"Should I give birth at home or in a hospital or birthing centre?" "How much pain relief medication is safe?" "Is it safe to give birth at home" "Can I choose who to have with me during childbirth?" "What are the risks of home birth?" "What can go wrong in hospitals?" "Are there more natural ways of giving birth without the use of prescription painkillers?" ...If you find yourself asking these questions, you are not alone!
Each person is unique - You should choose the options that suit you!
Remember that your own needs and values are the most important factor for a fulfilling and positive childbirth experience. In contrast to some of the information we receive, hospital births are not the only option. Sometimes they are the best choice and sometimes they are not - and this depends on many factors, including age, state of health, personal preference, as well as access to health professionals experienced in home births. Giving birth outside of a hospital is also not the sole domain of rural women who have no other option. Many modern Western countries, for example, are increasingly advocating homebirth for healthy women with healthy pregnancies - and statistics in these countries show that providing this choice can often result in fewer complications and an enhanced birthing experience for parents and babies.
Women know about giving birth!
Remember that women have always had wisdom about pregnancy, childbirth and caring for new babies, with midwives and herbalists passing down knowledge of herbs and other ways to best help mothers-to-be and new babies from generation to generation. The advent of modern medicine effectively wiped out much of this knowledge and experience and replaced it with a more hospital-centred approach - putting pregnancy, birth and neonatal care firmly in the hands of medical doctors. While this certainly has advantages, especially when complications arise, it has also meant that pregnancy and childbirth have almost become 'illnesses' which need to be treated, rather than events to celebrate.
Where to give birth - home or hospital?
First you will need to decide where to give birth. You may choose to deliver at a hospital, in your own home or in a specialized birthing facility. You will also need to think about who should attend to you during labour and the choice here is usually between an obstetrician and a midwife. There are also professional birth attendants or labour coaches called “doulahs”, who can be wonderfully supportive during labour, usually as an addition to the midwife or doctor. Would you like your partner or other family member to be present for the birth? Would you rather have your mother or mother-in-law involved only once the delivery is over? These are very personal decisions and ones that only you can make.
How much medical intervention is best for me?
There are also other practical decisions to be made such as what medical intervention you are willing to undergo, such as epidural pain relief or episiotomy. Don’t let yourself be pressured into anything you are not comfortable with. The best way to be prepared for the process is to be well-informed about your options including the risks and benefits before you go into labour. Read as much as you can, discuss things with your doctor or midwife, speak to your partner and to other women.... and then make up your own mind! Write down what you want and give the list to your partner, doctor, midwife and birth assistant before the big day arrives, so that everyone is in the 'same page' when you go into labour.
Things to consider...
When making important decisions regarding your labour and delivery, things to keep in mind are:
- Is this your first baby?
- Has your pregnancy been classified as normal and “low risk” by your obstetrician?
- Do you have any special health needs e.g. diabetes?
- Where would you feel most comfortable during labour and birth.
- If this is not your first baby, how did previous labours and births progress?
- Your age: women who are pregnant over 40 or in their teens, may need closer monitoring and attention during labour.
Here are the most common places to give birth, including some of the advantages and disadvantages of each:
Hospital births have become increasingly common in the last few decades due to the perceived safety for mother and baby. Of course, the main advantage of giving birth in a hospital is that you have medical professionals, operating theatres, emergency drugs and equipment on hand for any complications, emergency situations and to put your mind at rest. In a hospital setting your labour will be closely monitored by staff and by using electronic monitoring devices which ensure your labour is going smoothly and progressing as expected. Your own wellbeing and that of your unborn baby will be carefully watched and all the facilities will be at hand to monitor your baby once she or he has been born. Remember, despite these advantages, this constant monitoring can also be detrimental in some cases, especially if it leads to excessive or unnecessary medical intervention. If you choose a hospital birth but wish to avoid unnecessary medical interventions, it is important to choose your obstetrician carefully. He/she should be someone you know and trust, who knows your preferences and will involve you (and your partner) in all decisions during the labour process.
In addition, it is important for any woman considering hospital birth to ask about the rate of infant and mother mortality and illness related to hospital-acquired (nosocomial) infections in their hospital of choice. Although this is a subject that the medical profession often find difficult to discuss openly, it is a fact that hospital acquired infections are amongst the top ten leading causes of death in the US (many countries do not even keep statistics on this subject) and newborn babies are an especially vulnerable group. The increasing use of antibiotics and harsh disinfectants in hospitals has resulted in an epidemic of 'superbugs' or bacteria resistant to antibiotics. This problem is not often openly spoken about by the medical profession, but has reached such alarming proportions that some hospitals have had to be closed down (often only after public outcry). You would also need to consider that when you go into labour, you will need to travel to the hospital where you have booked to deliver, which may be unsettling. Hospitals are sometimes also seen as cold and unfamiliar places which may prevent the mother-to-be feeling relaxed and at ease - an important consideration for a positive labour experience.
