Deciding where to give birth to your baby may seem like a no-brainer. You may choose the hospital your doctor or midwife is affiliated with, or the one your best friend gave birth in and swears is best. Many women actually don't put too much thought into choosing a birthplace at all, though. Seriously, it takes many of us longer to decide what's for dinner than where to give birth.
It's worth taking the time and effort to find the birthplace that's right for you. If you live in a community where there is a full range of birthplace options (hospital, birth center or home) you truly have some great options. Here's a bit about each to start the decision-making process.
It's not just for hippies anymore
Whether you live near a haystack or in a high-rise, home births are more common now than at any other time in the last 125 years. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control says home births have increased 29 percent from 2004-2009. If you're thinking about having a home birth you need to be having a low-risk, healthy pregnancy. You also need to have a local midwife or doctor who attends home births (in many states, home birth midwives are not licensed or recognized).
Moms who choose a home birth like the comfort of being at home, surrounded by as many friends and family as they wish. You can eat or drink whatever you like and everyone is on your turf. You'll need to have a backup plan, and access to a nearby hospital in case complications arise that can't be handled at home. And, definitely, you'll want to have a natural childbirth -- no epidurals in your bedroom. Interview home birth midwives and find out if they have backup arrangements with doctors and hospitals if needed.
The best of both worlds
Some women find free-standing birth centers, many times located on hospital grounds or very close, to be the best of both worlds as a place to give birth. Birth centers typically offer comfortable, home-like rooms, say, a regular bed (not a hospital one) or birthing tubs, with midwives or doctors attending.
Some birth centers even offer certain medications if you want them in labor -- though if you decide on an epidural, you would need to transfer to a hospital. Just like with home birth, find out about backup arrangements and reasons to transfer, especially if the birth center is not affiliated with a particular hospital.
The most popular birthplace but not best for everyone
Most women give birth in hospitals. Choosing a hospital birth is important if you have a high-risk pregnancy or if your baby has a known medical issue that may require immediate medical intervention after birth -- you can find out what level special-care nursery your local hospital has. If you think you'll want pain medication or have a scheduled C-section, the hospital is the place to be.
That said, natural, low-intervention births happen in hospitals all the time. But depending on individual hospital protocols and the philosophy of the doctors or midwives who work there, you may need to work a little harder to get one. You can find out a hospital's rate of labor induction, C-section, assisted vaginal delivery and more.
Best of luck on your journey to birth!