Bringing new life into the world can create all sorts of feelings from elation to anxiety. Every pregnancy is different. In a world where you can’t control every factor of your pregnancy, you can choose where you give birth.
Many expectant parents feel that a hospital is a safe choice for the delivery of their baby. Others may feel differently. What works for others may not work for you and that’s ok. We’ll break down a few birthing options you can consider as an alternative to a hospital birth.
Why consider an alternative to a hospital birth?
Delivering a baby in a hospital may seem like the safest and most traditional route. Unfortunately, it’s not without its concerns. In recent years, many women have experienced a lack of health equity in a large number of hospitals. The mortality rate among pregnant individuals has risen and continues to climb. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,205 women died of maternal causes in 2021 compared with 861 in 2020, and 754 in 2019.
Studies also show that mortality rates are much higher among black women–69.9 Black women died per 100,000 live births in 2021. Yale Medicine Obstetrician-gynecologist, Monique Rainford, MD had this to say on the subject, “Implicit bias, in which a person isn’t aware of their bias, is particularly problematic. For instance, a caregiver may think they are doing the right thing for their pregnant patient, but their implicit bias against the woman’s race affects the care they deliver.”
Approximately 35,000 births occur in the home per year according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Giving birth at home can give you a greater sense of comfort while preparing for labor. You’ll be surrounded by a familiar setting and all your belongings.
Before your delivery, it’s smart to have a birth plan prepared in advance. Consider things like:
- Who do you want around while you’re giving birth?
- Are there any special items you’d like to have by your side?
- How will you manage your pain?
- Are you planning to immediately breastfeed after delivery?
It would be best if you discussed your birth plan with your care provider to ensure you’re well-prepared. They may also provide you with additional information and more factors to consider.
If you decide to have a home birth, here are a few tips to keep your delivery as safe and successful as possible.
- Hire a certified nurse-midwife.
- Hire a doctor (if possible). Some doctors are available to assist with home births.
- Hire someone to assist with your delivery such as a doula, (a professional trained to assist you throughout your pregnancy and delivery).
Please note that having a backup plan prepared in case your delivery becomes complicated is highly recommended. You’ll need quick and easy access to a hospital so make sure you know where you’ll go and how you’ll get there (if necessary). Try to aim for a hospital that is no more than 15 minutes away. It’s also wise to plan hospital arrangements with your care provider in case of an emergency. That way you can be quickly cared for upon arrival if the need should arise.
While hospital birth centers are available and are also a safe place to deliver your child, you also have the option of delivering your baby in a freestanding birth center. What is the difference between the two? A birth center located in or attached to a hospital offers you the comforts of a relaxing, homey atmosphere with the peace of mind of knowing that you’ll be cared for by doctors using technology, machinery, and any necessary medical interventions.
A free-standing birth center also provides homey-looking and comfortable birth rooms. However, they typically only work with low-risk deliveries. Free-standing birth centers also provide certified midwives to lead your care as well as doulas to support you throughout pregnancy and delivery.
Their care methods allow you to have longer visits with your care providers so you can ask all of your questions and develop a close relationship with your care team. This model of care also promotes trust and reduces anxiety throughout your pregnancy.
Furthermore, research shows that births conducted in birth centers result in lower rates of cesareans, medical interventions, and higher rates of breastfeeding.
A water birth can occur in a hospital, your home, or a birth center. It involves delivering your baby in a birth pool filled with warm water. Some scientists believe that experiencing labor in a water bath may increase blood flow to the vagina and reduce vaginal tearing. They also feel that floating in water allows you to move more easily than being in bed. However, some scientists feel that delivering a child in water comes with risks and should be considered experimental.
Just like with a home birth, it’s wise to have a birth plan and access to a hospital in case of emergency. Here are some additional precautions you’ll need to take to help achieve a successful water birth:
- Hire a licensed medical professional to assist with your delivery.
- Ensure the birthing tub is well-cleaned and maintained.
- The water temperature falls between 97 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- There is an effective plan in place to remove you and the baby from the tub when it’s time.
- Stay hydrated during the process by drinking lots of water.
If you’re looking to have your baby in an alternate location, you do have three birthing options. Keep in mind, that if your pregnancy is high-risk or you have pre-existing medical conditions that could cause complications, it may be best for you to choose a hospital for your delivery.
However, if you’ve got a caring team of professionals on your side and you’re looking for a calm and relaxing environment for your child’s birth, why not consider your home, a birth center, or a water birth? No matter what you decide, asking the right questions and discussing your care with your care provider as well as having a plan are your tickets to a successful delivery.