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How Do You Want to Deliver Your Baby?

Find the childbirth option that’s right for you.
By Brenda Conaway
WebMD Feature

Your baby's kicks and stretches are a daily reminder that you'll soon get to see your little one's smile. The type of birth experience you want is a very personal decision. Do you want a natural childbirth in a home-like setting? Or would you feel more comfortable with all the conveniences of modern medicine close at hand?

While today's mom's-to-be have more options than ever before, you may be limited by certain factors that include:

  • Where your provider practices
  • What your insurance covers
  • Whether you have a high-risk pregnancy
  • Where you live and what hospitals are close by

Hospital Birth

The vast majority of women in the U.S. give birth in a hospital. If you have a high-risk pregnancy or want to try having a vaginal birth after a cesarean delivery (VBAC), then a hospital is the safest -- and often the only -- place you can deliver your baby. Even if you have a low-risk pregnancy, you may want to give birth in a hospital where you have ready access to the latest in medical technology.

Fortunately, the old stereotype of delivering your baby in a cold hospital room with your feet up in stirrups is long gone. Now, many hospitals provide options that range from practical to plush in order to make the labor and delivery experience more comfortable.

Traditional hospital birth. In some hospitals, you may move from one room to another depending on what stage of labor you are in. For example, you may go through labor and delivery in one room, recover in another, and then move to a semiprivate room. Your baby may be brought to your room for feedings and visits but stay in the hospital nursery the rest of the time. Not all hospitals follow the same routine, so ask what you can expect during your stay.

Family-centered care. Many hospitals now offer private rooms where you can go through labor, delivery, and recovery all in the same room. Often your partner can stay with you. These rooms are often decorated with pictures on the walls, soothing colors, and cabinets that hide medical equipment when it's not in use. After birth, your baby stays in your room with you.

In-hospital birthing center. These centers are either within a hospital or next to a hospital. They offer natural childbirth in a home-like setting. If problems occur during labor, you are just steps away from expert staff and medical equipment to help you and your baby.

Many hospitals also offer:

  • Childbirth and parenting classes and lactation consultants
  • Certified nurse-midwives on staff
  • The ability to have an unmedicated, "natural" delivery
  • Birthing pools or tubs for water births
  • Birthing stools, birthing balls, and other equipment to help you feel comfortable during labor
  • The option to wear your own clothes during labor and delivery
  • The option to have friends and family attend the birth and to videotape your delivery
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