Giving Birth: Tips & Options

This section focuses on how to give birth, ways to give birth, what options you have, and tips for achieving a positive birthing experience.

As your due date approaches, you begin to wonder what labor and birth may be like, what it may feel like, and how your experience may go. There are a lot of variable at play, and each woman will experience birth in their own way. Most American women give birth with OB/GYNs at hospitals, but there are other options out there. You may give birth at a hospital with a midwife, birthing center, at home, and/or in water. Each state has different regulations regarding midwife-attended births and home births, so you may want to consider looking into your state’s regulations.

Where will you give birth?


When considering where you want to give birth, you must also think about what type of birth you are wanting. Home births and birthing centers do not have the ability to administer an epidural or perform a cesarean section. If an emergency were to arise during labor, delivery, or postpartum, you would need to be transported to a hospital for care. Water births can take place in the hospital, birthing center, or at home, although policies vary by location and it may not be available everywhere.

What type of care provider do you want?


You may also choose whether to see an OB/GYN, midwife, or family physician. An OB/GYN is an obstretician/gynecologist who is a medical doctor that specializes in pregnancy, childbirth, and woman’s care. If you have any pregnancy complications or are considered high risk, an OB/GYN is a great choice to receive medical care from. OB/GYNs can also support low risk pregnancies, and most American women choose OB/GYNs for their pregnancies. A midwife is another option for low risk pregnancies only. A midwife can be certified and licensing is available by state. There are different types of midwives and varying levels of education. Read more about the differences between OB/GYNs and midwives, as well as the different midwife types here.

How can I prepare?


During pregnancy, you may choose to take a childbirth class, develop a birth plan, and pack your hospital bag to prepare for labor and delivery. Childbirth education can be valuable to understand the many options and choices you have during childbirth, as well as the benefits and risks to them. A birth plan is a written guide to outline your birth preferences to share with care providers, which can help them assist you in achieving a positive birth experience. In your third trimester, if you are having a hospital birth, it is helpful to have your hospital bags packed and ready to go.

Who will support you?


Another big option to consider prior to birth is who you want present in the birthing room. Each hospital has varying policies about how many people can be present, so be sure to check with your birth location to find out your limit. Continuous labor support has shown to increase the chance of having a positive birth experience. You may choose to have present your partner, parent, cousin, sibling, friend, and/or professional birth doula. You may want to consider having multiple support people to ensure that you are receiving continuous support while your support people are able to attend to their own needs as well.

A birth doula is a trained, maybe certified, professional birth support person. They provide physical, emotional, and mental support for a laboring mother and her other support people. Compared to your personal support people, a doula has the benefit of having no preconceived notions of you, family traditions, or biases. They are trained to recognize the signs of a normal labor and delivery and know methods to help you cope. Many people think birth doulas are only for natural or un-medicated births, but a doula can help with any type of birth. They may meet you prior to birth to discuss your desires and needs, and maybe help you develop a birth plan. During labor, they may join you at your home to support you with early labor and/or they may join you at the birthing location to support you through active labor and delivery. Following birth, they are trained to provide basic breastfeeding support and postpartum care. They may schedule a postpartum meeting to discuss how your birth went and address any questions or issues you may be having following birth. Because they are birth professionals within your community, they often have vast local resources to point you in the direction of further assistance, if needed, such as lactation consultants, care providers, therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors, and pediatricians.