Understanding Your Birthing Options

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You Have a Choice

Now that you are expanding your family, there will be many decisions to make. Among them are birthing options you may not have known you had. Take for example your pregnancy and the birth of your child. Gone are the days of being forced to give birth in a crowded, noisy, uncaring hospital.  Gone are the days where you had no say in ANYTHING regarding your pregnancy.

For thousands of years women gave birth without a hospital. The narrative we have had was that a hospital is the ONLY place to have a baby – why? Follow the money…… Hospitals make a lot of money when you give birth there. Hospitals are not bad and if you have a high risk pregnancy or if a problem presents itself, you MUST go to a hospital. However for the majority of low risk births, you do have a choice.

Educate Yourself

The first step in understanding that there are alternative birthing options involves educating yourself. In today’s information age, this is not a difficult task to accomplish.  Learn as much as you can about your pregnancy, labor, birth & postpartum health. You can read a book, take a class, watch a how-to video and of course search the web and ask your OBGYN.

Every piece of information you educate yourself with will help you make better and more informed decisions. Remember, the choices you make now will affect you and your baby.

Steps to a Healthy Birth

You can start taking the steps leading to a healthy birth before conception even occurs.

Step One: Start by preparing your body. Start eating better, quit smoking (if you do), stop drinking, start exercising and start taking vitamins – in particular folic acid. Your partner should also do the same. Do this at least 3 months before trying to conceive. Once you are pregnant, put your body first! Get enough sleep and try to reduce any stress in your life. Continue better eating habits exercise. Exercise will help you strengthen your body and increase your stamina for the potentially long labor stage.

Step Two: As we mentioned earlier, educating yourselves (yes, the two of you) is a must! Not only is it important for you to know as much as you can but it is also important for your partner. If your birth partner is not willing to be a part of this step then find a family member or friend that can join you and act as your birthing partner. Your birthing partner will be your advocate and primary support person throughout the pregnancy and labor. This will help to empower the both of you to not be afraid to ask questions or to inquire about anything you may want to know or request.

Step Three: How do you feel about the birthing process itself – is it something that you view as terrifying or rather something that is natural? Perhaps you feel a little of both and fall right in the middle. Knowing this is very important because it will help you decide on where to birth, with whom to birth and how to birth. For example, some moms find that pregnancy/labor is a scary time where medical intervention is absolutely necessary. Other moms find that birth is a natural part of life and want as little medical intervention as possible. The important thing here is that you know that you do have a choice in the matter. Provided you do not have any risk factors, the when, where and how you birth is completely up to you.

Step Four: Now it is time to pick your maternity care provider. Will it be an obstetrician or a midwife? Perhaps you prefer your family doctor.  Find out how they feel about the birthing process this way you are both on the same page and establish trust from the start. The best way to see how they stand on the matter is simply by asking them. Do not be afraid to interview your maternity care provider and ask them about their birthing philosophy.

Step Five: Lastly, you will decide on WHERE you will birth your baby. The hospital is not your only choice. If you have a low risk pregnancy then you may opt to birth at home or at a freestanding birthing facility. You have to keep in mind your birthing wishes and your birthing philosophy when making this choice. When you view birth as scary then you may prefer to birth in a hospital with medical equipment right at your side. Seeing it as more of a natural process you will probably opt to birth at home. If you fall in between and feel it’s a natural process but want the security of having a medical team nearby then a birthing center will be your best bet. Here they follow your birthing plan and intervene as little as possible yet have medical assistance ready in case of any emergency.

Your Birthing Team

Who you select to be on your birthing team will have a large impact on your birthing experience. Although you have no control over any unexpected turns during the birth, you can make sure that the people on your team share the same views on the birthing process and they respect your wishes. This makes the chances of you having the birth you envision more likely. Your team will consist of yourself, your birth partner and your maternity care provider.

