Sooner rather than later, you and your birth partner should start discussing where you want to give birth. If your pregnancy is low risk, you can opt for a midwifery unit, a birth centre or even at home birth instead of a hospital. Your midwife will discuss the options in your area. It’s best to visit hospitals and birth centres to make an informed choice. Remember you can change your mind at any time.
Most Australian women give birth in a hospital, where there is good access to specialist services and special baby care units. Midwives will look after you through your labour, but highly skilled doctors and state-of-the-art equipment are close by if you or your baby need help. Facilities and options differ from hospital to hospital, so ask your midwife, doctor and friends for advice. Also, ask whether it’s possible to tour the maternity facilities and what you might need to take with you.
The downside of all that medical reassurance is that hospitals are, well, medical. Even maternity units can feel formal and impersonal. You might not know the midwives who manage your labour, and rules might be more restrictive than at a midwifery unit.
Midwifery units and birth centres often feel less clinical and more comforting than a hospital. You can choose this option if your doctor agrees that you are a low-risk pregnancy and you have not had a caesarean or complicated labour previously.
One of the benefits is that you are likely to be looked after by midwife with whom you have bonded during your pregnancy and the environment is more like a home than a hospital, you might also have access to a birthing pool. You are also likely to go home much sooner than you would if you gave birth in a hospital and receive follow up care at home.
The downsides are that you most likely won’t have access to an epidural and you will be transferred to a hospital if there are complications.
Some women opt to give birth in the familiar and comforting environment of their own home. However, for obvious reasons, this is an option only if you are sailing through your pregnancy, you are not expecting twins, and your doctor has considers your pregnancy to be low risk.
Giving birth at home requires some planning by you and your birth partner and you must be supported by a midwife, obstetrician or a GP with specialised training.
One of the disadvantages of home birth is that your midwife will need to transfer you to hospital if your labour or birth are not going well, which can be upsetting. An epidural is probably also not an option at home.
Even if you have a very clear idea of where you want to give birth, labour is unpredictable and things don’t always go according to your carefully laid out birth plan. Do your research and discuss your options with your doctor or midwife.