For many centuries, expectant parents did not have choices when it came to the birth of their baby. Options simply were not available. The birth of a child took place, most often, in the couple’s home, attended at most by a midwife. Today in the twenty-first century however, the choices can at times seem endless. Expecting couples can choose many things including the place of birth, who attends the birth, what medications they want during the birth, and whether or not to plan the date of the baby’s arrival. I have been involved in the choices of several friends and family members as well as exploring these options for myself, both a few years ago and right now in the present. These choices are not easily made, they involve a lot of thought and at times things such as religion or personal beliefs also weigh in. This essay will explore two of these choices and what is involved in deciding on a particular choice. The strengths and weaknesses of each option will also be discussed.
The first choice to be explored is that of location. Locations that are available to expectant parents include a hospital maternity ward, a birthing center (usually staffed by a midwife), or the home of the parents-to-be. This can be one of the most important decisions that a couple makes throughout their entire experience with pregnancy and birth. Many women, including my best friend, feel that the hospital setting is very clinical and impersonal which is not always the case. When deciding to have your baby in a hospital or other setting there are many factors to consider. Depending on prior experience with hospital births, a couple may or may not wish to repeat this experience. For example, my friend had a bad experience with her first child in a hospital delivery setting. She felt that the staff was very impersonal and treated her like just another patient. She was reluctant to have her next delivery in a similar setting. I encouraged her to tour some of the local hospitals and their maternity wards and to observe as many of their procedures as they would allow. I also introduced her to several other friends that have had children in these local hospitals and talked with her about my feelings about where I want to have my child so that she could make a more informed decision. Couples wishing to have a more personal feel to the birth may decide to opt for the home birth or even a birthing center, both of which offer more personal and intimate surroundings eliminating the sometimes chaotic and rushed feel of a hospital. Another factor to consider in choosing a hospital or other location is how many people the couple wants to be in the room during the actual birth. Many hospitals have limits on the number of people allowed in the room during the birth. Some hospitals, however, now offer private birthing suites where everything including labor, birth, and recovery all take place in the same room. These suites also accommodate more people to attend the birthing process from beginning to end. Birthing centers and home births are made more “family friendly” thereby allowing more people and possibly even children to attend the birth. Another factor in choosing between a hospital, birthing center, or home is the level of care the couple wants to receive during the birth. Some couples prefer to use a midwife instead of a doctor. Midwives are more and more common in the hospital setting along with doctors and physician assistants. Short of delivering the baby themselves, almost any level of care they choose can be found in a hospital birthing center. At a birthing center and at a home birth a midwife is almost certainly going to be the only medical professional in attendance. Another factor to consider is the amount of technology the couple wishes to have available. Most large and some small hospitals are able to provide the newest and greatest technology available to assist in the birthing process. Most...
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