Choosing Your Birth Location With Power
Updated: Apr 16
As a Mama who chose to birth her babies in a birth center and that choice having been one of THE most powerful choices I’ve ever made, helping other women choose their place of birth from a place of power vs. fear is something that I’m very passionate about.
In addition, I’m a Certified Childbirth Education teacher, birth coach (doula) and all around Empowerer of Mamas, so I am committed to bringing evidence and empowerment to this conversation to encourage Mamas to really look at their options, listen to that voice inside that we all have, and to make the choice to birth their babies where it truly feels right to them.
So, as you may or may not know, the large majority of births take place in hospitals in this country - to the tune of 98.8% of them. I was somewhat flabbergasted by that number myself, leaving ~.3% happening in birth centers and the remainder being home births, and one can only assume in the occasional car, taxi, or other places before being able to get to the hospital on time .
It is pretty safe to say that it is the “norm” to have your baby in a hospital. But just because something is the “norm” doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be your norm or default choice.
If you’re pregnant and are questioning whether having your baby in the hospital is the right choice for you, I invite you to consider the following.
Statistics and Evidence
It's important to know and understand statistics associated with your different birth location options.
Things to consider as you do your research for each option include:
Cesarean rates (for hospital and/or individual care provider/practice stats, birth centers (for transfers) and home birth midwife statistics)
Transfer rates from birth center and/or home birth and when and why those transfers occurred (i.e. how many were before, during, after labor and what % of those were urgent)
Here in Tampa Bay from a birth center perspective, we have a few birth center options, including Breath of Life, a Birth Center accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers. Here are some of Breath of Life's statistics as an example of what to look for.
90% vaginal births overall
13% transferred during labor, less than 1% urgent
6% cesarean rate for Moms transferred during labor
I encourage you to ask questions of your care providers, research and visit birth centers in our area as well as interview home birth midwives and practices in order to understand their specific statistics, get to know their vibe and whether you resonate with them.
Email me to set up a prenatal consultation to help you navigate your birth location options and what works best for you!
Pain Relief vs. Coping with Pain in Labor
There are two schools of thought when it comes to pain management during labor - pain relief and pain management.
Pain relief is the approach that pain is essentially unnecessary during labor and medication is used to relieve the pain in a laboring Mom. Epidurals, IV medications, etc would be used to bring comfort to the laboring mom in this instance.
Coping with pain, on the other hand, is the idea that pain is a natural part of labor, and that there are techniques that a laboring woman can use to help her manage that pain and get through the intensity of labor by using them. This includes things such as:
using conscious breathing
taking childbirth classes to help reduce fear and anxiety
hiring a doula
An important factor in this approach is also the birth location, as the environment that a Mom is laboring in helps to support these techniques. Birth centers and/or home births are designed to inherently support and contribute to a Mom’s ability to manage her labor without the use of medication.
So, if you feel as though you lean more towards the coping with pain approach, it’s important to consider locations that support that.
This is not to say that coping with pain using the above tools isn’t possible in a hospital, it’s just not as “easy.” You’re in a medicalized environment, where interventions and pain management are the norm, and it’s important to know that going in, so that you can prepare to meet your goals with the right preparation and support team in place.
Trusting Your Intuition When it Comes to Your Birth Location
It is important to value your intuition as much as the research that you do in preparation for your birth (and all things really). When it comes to choosing your birth location, consider using the following to help guide you.
B - Benefits
R - Risks
A - Alternatives
I - Intuition N - Next Steps
It’s a great way to measure the benefits and risks of each option, fully understand your alternatives, and after doing all the research, allow your intuition to contribute to your choice and next steps. I promise you, you’ll hear that voice inside, letting you know what feels right to you. Trust that.
There can be a lot of fear associated with making these choices and a lot of “what ifs.” Use that fear to inform yourself, and as I like to say, "use the fear to get clear." Don’t let it run the show. Give yourself permission to do your research, ask lots of questions of your care providers and understand your options in the hospital, visit birth centers, interview home birth midwives, and listen for what resonates.
This is YOUR birth. You can do it YOUR way.