For women who have had a normal pregnancy and are expected to have an uncomplicated labour and delivery, home birth is another option. Your labour and delivery will be monitored by a midwife in your own home, where you will be able to give birth in familiar surroundings and to have more control over your own birthing options. Although you are not as near to emergency facilities as in a hospital or birthing centre, home birth is safe provided that your pregnancy remains normal and you have a competent midwife whom you trust and who brings basic emergency equipment to your home.
The obvious disadvantage of a home birth is the distance to specialized medical help and emergency facilities in the case of a complication arising. However, it has been shown that when women are carefully screened for risk factors and are regularly monitored during pregnancy, home birth provides a safe and less interventionist option for many women. Many doctors or midwives that attend home births also insist that a booking is made at a hospital or birthing clinic 'just in case' - so that all eventualities are covered.
The main advantage of a home birth is that you (and your baby!) will experience labour and delivery in the comfortable and familiar surroundings of your own home. Home birth may offer you familiarity, comfort, privacy and control that would be difficult to achieve in any other environment. Giving birth at home is probably best suited to women who want a family-centred or a natural childbirth experience - whether this means having other children, grandparents and friends around you or just you and your partner with the midwife.
A professionally attended home birth also carries less risk of infection for the mother and newborn baby when compared to hospital deliveries. While prescription or epidural pain relief is generally not available for mothers choosing a home birth, it is also true that women who give birth at home by choice are likely to experience a more relaxed labour than those giving birth in the unfamiliar hospital environment - and a relaxed and secure mother usually means far less pain and a speedier delivery! In addition, experienced midwives often have many 'tricks' up their sleeves and there are a wide variety of natural pain relief and labour enhancing methods, ranging from meditation to herbal remedies (see below for more info).
Delivery in a Birth Centre:
By nature and by circumstance, some women will be best suited to a hospital birth, while others will prefer home delivery. For those who prefer the advantages of both worlds, the “compromise” is often in choosing to give birth at a birthing centre. These centres are independent of a hospital or may be attached to a hospital and usually aim to provide a comfortable and warm environment for the mother-to-be while also having emergency facilities and medical specialists on hand. Birth centres are often operated by midwives and/or obstetricians and are gaining in popularity with women who wish to avoid excessive interventions or the hospital environment, but are not completely comfortable with the idea of giving birth at home. Most birth centres provide a holistic approach to labour and childbirth and may offer birthing tubs for water births and the services of professional birth attendants or doulahs.
Professional Labour Support:
In the last few years, interest in professional labour companions and doulahs has risen and more and more women are making use of their services. Recent scientific studies have shown that professional labour companions can help to reduce length of labour, decrease women’s need for analgesia and requirement of medical interventions. Though not usually qualified as midwives, birth companions are generally very experienced and knowledgeable about labour and childbirth and will also be able to monitor your labour closely as you have their undivided attention.
Many pregnant women choose to write a birth plan detailing their wishes and preferences for the birth and to discuss this with their doctor or midwife prior to giving birth. This plan will be a reference guide for you and your partner as well as your health care providers, during your labour. Your birth plan should not be fixed - you can change your mind at any time, and you might well do so depending on the circumstances of your delivery. Your birth plan should include details of who you want present with you during labour and preferences regarding medical interventions such as induction of labour and pain relief. Also write about special needs such as a birthing pool or specific music you want to play, whether you want your baby to suckle immediately after birth and any other issue that involves you, your partner and your baby.
The Choice is Yours!
Do lots of reading and research. Listen to the experiences and advice of others, but remember that each person is different and you are allowed to make the best choice for yourself and your baby, without feeling guilty or inadequate for not doing what other people think is 'best'.
How can BabyNature help during labour and birth?
The following 100% natural products from BabyNature have been especially formulated for use during the last stage of pregnancy, during labour and delivery, as well as during the postpartum period.
Eze-Birth Essence is a flower essence remedy used during labour for an enhanced childbirth experience, facilitating inner strength and stamina as well as emotional, physical and spiritual participation in the birth process – ensuring a life changing experience.
This aromatic oil contains pure essential oils for the relaxation and soothing of the mother in labour. Tranquil BirthBath is added to a bath in the early stages of labour for a pampering and uplifting aromatic experience.
Heavenly Labour Massage Oil
Heavenly Labour Massage Oil is formulated for massage during laboor and will help to relax and stimulate release of endorphins. This therapeutic massage oil will relieve pain (including back pain), relax tension and increase feelings of well-being, preparing the mother to bond with the baby.
This flower and gem essence formulation is especially formulated for use immediately after you have given birth and are effective on the emotional level to promote your natural mothering instincts, helping to allay excessive anxiety about your new baby.
This CD is composed for best birthing relaxation and for encouraging peace and relaxation in both mother and baby. If you have been playing this CD during your pregnancy, both you and your baby will associate it with relaxation. Being familiar, it will also help your baby to make the transition from the womb to the outside world.