Where to Give Birth

Where to give birth is a very straightforward decision for some. If you have planned for this birth long before conception, chances are you've already thought about the birth. For others though, thinking about where to give birth is less of a given.

For instance, those expecting multiples or women who have medical complications will be forced to give birth in hospitals even if they'd wanted to give birth at home. Also, women whose pregnancies come out of the blue often hadn’t even thought about giving birth, let alone where. They often need a bit more time to get their heads around the pregnancy first before making that decision. That is why it is good to know that you can change your mind at any stage during your pregnancy.

What hospitals can and cannot offer laboring women:

Choice for an elective cesarean section
Vaginal delivery with the aid of pain relief
Piece of mind with presence of specialists
Option of natural birth still available (even birthing pools in some hospitals)

About a third of women in the US need or opt for a cesarean section. This group, by default, will have a hospital birth, as will those who go over term and need to be induced.

What a home birth can and cannot offer women in labor

Being able to relax in the comfort of their own homes
Freedom to eat what they want and deliver their baby the way they want to
Be with both their baby and partner after the birth
Dedicated midwife by their side at all times
No pain relief possible at home
In case of complications, the woman in labor will need to go to a hospital

While less than 1% of babies in the US are born at home, it is still an option for pregnant women. In other western countries, it is a much more common practice to deliver at home with the assistance of a midwife. For instance, in the Netherlands, about 20% of women opt for a home birth. In western countries, midwives will say it is only an option for women who have had uneventful pregnancies.

What birth centers can and cannot offer women in labor

Freedom to move about without being hooked up to an IV drip or electronic fetal monitor; usually close to a hospital
No real restrictions of who can be present at the birth - even children are welcome
No pain relief options but IV's, oxygen, medication, and infant resuscitation are available
Plenty of midwives on hand to aid in the delivery process
Pleasant surroundings in a private room to make you feel at home
Less costly than a hospital birth as you often go home sooner

For women who do not want to give birth at home but also do not want to give birth in a hospital, birth centers are an option. A birth center is not a mini-hospital, but many birthing centers are near or part of a hospital, facilitating easy access to medical care in case of an emergency.

Whatever option you go with, make sure that it is an informed decision. Discuss with your partner and work on your birth plan beforehand.