no medical intervention. Be aware that your insurance may not cover the cost of home birth; however, home births are much cheaper than hospital births.

Water Birth

A water birth is the delivery of your baby in a birth pool full of water. This can take place in your own home, at a birthing center, or in some hospitals under your doctor or a midwife's care. Some of the benefits of a water birth include:

  • Provides a relaxing atmosphere
  • Alleviates the pain during labor due to bouyancy of water
  • Eases movement when shifting positions
  • Diminishes pain medication needs and medical intervention
  • Eases the transition for the baby during delivery from the amniotic sac to the birth pool
Brand new baby born via natural home water birth

What to Expect

You will sit in a large, inflatable, soft-sided pool filled with warm water typically at 95 to 100 degrees. Your belly should be fully submerged. You should feel relaxed and you will be able to move easily. During labor, it is not unusual to have a bowel movement. Your midwife will remove it promptly. Keep in mind, the water does not stay clean and is not sterile. There will be blood and urine in it as well. That is why it is imperative that once the baby is delivered, the midwife will immediately place your baby up on your chest to help prevent the baby from inhaling the water.

Birth Centers

A birth center is a freestanding healthcare facility for the delivery of your baby under your doctor and/or a midwife's care. A birth center allows for a more natural childbirth experience in a comfortable, homey atmosphere. Keep in mind that not all birth centers are the same, but most typically adhere to the following:

  • No pain medications.
  • No epidurals.
  • No inductions of labor are performed.
  • No c-sections.
  • No electronic fetal monitoring.

What to Expect

Your birthing room will be comfortable and cozy, much like your bedroom at home and very unlike a hospital room. You will experience a relaxed atmosphere. The room is also large enough to allow your family to participate in the birth as well. You are allowed to walk around and have the freedom you want. Typically, your stay will be shorter in a birthing center. Most insurances will not cover birth centers, so always best to double check your coverage.

Hospital Births

A hospital birth is still the most common choice for women to give birth. If you are high-risk or having complications with your pregnancy, you may have no choice but to deliver at a hospital. Also, if you are being induced or are planning an epidural, you will need to give birth at the hospital as well. Hospitals have become more flexible over the years. Your midwife (or doula) will be able to attend the birth of your baby and some hospitals even allow water births. Some advantages of giving birth at a hospital include:

  • You have access to pain medication which will provide some relief during labor.
  • You are constantly monitored.
  • It is the safest place to be for your delivery.
  • If complications arise, you can be moved to the operating room.
Newborn baby

What to Expect

While you are in labor, your baby will be hooked up to a fetal monitor that will record baby's heart rate and your contractions. You may be administered pain medication or given an epidural. Once you are 10 centimeters dilated, you are ready to deliver and it is time to push. Once the baby is delivered, he or she will be placed on your chest.

Have a Back-Up Plan

If you are using a birth setting other than a hospital and will be under a midwife's care, be sure to have a back-up plan. It is best check with your midwife to see if she works with a doctor as back-up just in case complications develop and you need to deliver at a hospital. You will want to meet with this doctor during your pregnancy. That way if your back-up plan goes into effect, meeting and becoming familiar with the doctor will help you feel comfortable with him or her during delivery.

Making the Right Choice

There are many things to take into consideration when deciding on where to deliver your baby. It is best that you weigh out the pros and cons of each birth setting to find the one that's appropriate and comfortable for you.

Choosing Where to Give Birth