Where to give birth - Home, Midwife-led Unit, Obstetric Unit or barn.
Here is the deal. You can give birth wherever you like.
If you’d like to give birth in your bathroom… then go for it.
If you’d like to give birth on the trampoline in my back garden with my three children bouncing joyfully around you… then feel absolutely free to do so… be my guest. I wouldn’t really advise it, they can be very noisy… and bounce very high… but it’s completely up to you.
You see, that is the deal. Assuming that you are healthy and well and so is baby, you can birth wherever you fancy.
So let’s have a look at some of your options:
Giving birth at home:
A home birth is when you labour and birth your baby at home with two midwives in attendance. You don’t need to get up and go anywhere. You create the right space and ambiance for you. If you wish to have a birth pool you can hire one (and then not have to worry about the lady two doors down getting into it before you!).
Home is your safe space. The place we retreat to and close the door to the world outside. It is where we are safe enough to sleep and relax. With all that we know about physiological birth and the mammalian response to being moved around during labour, we know that birth at home is a comfortable and safe choice.
Your house is a safe, quiet and closed environment. No unnecessary noise and distractions, no extra people walking in and out. Your midwives are there just for you, not a further few women down a busy labour ward corridor.
You will still have the option of gas & air as the midwives will bring it with them.
If you need or choose to be transferred in to the hospital at any point then an ambulance will take you there and your midwife will accompany you.
Some couples are concerned about mess. Don’t be, there really isn’t much and the midwives bag everything up. Your partner will collapse and pack away the birth pool which will then be collected.
You can be snuggling your baby, sitting in your bed and drinking tea in your own mug post birth rather than waiting it out on the post-natal ward. Your midwives will be back the next day to check on you and baby.
Giving birth in a Midwife Led Unit:
There are two types of Midwife Led Unit. Ones that are attached to a hospital but perhaps on a different floor or down a corridor from the Labour Ward (Obstetric Unit) or those that are freestanding, in the hospital grounds but not actually IN the hospital.
They will go by plenty of differing names. The Home from Home, the Carmen Suite and the Birth Suite come to mind depending upon the hospital.
These units have great facilities and for many are a middle ground between home and the Obstetric Unit. They offer the best of both worlds in that they will have birth pools, great lighting, midwife led care, birth balls and rooms that sometimes look like they should be in a spa. However, should you want it the option of Pethidine, diamorphine or other opioid drugs are sometimes available.
They will also have gas and air for you to use should you so wish.
If your Midwife Led Unit is standalone and you either need or choose to transfer into the Obstetric Unit this will either be done by ambulance or if attached you will just be moved within the hospital.
The Obstetric Unit (The Labour Ward):
Women usually give birth in the Obstetric Unit if they know that there is a problem with either their health or their baby’s health or if they have decided from the outset that they may want an epidural or a cesarean section.
Other women who are suggested to birth in the Obstetric Unit are those that are having their labours induced or who have had difficult previous labours or births that may require extra support.
The Obstetric Unit rooms do look pretty much as you would expect a hospital room to look like. They are also located near the Theatres.
In the Obstetric unit you will have access to both midwives and obstetricians. Anesthetists (for epidurals) are close by as is the theatre should it be needed.
Does where you birth affect your birth outcome?
Well it would seem so yes. There are studies that show that where you birth heavily influences the type of birth you have and how much intervention takes place. So you really do need to give a great deal of thought about what is best for you and your baby. While doing this always look at the evidence not just the hospital website.
Remember, you are pregnant and giving birth – You are not sick or ill*.
Imagine the hospital as a fantastic health club with some really, great facilities. And like a health club you can go in and make use of these facilities should you so wish. Following which you get to take a baby home.
Well, it is Christmas so it would be wrong not to at least mention this option. As a mammal you are closer to the animals in the barn than you would probably ever have previously considered.
However, for Mary? Well, she was warm, she had quiet, she had her birth partner and following a long and arduous journey she probably finally felt safe. Having probably already seen many births herself she would have been familiar with the process. So, if you fancy, a barn is always an option too.
(*Obviously some women and some babies will be poorly – in which case you choose the best place to accommodate the care that you and your baby will require.)