i'm pregnant with my first child and i'm a bit nervous about the delivery. I'm having trouble deciding if i should go to the hospital or a birth center. I've read lots of thing from different sites that other women have posted and the birthing center sounds so much more enjoyable and relaxing than the hospital, but i can't find any information on if they give you pain medication at a birthing center. I want to try to have it naturally but if i can't then i want to have the option of having pain medication. i haven't taken any classes and i'm not going to have time to finish them; i'm moving in may, then again in june, then having the baby in july. and i'm not sure if i could handle doing it naturally without them. i can't figure out if i should go to the birthing center and risk not being able to deal with the pain, or go to the hospital.
First the bad news: a few freestanding birth centers may give pain medication but most don't because of the potential adverse effects on mom and baby. The good news is that it is rare for a woman to transfer to the hospital in labor solely because she wants pain meds--although that will certainly be an option should that be the case for you. Why? Not because women who choose birth centers are somehow different from the common run but because: (1) routine and frequently used hospital procedures (labor induction, oxytocin to strengthen contractions, IV drips) and restrictions (confinement to bed, forbidding food and drink) increase pain, and (2) birth centers offer comfort measures in labor that women themselves rate as highly effective that hospitals rarely do (deep tub immersion, showers, birth balls, rocking chairs) and, as you yourself said, a relaxed, homey environment where staff are supportive and encouraging. Anxiety and stress also increase pain. I also recommend that whether you can get childbirth classes or not, hire a doula. A doula is a woman with training and experience in doing labor support. Several organizations certifiy doulas. Here is an article of mine that will answer some questions you might have and another that will help you choose one.