This is a post in my series on Owning your Birth. It is my strong belief that your birth experience profoundly impacts your early days with your new child. The way you feel while birthing your baby can inform how you feel about yourself as a person, mother, and partner. If you feel respected, strong, and supported during pregnancy, labor and delivery, you will improve your chances of beginning your mothering journey with confidence and hope. If you feel disrespected, controlled, or unheard during pregnancy, labor and delivery, you may enter your mothering journey with fear and sadness.
Birth is normal and breathtakingly beautiful. But it is also mysterious and unknown, sometimes overwhelming and scary. With any labor and delivery, you can have an experience that is woman- and mother-centered. Feeling respected and heard, and experiencing your own strength and power during birth, comes down to owning the experience, even in its uncertainty. And often still, things won’t go as you expected. If you are surprised, overwhelmed, or sad about your birth experience, you will be better able to confront it and work through it if you feel prepared, strong, and confident enough to reach out for support.
You cannot plan your birth. Birth will takes its own course and we do best when we can let birth happen. But birth can happen best when we are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually at our best. In this series, I’ll share ideas about what you can do to own your birth experience.
Own Your Birth: Part 1 of 24
Determine your ideal provider and setting
Your pregnancy and birth experience can be dramatically different based on the philosophy of the person you choose to be your care provider. The place in which you give birth can also affect your experience. Take time to think about how you envision your birth experience and consider the different choices you have for providers and settings. In the next post, I’ll talk more about interviewing specific providers and finding the best match for you.
Your vision for your birth can be crystal clear, but if you don’t hire a provider who shares that vision with you, your chances of realizing that vision will almost definitely decrease. I can’t stress enough the importance of choosing a care provider who you connect with and who will wholeheartedly support your wishes and needs. This is one of the most important things you will do. If you’re reading this and you’ve already hired a care provider, I want you to know that it’s never too late to switch providers if you feel your current one is not a good match for you.
There are a variety of healthcare providers who will attend a woman in labor. Usually, the provider you choose will dictate where you give birth. Most obstetricians, hospital-based midwives, and family doctors practice at a particular hospital. Some midwives attend births at freestanding birth centers. A homebirth midwife will, of course, attend your birth in your home.
Obstetricians attend births in hospitals. They are highly trained in managing pregnancy and birth in a variety of different and challenging circumstances. They are often trained to support women struggling with infertility as well as other pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, etc. Obstetricians are also highly trained surgeons and can perform Cesarean Sections. Some obstetricians perform significantly more than others, so if you’re hoping for a vaginal birth, it’s important to find out the C-section rate of any providers you’re considering hiring. Most obstetricians are comfortable with, and all are familiar with, the medical management of labor and delivery. Because of the demands on an obstetrician’s time, he/she may not spend too much time with you in the hospital, and you will be attended by hospital nurses for much of your labor. Also, many obstetricians work in groups with other OBs (and sometimes midwives) and you would be met in labor by whomever was on duty at the time.
Midwives who attend births in hospitals usually work in groups that have both OBs and midwives. Midwives are highly trained to support normal pregnancies, labors, and deliveries. They are not trained to perform Cesarean Sections or to support women with truly high-risk pregnancies, but are always backed by an OB who is. The midwifery model views pregnancy and birth as normal, physiological processes. Hospital-based midwives often still work with women who plan to use narcotic or epidural pain relief, but also with women who plan to birth without these pain management techniques. It’s important to understand that if you are pursuing an intervention-free birth and hire a hospital-based midwife, you may still be operating somewhat within the medical view of birth when birthing in a hospital setting.
Family doctors are trained in to manage a variety of conditions and some families choose to use them as their general practitioner for all members, regardless of age. Some family doctors will provide care for women with uncomplicated pregnancies and attend their hospital delivery.
Birth Center midwives
Some regions have freestanding midwife-led birth centers. Often, these birth centers do not have options for medical pain management. Women are attended by midwives trained in supporting normal birth. If you are hoping for more one-on-one time and support from your care provider, you might get that at a birth center. You can search for freestanding birth centers here.
Homebirth midwives work with women with normal pregnancies and support women who choose to give birth at home. Different states have different laws regarding midwife-attended homebirths. They spend most of your labor and delivery with you in your home and bring the necessary supplies with them. They often have working relationships with OBs in case of a hospital transfer. Prenatal appointments may take place at her home, her office, or your home. You might look here to search for homebirth midwives in your area. Also, ask around your local community. Doulas, childbirth educators, prenatal yoga instructors, and other local families might have knowledge about homebirth midwives practicing near you.
If you can’t quite decide which type of provider is right for you, you could interview a few different types to get a better feel for their philosophies and to discover who you personally connect with most. Gathering information by asking questions of providers, and trusting your instincts based upon these conversations, will be instrumental in finding a good match. In my next post, I’ll talk more about how to set up interviews with potential providers and share some ideas about what to ask them and how to interpret their responses.
How did you choose what type of provider you wanted to work with? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
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