Before you even became pregnant, you may have had a clear idea about the kind of birth that’s right for you. Whether at hospital, at home or in a birthing centre, if you have a complication-free pregnancy all of these options are open to you. However, if you’re having trouble working out what option is best for you, we’re going to take a look at the pros and cons of each to help you make a more informed decision.
For many this is the first choice simply because of all the medical support and equipment that is right there if needed. All kinds of pain relief are available, with anaesthetists on hand to administer epidurals, doctors and surgeons should any interventions be required (forceps, ventouse or a c-section), and there will be a special care baby unit should your little one need any medical help once born.
However, the cold, clinical surroundings of a hospital are not for everyone, particularly if you’ve already experienced a traumatic birth. Many women find the hospital experience less personal than a birthing centre or homebirth, and with maternity wards overstretched and understaffed you may find that you have more than one midwife treating you throughout your labour. Once the baby has arrived and you’re moved to a postnatal ward, you’ll be subject to hospital visiting hours, so your partner may have to leave and being in a busy ward with other mums and newborns may not be for you.
Whilst exploring your options, it’s a good idea to visit your local hospitals – many do tours of their facilities for expectant parents. Make sure you have a list of questions to ask about any concerns you may have. It’s also a good idea to ask friends and family about their experiences, and to chat through any concerns with your midwife. Do also make sure that you ask if the maternity unit that you are looking at is working with UNICEF UK’s Baby Friendly Initiative. These units will provide the best care and support to help you with feeding and caring for your baby.
Midwifery Led Birthing Centre
For many this is a halfway house between a home and hospital birth. These centres tend to have a more homely atmosphere and are run by midwives offering pain relief, but with limited medical equipment and for this reason such centres are only recommended for low risk pregnancies.
The reassurance of having midwives and trained staff around you, but in a more comforting environment than a hospital can make you feel more relaxed and able to cope with labour, helping you to have a more straightforward birth without medical invervention. Your partner is likely to be able stay in the same room with you throughout your stay and you may find that you’ll be looked after by a midwife that you have met during your pregnancy.
Often birthing centres are on the same grounds or close to a hospital, so if there are any problems, you can be quickly transferred, but if you do choose a midwifery unit, you should bear in mind that you’ll have no access to specialist care such as an epidural or c-section without being moved.
There are obvious advantages to a home birth; being surrounded by your home comforts, with the people you choose, less medical intervention, continuity of midwifery care and more privacy are just a few. This is of course the way that many women all over the world give birth and have done for thousands of years!
Whilst a homebirth is a natural, relaxed way to welcome the new member of your family, should complications arise medical help (other than your midwife) is not at hand. You won’t have access to the same kinds of pain medication and you may need to be moved to hospital if there are any problems. Certain women will not be encouraged to have a home birth because there may be complications: if you’ve previously haemorrhaged after giving birth, if you’ve had a previous c-section, if you’re more than two weeks overdue, if you have pre-eclampsia or high blood pressure, if you’re anaemic, if you’re having multiples or if your baby is in the breech position.
However if your pregnancy is low risk, if you’ve had a previously uncomplicated hospital birth and if you’re keen to avoid interventions and the hospital environment, a home birth can be a great choice.
If you’re having trouble deciding what will work best for you, Which? Birth Choice have a great online tool to help you find the local services that may suit you – why not give it a go?!
Whatever route you decide to take is a very personal one, and will be based on your history, your preferences and how you feel! Try not to be persuaded by anyone else’s experience or opinion as every mum to be has a different set of circumstances to consider. The important thing to remember is that nothing is set in stone, and can change your mind at any time before your little one arrives.