Whether you're newly pregnant with baby number one, or you're halfway through with baby number two, how you are going to deliver your child is more than likely the top thing on your mind.
There are many methods, and so many mothers have an infinite number of stories, that it can seem very daunting as you work through all the research and horror stories to find some facts.
You don't know how to sort it all or what to believe, or maybe you're not sure exactly what you want in your childbirth experience. Well, while you should definitely speak to your healthcare provider, you also should take a proactive approach and do your own research.
And while this handy guide has plenty of information, there is tons more out there on each method listed here, so if you're wanting to know more, do some research and learn about what methods interest you! And remember, it's not a competition, it's about what you feel comfortable doing!
8 Hospital Birth
Are you less worried about the kind of bed you'll be in, and more concerned with what kind of medical backup you're going to have? Then you would probably feel safest in a hospital.
Hospital births are by far the most popular birth choice of expectant mothers in the United States. If you have what is considered a 'high risk' pregnancy, for example, if you're pregnant with multiples or have conditions such as gestational diabetes, it's the safest choice of birth place. It generally also offers the most options in terms of who can make your delivery.
How? Well, while most birthing centers and home births are attended by midwives, a hospital birth can be overseen by an OB-GYN, a family physician, or a certified nurse-midwife. Doulas are also welcome. Hospitals are widely known as the safest option, especially if unforeseen complications come up during labor, such as a placental abruption.
It's also close to an operating room, in case things go sour and you need a cesarean birth. Hospitals also have the most advanced technology, and you also have easy access to pain relief.
However, hospitals can have their downsides. To many people, they can seem intimidating, even impersonal. The private rooms really aren't that private, you're likely to be separated from your baby at least once, and you have to abide by the hospital policies.
7 Birthing Center
A birthing center can be a good alternative for a woman with a low-risk pregnancy who wants some help and intervention if necessary, but doesn't want to be in the hospital. If you desire a natural birth experience, this may be a good option for you.
Like all things, you should research your options and find the birthing center in the area that meets your needs the best, but there are many options. Birthing centers tend to feel more like home, and are usually all about the mother's body and knowing what works for mom to get baby born safe and sound.
You also aren't tied to the center after birth, and can return home a few hours post birth if you choose. As soon as you feel comfortable, you can head home. There is a team of health-care providers at your side, including nurse-midwives, direct-entry midwives, or even nurses that work with an obstetrician.
The center can either be it's own building, or it can be inside a hospital but not governed by hospital policy. You should, if you are thinking of using one, be aware of their philosophies and policies when it comes to care, their mission statement, and objectives, and you should take the time to interview the personnel.
Most birthing centers do not induce, they do not augment labor with Pitocin, they do not use electronic fetal monitoring, few episiotomies, they do not perform operative deliveries, and they have minimal equipment.
6 Home Birth
You want full control of your birth experience, from the music, the surroundings, and who is allowed in? Well if you are low risk, this may be the thing for you. You're probably wondering, is it safe? Will I need a professional's help? How do I make a back-up plan? Well, during a planned home birth, you give birth at home instead of at the hospital or birthing center.
You'll want to be assisted during labor by a knowledgeable midwife or, in some rare cases, a doctor, to ensure the health of you and the baby. During your prenatal care, you can determine if you qualify for a home birth, based on your health and pregnancy conditions.
You should also be aware of the challenges that can pop up during childbirth, and I mean sudden, random complications. Be sure that this is something you feel comfortable doing. During labor, your healthcare provider will check on you periodically, rather than continuously, check your blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and the baby's heart rate.
Once you deliver, the health care provider will check the baby and determine if you are ok to stay home, or if the baby needs follow up care at a hospital. Follow up care includes home visits and lactation support. Remember though, this is for very low-risk pregnancies and is not for someone who is high risk.
5 Natural Childbirth
Some people prefer the choice of a drug-free birth process. This option can be chosen no matter where you birth at, be it hospital, birthing center, or at home. That said, for many people it is not easy and not something to decide on a whim. You need to know your body and your pain tolerance.
You'll need a very supportive health care provider, who supports all of the pros of natural birthing and letting your body do it's thing, including avoiding inductions and pain medication, and also, laboring beyond the bed. There are so many positions you can birth in, it would really amaze you and would count as an article all on it's own!
There's that many! Laying down is actually thought to be one of the worst positions to birth in. You won't want to listen to other people's horror stories, either, because every birth experience is different. Don't let someone scare you out of doing it if that's the way you want to go. Cut off all negativity politely, but immediately.
