For many years, women either didn’t know much about choices and options in childbirth, or by virtue of location, didn’t have many options. The world for birthing choices has never been wider. But how do you choose what is right for you?
Before you even begin to consider which is best and right for you, educate yourself. Books to consider: The Birth Book, by William and Martha Sears; The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, by Henci Goer; Active Birth, by Janet Balaskas; Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin. Watch the documentary “The Business of Being Born.”
Consider the three main options that exist: hospital, birthing center, and home. Choosing your option begins with understanding risks and benefits.
In a hospital, many women find it comforting that if anything should go wrong, there is an operating room right down the hall. For other women, this very thing is what makes them uncomfortable with this choice.
If you are considering a hospital for your birth, arrange a tour, ask many questions on the tour, and seek out people who have birthed there recently and get their opinion.
When asking others’ opinion, ask what they liked/disliked about it, and ask about their own birthing plan. If their birthing desires are aligned with yours, you will have a better understanding of how this institution may work with you.
If you are considering a birthing center, ask who is the owner and/or administrator. You may get very different care plans depending on if the center is owned by midwives who have always made the choice to serve women outside of the hospital vs midwives who worked in a hospital and then transitioned out of it vs being owned by an Ob/Gyn practice.
Also, a word to the wise: many hospitals have caught on the women are interested in birthing centers and so call their labor and delivery units “birthing centers.” These are not true birthing centers, but rather delivery, newborn, and postpartum units within the hospital that are run according to hospital policy.
I personally am a licensed midwife that owns and operates a freestanding birth center in the Phoenix, Arizona area, with a staff of highly experienced midwives. I have made my career choice to be out of hospital always. This is important. Birth happens differently in more home-like, lower-tech environments.
As licensed midwives with an Arizona Department of Health licensed facility, we have regulations that must be met (our cleaning schedule, how often we take heart tones on baby, etc.) while maintaining a relaxing, home-like environment where a woman’s labor can unfold naturally, not driven by medications to go harder or faster than her body is prepared to handle, while eating and drinking to maintain her energy to complete her labor.
If you are considering a homebirth, interview at least three midwives and take a list of questions. Ask them everything about which you are curious. Ask them about their philosophy, their experiences, and their rate of transfer. When you have interviewed everyone in your area, sit with your options for a few days and go with your gut feeling.
You will feel a connection with one that is more than the others. Trust your gut feeling. Ask about the midwives online. If you get raving positive reviews, ask what they loved about their midwife. If you get raging negative reviews, ask what they didn’t like. If someone’s positive or negative feelings are fueled by choices that do not align with your philosophy, take that into consideration.
Above all, no matter where or with whom you birth, always remember to speak up for what you want. If you want more hand-on care, ask for it. If you want to be left alone, ask for it. No matter what, no matter where, speak up.