Maternity Care Provider Choices

  • Doula – a doula is a trained professional who provides emotional and physical support to the mom. She is active throughout the entire pregnancy and even after the birth. She is trained to use techniques and tools to help you manage labor better. There have been studies done that have shown that moms who have doulas attending their births, had lower incidences of C-sections, complications and they an overall more satisfactory birthing experience. A doula will work alongside your midwife or doctor.
  • Midwife – She is a licensed maternity care provider who can advise you on your pregnancy. She can also perform prenatal tests and physical examinations throughout your pregnancy. She too is trained to use tools and techniques like a doula however she can prescribe maternity related medication and supplements like a doctor can. A midwife can work alongside a doula or a doctor.
  • OBGYN – these are doctors that are specially trained to medically and surgically care for the female reproductive system including pregnancy. They are licensed professionals who possess accredited graduate education. A doula or midwife may work alongside the doctor during the pregnancy and birth.
  • Family Doctor – Your family doctor is also a licensed, educated graduate. Based on their past interaction with you and/or your family, they may be best qualified to serve as your advocate in any health related matters.

Your Birthing Environment

Where will you feel most comfortable and safe giving birth to your child? It is important to think about that because if you feel stressed while you’re in labor, it may create an environment where medical intervention may become necessary. Our bodies produce a myriad of hormones that help us during labor and when we are stressed, it is very possible to slow down the progress of the birth. Where you birth and how you feel in that setting will set the tone for your birthing experience.

Even though the most popular place for births is in a hospital, this may not be where you would want to give birth. It is important to know that you do have a choice. Things to consider may include if you prefer to walk around (home birth or birthing center) or if you do not mind being confined to a bed (hospital). Would you want a rocking chair or stool? A birth ball or squatting bar? Is a just a soft bed enough for you? Do you want music blasting or prefer a quiet environment? How about lighting – a brightly lit room or perhaps a dimly lit room?

Do you want to be surrounded by family and friends, play music relax in a tub or would you prefer to be alone with your birthing partner?

Here is a snapshot comparison between a hospital and a birthing center

Amenity Birthing Center Hospital
Shower Yes Some Hospitals Have Showers
Jacuzzi Yes No
Freedom of Movement Yes No
Follow Your Birth Plan Yes Must adhere to strict hospital policies and rules
Privacy Yes – Smaller staff and less people / patients No – entire hospital staff and entire hospital full of patients and visitors
Home-Like Setting yes no
Alternative Pain Management Available yes no

Preparing for L & D

Once you decide where you will birth your baby, then it’s time to decide to decide the next step. Keep in mind that everyone’s labor is different. Even if you had children before, this time around it can be different. Some labors are long, some are short. Some are difficult and some are not complicated. In either case, there is no way of knowing which way it will go until you’re in the thick of it. This is why preparing ahead of time is so important.

For the labor and delivery stage, you can refresh your knowledge of what to expect by reading about it or even taking a class.  Talk to other moms about their experiences, you can learn a thing or two from them. Make sure you are decided as to who you want to be with you in the birthing room. Also speak to your doctor, midwife or doula about what coping mechanisms you will be using to manage the pain. The pain will be there but there are ways to make it less stressful on your mind and body.

What Are Some of the Ways You Can Prepare?

  • Using positive imagery and visualization techniques. You will have to practice these before you are giving birth so that they come natural to you. Imaging yourself somewhere you find soothing and relaxing
  • Practice breathing in a rhythmic way. This too will take practice beforehand. You have to inhale in a slow, methodic way. Each time you exhale, you can release tension. It is best to have a birthing partner for this time as he or she will help you stay in rhythm and focused. There are classes you can take for this method that can help you master it
  • Try walking,  swaying, rocking or even squatting to help with the discomfort
  • Have someone – your birthing partner or doula – give you a massage
  • Take a bath or a nice warm shower. Warm water running down your body acts is a soothing, relaxing technique
  • Make sure the temperature in the birthing room will be the way you would want it to be – do not wait until the day of to check this as it may be too late
  • Bring anything with you that gives you comfort, every little bit of comfort counts!

From personal experience, I wish I knew that my doctor could not dictate how my children would be born. Now that they are grown, I realize that there are options. I assumed that my doctor was the only person who would decide such things as when I could see my babies for the first time or even when I could breastfeed. It is of utmost importance that you as mothers empower yourselves and exercise your rights to choose what is best for you and your baby.

Let The Birthing Center of NY help guide you along the way. They have many years of experience and can offer you the best advice to help you craft your birthing plan. They have an awesome team comprised of doctors, midwives and doulas. Stop by or call anytime for more details.