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Childbirth Options

There are many decisions expectant parents must make before having a baby. It’s not just about how the baby is going to be delivered; the parents must also decide who will deliver the baby and where it should be born. Hospitals are the most common delivery venue, but homes and birthing centers are becoming increasingly popular childbirth options, and many women are now seeking the assistance of trained and certified midwives and doulas.

Who Can Deliver Your Baby

Obstetricians are medical doctors specializing in pregnancy, birth, and labor, and they deliver babies in hospitals. Family practitioners are also a good childbirth option, since your family doctor will be familiar with your medical history. Family doctors are not specialists; they have a more general knowledge of medicine, but they are trained in many fields, including pregnancy and childbirth. They tend to handle lower-risk pregnancies, and like obstetricians they also deliver babies in hospitals.

There are two types of midwives. A certified-nurse midwife has a nursing degree plus additional training in this field. A direct-entry midwife doesn’t have a nursing degree, but does have extensive training in the fields of pregnancy and labor. Midwives are a great alternative for a mother who would rather give birth in her own home or at a birthing center than in a hospital.

How You Can Deliver Your Baby

There are several childbirth options to consider when deciding how you’re going to give birth.

Assisted deliveries are usually vaginal births done at the hospital with anesthesia. In assisted delivery, a doctor guides the baby out of the birth canal. As the baby is coming out, the doctor may assist delivery by using either forceps (which are similar to tongs) or a vacuum extractor.

A Cesarean birth (or C-section) is when the baby is delivered through an incision in the abdominal wall. This procedure is done if delivery through the vagina poses a risk to the mother or the baby. A C-section may be the best option if certain risk factors are present, such as fetal distress, uterine rupture, or STDs, or if the cervix isn’t dilating completely.

VBAC, or vaginal birth after cesarean, is often an option for a second-time mother who has had a C-section. Most people assume that vaginal delivery is impossible after a C-Section, but this is not true. While there is a greater risk of a uterine rupture if the mother has previously had a C-section, a vaginal delivery is still possible if it is closely monitored.

Water births have become increasingly popular since the 1990s. A mother gives birth in a warm tub of water, usually assisted by a midwife or family doctor in a quiet location like the mother’s home. The idea is to bring the baby into the world gently, into an environment that is not so shockingly different from the amniotic sac in which it has been resting comfortably for the last nine months. This is said to be less stressful for everyone involved, and the water may help to reduce pain during delivery.

[Page updated February 2016]