Talking to Your Doctor

Ask about the risks and benefits of different birthing places. Most hospitals and birthing centers will let you tour their facilities to help you decide which place is right for you.

In the United States the hospital delivery room is the most common birthing place. A hospital provides instant access to modern equipment and specialized personnel to handle potential complications during labor and delivery. Your birthing team consists of your doctor, nurses, and nursing assistants. Many hospitals understand the role family plays in the labor and delivery process, and they may provide maternity rooms decorated like a home with a place for your partner to sleep.

Advantages of a hospital birth include:

  • A well-trained, available staff;
  • Equipment for performing fetal monitoring, sonograms, laboratory tests, anesthesia, blood transfusions, and surgical sites for cesarean sections, all of which might be necessary for handling high-risk patients or complicated labors and deliveries;
  • The availability of resuscitation equipment and personnel and infant intensive care units for newborns who are premature or ill; and
  • Visiting hours that give new mothers time for both family and friends and for rest and recuperation.

Some disadvantages of a hospital birth:

  • A hospital is generally an unfamiliar place with little privacy;
  • You may have less control over the environment; and
  • You may not know the doctors and nurses assisting in the labor and delivery.

You have a number of options regarding where to give birth, including hospitals, birthing centers, and home. Choosing a birthing place depends upon personal preference and obstetrical philosophy. Your health insurance may not cover every option, so be sure to check your coverage. Also, potential complications during pregnancy may require that your baby be born in a hospital.

Birthing centers provide high-quality, family-centered services to healthy women anticipating uncomplicated pregnancy, labor, and birth. A midwife may oversee a team of healthcare providers during labor and delivery, and transfer you to a hospital if anything unusual happens. Birthing centers usually encourage family involvement (including siblings) in the birth. They may also give educational programs before and after the birth. The goal of many birthing centers are to give families an alternative to the standard hospital birth, and to balance technology with more sensitive, family-oriented care.

Advantages of birthing centers include:

  • Family members, labor coaches, and friends can be present for labor and delivery;
  • Focus and support of natural childbirth and bonding after delivery;
  • Staff of nurse-midwives; and
  • Technical medical services available within the warmth of a non-medical atmosphere.

Some disadvantages to birthing centers include:

  • Less immediate access to some advanced medical equipment; and
  • Unfamiliar environment.

Until the twentieth century most births occurred at home. Midwives typically oversee home births and if you choose this method, you should screen certified midwives carefully. A mid wife should satisfy your questions about emergency backup and procedures in case of delivery complications. The comfort of familiar surroundings is often a prime reason for a home birth. Some women choose to deliver the baby in bed while others may opt for a water birth in the bathtub or a hot tub.

Advantages to home birthing include:

  • Familiar, supportive place where the presence of friends and family is not limited by hospital regulations;
  • Presence of a nurse-midwife, who can be there for the whole labor;
  • Lower chance of medical intervention and associated side effects; and
  • No separation of the baby and its mother.

Some disadvantages to home birthing include:

  • Uncertainty of the technical and emergency training of the midwife;
  • Possible need for the mother to be transported to a hospital while in active labor or immediately after the baby is born;
  • Lack of more advanced medical equipment and extra personnel; and
  • Considered less safe than hospital births by acog (the american college of obstetricians and gynecologists).