You’ve made it through morning sickness and weight gain. You’ve been poked, prodded, measured and tested. Everything looks great, so all you have to do is wait for that baby to pop out. Right?

Sorry, you still have some big decisions to make on that score. Once upon a time, a pregnant woman just appeared at the hospital and doctors took over from there. But not anymore. Today women have a wide range of birth options. They all have their own pros and cons, depending on your needs, health and even your belief system. It is important that you talk to your health provider and explore the opportunities in your area. Let’s look at a few different options. Many of these can be used in conjunction with others. For example, many birthing suites are equipped with labor and delivery tubs and are midwife and doula friendly.

Home Birth

For thousands of years, women have given birth in their own homes. There are definite advantages to laboring and delivering at home. One of the most obvious is that you are in a comfortable place. There is a reason why they call giving birth “labor.” It’s hard work. Why not do it where you have everything that makes you happy, where you feel at home. There is also the idea that your child stays with you, not going to a nursery down the hall or on another floor. It allows you and your partner to bond as a family without a hospital standing in your way. More and more doctors and birth coaches understand this. If you have a normal, healthy pregnancy, there is little reason to force you to give birth in a hospital.

Birthing Suites

Many hospitals today have gotten rid of the sterile delivery room and exchanged it for birthing suites. These rooms are very similar to hotel suites, with one major exception: they can turn into a hospital room at a moment’s notice. However, during labor, the room is comfortable and homelike, with sofas and comfortable chairs for friends and family members to stay nearby. Refrigerators and large screen tv’s blend with the tools of deliver. Many birthing suites offer other supports to laboring women such as birthing balls to sit on while in labor, squatting bars to support a woman as her body prepares to give birth and labor stools to give you every option of comfort during labor.

Natural Delivery

Natural childbirth is just a delivery with minimal medical intervention and no anesthesia. While some women just think about labor and want to scream “bring on the drugs!” for most women, a drug-free birth is perfectly reasonable. In some cases, it is the best option. Women who have had back issues, including bulging or herniated discs, or who have had allergic reactions to drugs in the past, are often denied treatments, since it might turn a healthy birth into a serious medical problem.

One of the best ways to feel comfortable with natural childbirth is to have the help of someone who has been through the process before. That means choosing a doula, or nurse-midwife that coaches natural childbirth.

Birthing Coaches

There are two major types of birthing coaches: doulas and nurse-midwives. While they are both coaches, they can play very different roles. A doula is a trained birthing coach. She can help you work through your pregnancy, keep you comfortable during labor and offer support during your first crucial days of motherhood. But she isn’t a healthcare professional. She isn’t a doctor or a nurse. She cannot prescribe medication and should not offer medical advice. If you are considering a doula, look for one who has been through a nationally recognized training program and works with a hospital, doctor or midwife. A nurse midwife is exactly what she sounds like: she is first and foremost a nurse. That means she is a medical professional. In many cases, she can do much of your prenatal care, including measuring, taking blood and other specimens and even answering a lot of your medical questions. Both can be present during labor and delivery and both can be advocates for you in natural childbirth. However, the nurse-midwife may be able to treat you if you need more than just natural care.

Water Birth

For the last several decades, women have had the option of labor and delivery tubs. It makes sense if you think about it. Inside your body, your baby is floating around in fluid. Outside, the deep water in a tub support your body, making it easier to find a comfortable position. Some women may opt to labor in warm, comfortable water and get out for the actual delivery, while others give birth under water. The baby will not drown, because he, or she is still getting oxygen from the umbilical cord, not by breathing. Many hospitals offer birthing tubs. But even home births can jump into the deep end with the delivery of birthing tubs to private houses.

Cesarean Section

While not exactly a choice, it’s important to understand C-sections and why they are needed. In a nutshell, a c-section is when the doctor surgically delivers your baby instead of delivering through the vagina. It’s not a way to avoid labor and natural delivery. Few, if any doctors will encourage a woman to have a c-section if she or the baby doesn’t need it. Some c-sections are planned because of health issues, multiples or other problems. But most c-sections occur because of an issue during labor and delivery. If, for example, labor isn’t progressing, or the baby is in distress, the doctor may suggest an emergency c-section. The good news is, today, women can be awake and available to bond with baby immediately. However, the recovery time is longer than for a vaginal delivery

While this may all seem overwhelming, take heart. The good news is, you don’t have to choose just one of these options. Today, you can have a doula that works with a nurse-midwife and doctor to help you plan your labor and delivery. You can start laboring at home, in water or out and move to a hospital only if necessary.

Ultimately, this is your labor, your delivery, and your family. Do what works best for you and your partner and welcome your new baby into your life.

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