Why finding the right health-care provider and birth place for you are so important.
By Ann Grauer, CD(DONA), PCD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE
Maybe you haven’t started buying baby gear yet, but there are two major items that you should be shopping for: a birth place and a health-care provider. If you’re healthy and have a low risk of complications, giving birth at home or in a birth center is just as safe as at a hospital.
Location, Location, Location
A comfortable environment and lots of support so that your body can do its job are most important. At a birth center or your home (attended by a midwife or doctor), you’ll have a team trained in labor support that sees birth as a normal life event rather than an emergency waiting to happen. You have a much better chance of giving birth without medical interventions if you’re surrounded by people who share your birthing goals.
If you choose to give birth in a hospital, there are a few things you should be aware of. Many hospitals routinely rely on medication and technology, rather than using them only when you need them for a specific problem. It also can be harder to relax and work with your labor in a hospital, but it doesn’t have to be. Choose a hospital that encourages you to stay active in labor and does not impose a lot of restrictions on you (like not eating or drinking and requiring continuous electronic fetal monitoring). The support and encouragement of people who know you and who care about you will help you feel safe in an unfamiliar place. You also might want to consider hiring a doula.
Midwife? Physician? Obsterician?
Your next step is finding a health-care provider who works in the birth place you’ve chosen. A doctor who gives a good gynecological exam may not be the best person to guide you through pregnancy and birth. Take time to consider the following three options:
- A MIDWIFE provides pregnancy and birth care. They have deep respect for the natural process of pregnancy and birth. Certified midwives (CMs) and certified nurse midwives (CNMs) have advanced training and have passed rigorous certification exams; CNMs usually have a master’s degree. Studies show that midwifery care is not just safe but is very appropriate for healthy, low-risk women.
- A FAMILY PHYSICIAN provides comprehensive medical care, including prenatal care, which recognizes that most pregnancies don’t require intervention.
- AN OB/GYN is a surgeon who specializes in the care of the female reproductive system. Family physicians and midwives will refer you to an OB/GYN if complications arise.
Trust Your Instincts
Ask your friends and coworkers who are already moms about their providers and interview those that sound promising. Above all, listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, that provider isn’t for you.
If at any time you don’t feel comfortable with your health-care provider or planned place of birth, it’s okay to look around and consider making a switch. The insight you gain during the months of pregnancy may lead you to realize that who you chose in the beginning is not who you wish to have with you at birth. When the big day comes and you have a trusted provider by your side, you’ll be glad you took this decision seriously.