Deciding where to deliver
While today’s birthing choices may seem to vary greatly, many have a lot in common. Generally if your baby is born in a hospital or other medical facility—regardless of what the room looks like or whether you’re using the services of a physician or a nurse-midwife—you’ll benefit from up-to-date techniques and medical equipment to guide you and your baby through the process.
These are the traditional and new-style birthing options most commonly available:
Conventional labor and delivery rooms
Labor rooms are designed to accommodate you up to the point of delivery, when you move to a surgical suite. These sterile, stainless-steel- and-tile delivery rooms have a lot of medical equipment that’s seldom used for uncomplicated deliveries. It’s comforting, however, to know that this equipment is at hand if needed.
Birth partners are encouraged to be present in these rooms and participate in the birth experience.
Hospital birthing centers
Although they’re considered new options, these areas more closely resemble the old-fashioned bedrooms used by women who had their babies at home. They’re designed around the philosophy that giving birth is a natural experience to be shared by a couple in a relaxed way, with modern medical options available, if needed.
Some birthing centers combine labor and delivery rooms, with Mom and baby moving to a different area for postpartum care within a couple of hours after birth. Others use the same room for labor, delivery, and postpartum care.
Birthing centers often encourage partners and labor companions to play greater roles. Many also allow other family members to participate as well.
Although today’s birthing centers look inviting and "homey," equipment has been specially designed to accommodate the stages of labor and delivery. For example, beds typically can be taken apart or adjusted to ease the birth process. Rooms are generally larger than normal hospital rooms to accommodate more family members and make it easy for you to have your baby nearby as much as possible.
Freestanding birthing centers
These relaxed-setting facilities are generally staffed by nurse-midwives and lack some of the equipment you’ll find in a hospital. They are designed to handle low-risk, uncomplicated deliveries. If complications arise, moms are generally transferred to a nearby hospital.
Delivering at home
Your home won’t have all the medical equipment of a hospital. However, some women opt for the comfort and convenience of having their babies at home, knowing that they can be transferred to a hospital should the process become complicated.
Making your decision
Discuss the delivery options available to you with your health care provider. Your choices may be influenced by your insurance coverage and by what your local hospitals offer.
If your hospital of choice has several options, ask what happens if the options aren’t available when you come in—if all the birthing rooms are taken, for example. Because cesarean deliveries involve surgery, they usually take place in traditional delivery room suites.