Where would you like to deliver your baby? You have several options to choose from, and each one has pros and cons that need to be considered. Talk with your partner and health-care provider about your options. If you're not sure which is best for you, take a careful look at each choice. Ask for a tour, get to know what is offered at each site, and then make your choice. Possible sites include your own home, a hospital, or a birth center.
Postpartum is the period after delivery.
Some women feel strongly about having their babies in their own homes where they can enjoy the comfort of family and familiar surroundings. Here they are in charge and there is little medical intervention. During labor they can get up, walk around, have a cup of tea, and talk to friends on the phone. Anything goes, and this is reassuring to many women. But if you are considering this option, be sure you understand all that it entails. It is advised only in low-risk pregnancies where there is little probability that something will go wrong. Still, few licensed providers will assist at a home birth because emergency medical equipment will not be on hand if there are unexpected complications during the birth of the baby. Your delivery therefore will most likely be in the hands of a midwife who will guide you through a natural birth. If you want a home birth, be sure to find a licensed midwife who is affiliated with a back-up physician and a nearby hospital in case anything goes wrong.
Traditional Hospital Rooms
In most hospitals all deliveries are handled routinely in four different rooms:
- First you enter the labor room. Here, in a small hospital-type room or curtained-off area you proceed through early labor with your partner.
- After your cervix dilates to about 10 centimeters and the baby's head becomes visible at the opening of the vagina, your bed is wheeled into the delivery room. Picture the operating room you've seen on TV shows. This is a small room with a bed surrounded by lots of lights and medical equipment. This is where you will give birth to your baby.
- After delivery, you are wheeled into the recovery room. Here nurses monitor you for an hour or so to make sure that you have no need of immediate medical attention.
- Finally, you are wheeled into the postpartum room for recuperation. This room (which might be private or shared with other women) is like any other hospital room. It has a bed, a night table, and a small bathroom with a shower.
Many hospitals across the country are moving away from this kind of birth setting to a more relaxing one.
The Birthing Room
In most hospitals, birthing rooms are scarce and available on a first-come, first-served basis. If that's the case, don't set your heart on one, because you can't predict the moment of your baby's birth and make a reservation. Birthing room availability is one of the things you should find out in advance.
Some hospitals and all freestanding birthing centers have birthing rooms (sometimes called LDRs for labor-delivery-recovery rooms). One of the advantages of a birthing room is that labor and delivery occur in the same place, rather than in several locations, as described above. In addition, birthing rooms are usually cozier and look more welcoming than regular hospital rooms. They often have personal showers and a place for visitors to sit. To create this homey feeling, the rooms do not contain as much medical equipment as the average hospital room. Therefore, birthing rooms are usually an option for only low-risk, uncomplicated deliveries. If you would like this kind of room, check with your doctor to make sure it fits your criteria.
If you are considering a freestanding birthing center (a center not connected to a hospital), be sure you understand the medical limitations. Most are staffed by midwives only and cater to natural births. Little or no pain medication is available in a birthing center, nor can it provide for the needs of high-risk pregnancies that require the transferal of the mother and baby to a hospital if complications arise during delivery. To find a birthing center near you, log on to the website of the National Association of Childbearing Centers at www.birthcenters.org.