Women have more choices available today than they had even a decade ago. A mere 100 years ago, the majority (95%) of births were at home. The tide turned, and more women birthed in hospitals. In the 1970s, women began to change their minds. However safe they perceived the hospital, it was uninviting and sterile.
Hospital environments were originally designed to meet the caregivers’ needs while they attended to the needs of mother and child. These circumstances did not take the mother’s family, other children or spouse into account, however. The stereotypical scene of an anxious father pacing in the waiting room was the norm.
Birthing centers became a solution to this problem. Birth centers strived to help women birth their babies in a home-like environment that was also safe and sterile. Family members were encouraged to be there for the birth.
Choosing between a birthing center and a hospital is a decision for the mother-to-be. Which is better depends on many things.
Traditional hospital birth has the benefits of being able to offer mother and baby emergency medical care, pharmaceutical pain relief and access to support if either patient is high risk.
However, choosing to have your baby in the hospital often means no privacy. The mother-to-be may become stressed by dealing with medical professionals that are strangers. In a hospital it will be more difficult to avoid medical interventions, you won’t be able to eat, and the cesarean section rate is much greater than if you chose one of the other two places to give birth. You can hire a doula to help you avoid some of the stress of the hospital environment.
To be fair, choosing a hospital doesn’t guarantee you a cesarean. The cesarean section rate at the hospital includes women who are high risk who would not choose to have their babies at home or in a birthing center, or may have scheduled a cesarean for a number of reasons.
Choosing a birthing center, you may experience fewer medical interventions and have staff that you’ve met before. Natural pain relief options will be stressed instead of medical options, and you’ll be able to move around as you wish during labor and delivery.
Choosing a birth center also means you don’t have access to medical pain relief without transferring, and depending on your insurance, it may or may not be covered. New moms leave for home 6 to 10 hours after giving birth. In an emergency, she will need to transfer from the birth center to the hospital.
With an increasing number of midwives doing home births, more women are choosing to stay at home to give birth. At home you have a familiar relaxed environment, you can eat and drink whenever you want, you can labor however you like and you are not on the clock. Choosing to birth at home has the lowest infection risk for both mom and baby, and also the lowest cesarean section rate.
If you birth at home, you do not have access to pain medications or epidurals. If you or your baby needs medical care beyond the scope of a midwife’s training, you will need to transfer to a hospital for care. Homebirths are also not covered by insurance. Most costs for a homebirth must be paid out of pocket.
An expectant mother’s belief system will play a part in whether she chooses home or birthing center vs. a hospital delivery. Financial issues, fears about childbirth and health issues will need to be factored into this decision. High risk moms and babies will be expected to choose a hospital.
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