How to Choose a Birth Location

nina December 14, 2012
Image by AmySelleck

When I got pregnant the first time (and second, and third…), I had no idea there was a choice about where I gave birth. It was my understanding that I could choose an MD or CNM (certified nurse midwife) and give birth at the hospital like everyone else.

However, halfway through my third pregnancy, I discovered that there were more choices, and after researching my options, I switched to a location that better suited my needs.

Tips for Choosing a Location

Making an informed decision about where you give birth is crucial to having the kind of birth you want.

Whether you’re trying to conceive, newly pregnant or mid- pregnancy in need of a change, you have a few choices available for giving birth.

  • Birth Center: Typically run by midwives who will assist at the birth center or at home. This is a popular option because it offers the comfort of home with the proximity to more advanced medical care. .
  • Home Birth: The option to choose if you want to give birth in the comfort of your own home. Home births are popular because they allow you the most freedom while you labor and give birth.
  • Hospital: Births are attended by MDs or CNMs. Some hospitals have large birthing suites that are more comfortable than the delivery rooms of the past, with most of the medical equipment hidden away in cabinets.
Whether you have a strong inclination toward one, or aren’t sure where you want to give birth, it is important to make an informed decision about the location you choose. Keep the following factors in mind as you determine where to give birth.

1. Provider

This, of course, is a huge factor in your decision. If you want to have a doctor attend your birth, whether you are considered high risk or feel more comfortable that way, you’re going to be in a hospital setting. If you’d like a midwife, you could give birth at home or a birth center. Though, a CNM will most likely be practicing in the hospital setting as well. Interview several different providers so that you know who you are more comfortable with.

2. Comfort

Many women labor best in an environment that is quiet and familiar. However, some women (or their other halves) are more comfortable knowing that a full medical team is on hand in the event of an emergency. Decide which environment works best for you.

3. Interventions

Do you want to have an epidural when you’re in labor? Are you adamant about not having any interventions of any kind? Would you like the option of some kind of pain relief? If you know you’ll want an epidural, you’ll definitely be in a hospital setting. Some midwives may offer herbal or homeopathic comfort options for labor. Find out in your interview.

4. Cost

Have you set a budget for your pregnancy? How much will insurance cover? What type of provider will insurance cover? Most doctors and midwives will set you up on a payment plan at the beginning of your pregnancy, if necessary. Research the options in your area.

5. Proximity

We have an amazing midwife-run birth center in a large town about 45 minutes from our home. It’s warm, inviting and the midwife is a sweetheart. But. When I’m in labor, I do not like to be touched and I do not like to stay still for very long. Knowing that, I decided to have another home birth because I didn’t want to spend 45 minutes in the car. Keep distance in mind as you choose your location.

6. Policies

Do you want your children with you when you give birth? Is it ok if your baby stays in the nursery instead of with you? Are you allowing routine immunizations? When choosing a location, find out their policies. Obviously, if you are giving birth at home, whatever you say goes. However, hospitals and birth centers have governing policies that you may or may not agree with.

7. Support

After experiencing two births without a doula, I highly recommend hiring one (or bringing a trusted friend), no matter where you choose to give birth.  Keep this in mind as you choose – is the location doula-friendly? Are they open to having extra support in the room with you? Will one be provided (the case with some midwives and hospitals) or will you need to hire one?

With all choices, one of the most important things to remember is to interview a few different providers before making your decision. Find out their policies – for routine IVs, allowing kids in the room, length of time you can labor after your water has broken, etc. Choose the place (and provider) that makes you feel most comfortable.

What factors do you consider when choosing a birth location?

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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