And make sure to learn various, multiple coping techniques to help get you through the birth process. Also, having a doula is a very good thing to look into. Make sure to eat and keep yourself hydrated as well! Food is energy, and you're going to need all of it!
Prepare yourself, physically and mentally, because you're about to take a heck of a ride. That said, if you can't deliver naturally, don't beat yourself up over it, because in the end, a healthy baby is the end goal, no matter how it's achieved.
4 Medicated Birth
For some people, giving birth without medication just isn't for them, and that's ok! You have options! Some people like the idea of having an epidural or other pain medication during labor, and having labor augmented with Pitocin. Epidurals usually take away or at least diminish the pain of contractions and labor.
When labor gets super intense, women with epidural anesthesia often seem more relaxed and more themselves. Pushing with an epidural is sometimes pain free. Even if it's still painful, in general, women tend to find pushing less distressing, although sometimes way more exhausting, than without anesthesia.
However, since pushing may be less effective with an epidural, you may end up pushing longer and may be more likely to need assistance by forceps or a vacuum to help you deliver. There's always a trade-off when medications and interventions are used during labor, and each woman needs to know the potential benefits and risks and apply them to their own circumstances.
You can sometimes have inadequate pain relief, drop in blood pressure, short or long term postpartum backache from bruising or ligament strain, potential unintentional spinal block and a resulting spinal headache, itching, and more. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons carefully.
3 Water Birth
For some, a water birth sounds like a dream come true. Generally speaking, water births take place in a birthing tub or pool or even a bath tub. It is where you, and you've probably guessed it, deliver in the water. The water simulates an environment similar to the womb, where the baby slips from the warm, wet womb, into a warm, wet birthing pool.
This seems to offer comfort and some sense of familiarity, which causes less fetal distress. And since baby does not breathe until he comes up to the air, there is no chance of drowning. Due to lack of statistical studies, the main advocates of a water birth are midwives and nurse practitioners, so you'll need to keep that in mind when making your decision.
Reports indicate that the baby descends twice as fast as traditional hospital birth when they have a water birth, and women report less pain with the water birthing process. If any complications arise, you'll need to leave the pool. Women with high-risk pregnancies will usually not be allowed to water birth.
This method has been gaining in popularity thanks to celebrity moms like Jessica Alba and Tiffani Thiessen. It is literally self-hypnosis in childbirth, and it has been around for centuries, according to experts. The philosophy of hypnobirthing remains the same: Nature intended for women to give birth relatively easy, but the fear of childbirth incites physical pain.
Fear during labor activates the fight or flight response, causing stress hormones to make the heart speed up, force blood to the arms and legs, and deplete blood flow to the uterus, creating uterine pain and hindering labor. With the help of a course book and hypnosis CDs, you can learn various breathing and visualization techniques.
You also learn to reject references to difficulty during childbirth, such as replacing the words contraction and pain, with surge and sensation instead. And regardless of the hypnobirthing program, there is always the possibility that things don't go as planned during labor.
Despite what some people think, a Cesarean Section, aka a C-Section, is not the easy way out. It is major surgery, and it comes with it's own set of risks and pains. A C-section is a surgery to deliver the baby. It involves incisions made to the abdomen, and the child being removed from the mother's uterus.
Most C-section births result in healthy babies and mothers, but it carries risks like all other surgeries and should not be done lightly. Not as many doctors will allow elective C-sections, simply because of the risks. Healing also takes much longer than a vaginal birth.
Rates for C-sections have risen greatly in recent decades, despite the fact that most healthy pregnant women with no risk factors during labor or delivery have their babies vaginally.
Doctors may recommend a C-section if you are carrying twins, if your child is breech, if you have dangerously high blood pressure, if there are issues with the umbilical cord, if the baby is in distress, and if the mother has had a previous C-section
(You can ask about a VBAC though, vaginal birth after C-section). In the weeks after surgery, you'll want to focus on healing, getting rest, and bonding with the baby. Be careful about overtaxing yourself!
No matter how a child is born, the final goal is just to have a happy and healthy baby. There are no medals or trophies for having endured one kind of birth over another, so there is no need to put anyone down because of the way they had to or chose to give birth.
Birthing is an intimate process, one that some mothers choose to share with others, and no woman should ever be put down for choosing to share those choices. We should be lifting one another up, and celebrating the end results. Remember, it's not a competition, it's childbirth.