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May 18, 2017

Birth Options | Part One: Location

Birth Options

Birth Options: How to Choose Where to Give Birth


You just found out that your little one is on the way. Now, all of a sudden, you have to figure out what kind of birth you’d like to have. You have to decide what type of atmosphere to welcome your child into. There are so many more options than you may have realized and I know from experience that it can be overwhelming!

Birth center birth, hospital birth, home birth, midwives, OBGYNs, medicated, unmedicated, induction, cesarean, breastfeeding, formula-feeding, and the list goes on and on. It’s a lot and I’d love to help you wade through it, make some decisions, and know your options while keeping an open mind.

newborn baby in bassinet

Today, I wanted to talk about options for one of the first decisions you’ll make: WHERE to give birth to your baby. I’m going to break down these options and hopefully answer any questions you may have.

Hospital Birth

A hospital birth is obviously the option that most women in The United States choose, for many reasons. I believe the main reason to be that most women aren’t aware that there ARE other options. But even women who do know about birth centers and home births still often choose to have their babies at a hospital. They may feel more comfortable in that setting, they may really love their OB, or they may have complications that makes a hospital birth a necessity.

The hospitals in the Triad area with labor and delivery units are:

What you should know about hospital birth:

  • Hospitals are designed for more medicalized pregnancies but most women, high-risk or not, choose to have their babies in hospitals. If you have a low-risk pregnancy and want to deliver in a hospital with minimal interventions, I would advise asking lots of questions to your care provider and consider hiring a doula. I plan to write an in depth post about care providers so be on the look out for that soon!
  • Hospitals have protocols. This means that there are rules they follow with every pregnancy, no matter what. Examples of these are – no eating or drinking during labor, continuous fetal monitoring, cervical checks, and putting mothers on a “clock” after their water breaks. Not every hospital will have these protocols (and many are moving away from these practices), but many still do. As always, it’s best to ask.
  • Your hospital will most likely want you to stay 48-72 hours. You can sign an AMA (“against medical advice”) form to leave earlier than that if you wish.
  • For some women, having the option of pain medication available makes it harder to resist. This is something that I knew about myself – if it was there, I’d most likely use it.
  • Hospitals are the best place for a woman with pregnancy complications or those who go into preterm labor (labor before 37 weeks). They are equipped with medical interventions that are necessary to care for high-risk pregnancies. These interventions are obviously wonderful when necessary but don’t assume that you need them just because you’ve been deemed “high risk.” Ask questions, do your research, and look out for more posts on my blog about birth options.

hospital birth epidural

Birth Center Birth

A birth center is a great option for low-risk moms who are interested in an unmedicated birth but aren’t quite comfortable with a home birth for whatever reason. A birth center is NOT a mini hospital. For a woman who needs medical intervention or extra monitoring, a birth center will not be the best option; if that is the case, they most likely will not accept you as a patient.

The birth centers in the Triad & Charlotte areas are:

What you should know about birth center birth:

  • Birth centers do not offer epidurals but they may have other pain relief options. These may include nitrous oxide, tubs and showers, suggestions for labor positions, and tens units for back pain.
  • At a birth center, you may have more options of how to birth your baby than in a hospital. You’ll be able to have your baby in the water, standing, squatting, on the bed, etc.
  • Midwives working at birth centers are trained to recognize issues before they turn into an emergency. Midwives are well-versed in natural, low-risk childbirth, but they’re also well-versed in knowing when it’s time to transfer to a hospital.
  • On the note of emergencies, it’s important to know that birth centers are fully medically equipped. They have the ability to run an IV, supply oxygen, and continuously monitor baby if needed, in addition to other things.
  • Birth centers are situated close to hospitals in order to transfer a woman very quickly if an emergency does arise.
  • If at any point during your pregnancy you develop an issue, such as gestational diabetes, you may be placed in the “high risk” category and be unable to give birth at the birth center. The term “high risk” is defined differently depending on your care provider. It’s always a good idea to ask questions about what conditions may “risk you out” of the birth center.
  • Most birth centers will allow you to head home about 6-12 hours after baby’s birth. This is assuming that mom and baby are healthy. If there’s an issue that’s keeping you there, you’ll most likely be transferred to the hospital.
  • You can read more about the evidence behind the safety and outcomes of birth center births HERE.

birth center water birth

Home Birth

I know, “home birth” sounds like two very scary words. Let me present you with some information that may help you understand it whether or not it’s something you would do. As with birth center births, home births are best for low risk pregnancies.

Here are a few things you should know about having a home birth:

  • Home births ARE safe for low-risk women. You may have heard otherwise, but I’d encourage you to do research on your own to find evidence-based answers. THIS WEBSITE is a great place to start.
  • This may be obvious, but a home birth takes place in your own home. Or someone else’s home if you make a plan for that, I guess ;) So you’ll be responsible for preparing a lot of things and creating an environment that will best support you during labor.
  • Giving birth in your home also means there will be no access to pain medication. While birth centers may provide certain types of pain relief techniques (see above), with a home birth, those things will be you and your care provider’s responsibility to attain.
  • You will “lead” most of your labor. Your midwife (and doula) can guide you if needed, but for the most part, your birth team will follow your lead. You’ll be able to listen to your body and labor how you want, assuming there are no issues.
  • Home birth midwives are trained to recognize issues before they turn into an emergency. I think this is VERY important to know. Midwives are very well-versed in natural, low-risk childbirth, but they’re also well-versed in knowing when it’s time to transfer to a hospital.

home water birth baby


The Business of Being Born documentary

Online Resources I recommend: (for empowering birth stories from around the world)

Reading resources I recommend:

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer

I’d love to hear from you if there’s anything else you’d like to know pertaining to options for birthing locations. I’ll either answer your questions or put you in touch with someone who can! Email me at lauren{at}laurenjollyphotography{dot}com with any and all questions, comments, or concerns. I love being able to support women in their journey to motherhood!

  1. […] post goes hand-in-hand with my first Birth Options post about choosing a birth location. Your care provider may dictate your location so keep that in […]

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