Birth Options for Expectant Mothers
For many first time moms, childbirth can seem overwhelming. These first-timers can get some peace of mind by familiarizing themselves with the variety of options available ahead of time so they know what they prefer when their baby’s birth day arrives.
Hospitals have been the most common choice of birthing place in the United States for the past few generations. In the hospital, mothers and their babies have immediate access to emergency care should any problems arise during or immediately after birth. Many factors, including the high rate of Cesarean sections nationally–and speculation as to their necessity, have led some moms to consider other birthing options in hopes of having a less clinical experience and avoiding unnecessary interventions.
Birth centers focus on providing the mother with a more home-like birthing atmosphere. Generally, people who work in a birth center have more experience with and support for natural childbirth. Mothers are typically assisted by midwives and doulas in birth centers, although some also have physicians. Should an emergency arise, the mother will be transferred to the nearest hospital.
Home births tend to be very controversial and are illegal in some states. Although some studies have shown that in low-risk pregnancies they can be safe, most physicians strongly advise against home births because of the risks associated with having limited access to immediate medical care. Women who select this option appreciate the ability to control more of the experience. Mothers who deliver at home are generally assisted by midwives and can transfer to the nearest hospital in an emergency.
Types of pain relief
Pain relief is a personal decision for a woman. And, since plans can change during the actual birth, it is important to be familiar with all the options, whether they are natural or pharmaceutical.
Natural childbirth refers to women going through the birthing process without any medical pain relief. Women undertaking natural childbirth typically use various physical positions and breathing techniques to cope with the pain. Some women find that going through labor without medications helps to speed up the labor process while also reducing the need and risk of interventions.
Analgesics can be used to temporarily lessen the pain without eliminating it. In some cases, the patient can even have control over the amount of medication they receive. Side effects associated with these types of medicines can include nausea, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating for the mother as well as temporary effects on the baby’s heart rate.
Anesthetics are medicines that can offer complete numbness and can be used either locally or regionally as needed. Regional anesthetics, such as epidurals, are one of the most common forms of pain management used in childbirth. An epidural typically offers complete pain relief while allowing the mother to remain fully awake during labor. The epidural can cause a decrease in blood pressure, fever, severe headaches, soreness, and a small risk of the anesthetic entering the spinal fluid, making it difficult to breathe.
Types of deliveries
Before going into childbirth, women should familiarize themselves with the requirements of their insurance companies so they understand what will be covered and can plan accordingly.
Vaginal childbirth is how most babies are born. The vaginally-born baby can receive numerous benefits, including both a lower risk of respiratory problems and the picking up of beneficial bacteria during the birthing process. Additionally, most women who deliver vaginally will have a shorter recovery period and lower risks of complications in future pregnancies. There are some risks for problems arising during vaginal childbirth including the risk for tearing in the perineum.
Water birth is a form of vaginal childbirth involving the baby being birthed under that which has become an increasingly popular option. They generally take place either in home births or birthing centers, although a few hospitals now offer water births. The water is believed to help with pain relief, delivery, and easing the child into the world. There are risks of infection, contamination and the infant breathing in water.
Cesarean sections are a common procedure, but they are still major surgery. The mother will typically have either a spinal block, epidural, or general anesthesia. In addition to the risks of the anesthetic, there are also risks of blood clots, adhesions and infection. The pain and recovery from this surgery tends to be difficult; but, for the women and their babies who require these surgeries, they can be lifesaving.
Scheduled C-sections – May be prearranged for a number of reasons. If the baby has a known health problem that will be further complicated by a vaginal delivery, the doctors may recommend a C-section. A breech or transverse baby may also be delivered via C-section to avoid complications.
In a minority of situations, a first time mother might request a C-section, but these are generally discouraged.
Obstetricians are the first choice of many women for their prenatal care and delivery. The ob-gyn doctor will be trained in the medical aspects of childbirth. Some women who have low-risk pregnancies, however, prefer working with someone who is oriented more towards natural childbirth.
Midwives typically assist mothers-to-be in natural childbirth. There are a number of different types of midwives who have received varying amounts and types of education. Some are nurses who have received additional education in childbirth, while others have gone through various agencies and training programs. It is important to always investigate the background of the midwife as well as any local regulations regarding their employment.
Doulas are often hired by pregnant women as a means of support during the birthing process. A doula has been trained in helping women through childbirth and advocating for their needs. Doulas are often very knowledgeable about managing pain naturally and can help with birth positions and exercises.
Birthing partners can be the woman’s partner or another important person in her life who accompanies her at the birth to provide support and assistance when needed.
Giving birth for the first time can be one of the most significant events in a woman’s life. Pregnant women should take the time to review their options and discuss their concerns with their doctors and partners in advance so they can feel prepared when the time arrives.
Jessica Burshtynskyy is a freelance writer, wife, and mother to two daughters.