Birth Options: What they are, How to Access them, and Why they're Important
Our team has been teaching complimentary community classes and creating informative articles for almost as long as we’ve been in existence because we believe that every pregnant patient - no matter their financial, familial, health, or other status - deserves access to the information that will allow them to have the healthiest and most fulfilling birth for themselves and their baby. Something we’ve encountered over and over during our time of teaching is class attendees who are unfamiliar with their options, and even with the physiology of the pregnancy and birth process itself. The purpose of this article is to highlight some of the options that may be available to you, how to access them, and why it’s important that you know this information. Identifying Your Options. “Options” in this context is referring to the logistics of how and where you’re going to give birth. Do you want to deliver naturally, with pain medication, or via cesarean? If you want pain relief, what type? Hydrotherapy? Epidural? Something else? Do you know and understand all the benefits and risks of the interventions you’re accepting and declining? (This process is called informed consent). Who do you want in the room? Will you have a doula? Do you want your new baby’s older siblings present? Do you mind if medical residents or student midwives observe or would you prefer more privacy? Where do you want to give birth? In a hospital? At home? In a birth center? One thing that’s important to note is that when you’re choosing your options, they build on each other. For example, if you choose a home birth, you won’t be able to have an epidural. So if an epidural is important to you, keep that in mind when deciding where to deliver and how soon to go to the hospital. Another example is this - if it’s important to you to be able to walk, squat, or sit on a birthing ball during labor, you won’t be able to do that once an epidural is in place. So, when deciding on pain relief options, if walking/squatting/dancing/sitting on a birthing ball is important to you, you may want to discuss with your provider some pain relief options that allow you to be mobile like Nitrous Oxide or Hydrotherapy. How to Access Your Options. Your birth care provider (OBGYN or Midwife) should be able to inform you of all the options available to you. In some cases, options may be limited by your health status or by the facility in which you’re choosing to deliver. An example of health status limiting your options would be something like placenta previa making it unsafe for you to have a vaginal delivery. In this type of scenario, you’d obviously be limited in some regards - however, even with a cesarean birth, you still have options. Perhaps you’d like to breastfeed in the operating room or at least have baby placed skin to skin on your chest immediately after delivery - talk with your provider about this wish and see what can be done to make it happen. Facility limitations could include things like a hospital not having birthing bars, a birth center not having nitrous oxide, facility policies on starting interventions if delivery doesn’t occur within X number of hours after water breaking, or a particular provider being unable to offer VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) support. Another common concern that we hear during the classes we teach is that the person wants to birth a certain way and has no medical reason why they shouldn’t be able to, yet they are receiving pushback from their provider on the topic. This is where open communication is extremely important. Make it clear to your provider that you *want* to be informed. Sometimes providers may make assumptions based on their training, experience, or personal biases that a patient doesn’t want to know details about their care. Make sure they know they can speak openly and frankly with you. If you’re still not happy with the support you’re receiving, see if you can find a provider who will make you comfortable and support your wishes. (This is why it’s important to have these discussions early in pregnancy - it’s much easier to switch providers at 20 weeks than at 36 weeks…) It’s important to be informed about all your options so you can communicate with your providers and make educated decisions. Not sure where to start? Attend one of our complimentary community classes. Browse our blog posts. Start to get familiar with the current research. Each tiny step you take toward informing yourself will have a significant impact on your ability to create the birth experience that’s right for you. Why is this Important? There are statistics out there that say something like “women who have a birth plan are X% less likely to have interventions like an epidural or induction than women who don’t have a birth plan.” That’s not why knowing your options and creating a birth plan is important. What if you WANT interventions? You’re still allowed to write a birth plan. All pregnant patients deserve to know their options. That’s why this is important. So you can have a healthy, empowered, fulfilling birth experience - whatever that means for you. Additionally, if your birth doesn’t go according to plan, knowing your backup options will allow you to remain more in control in that scenario rather than feeling like you failed and now have no say in the process. Birth, like life itself, is unpredictable. Maybe you’re planning to schedule a cesarean delivery, but you go into labor during inclement weather, have a fast labor, and deliver in the car on the way to the hospital. You’ll be glad you learned the basics of physiological birth if that happens! Perhaps you planned a quiet home birth with just your partner and your midwife, but complications arise and you end up delivering in a hospital. You’ll be glad you researched your transport hospital’s policies and learned what options you can still exercise once admitted - the process will likely be less jarring for you if that’s the case. If you’d like to learn more about how our care can complement the care you’re receiving from your OBGYN or midwife and help you have a more comfortable and active pregnancy, please book a complimentary consultation with us.