If any of you reading this are expecting your first child and feeling totally “green” when it comes to what to expect… you’re not alone! I too was in your position, as I had my first child before I became an Edmonton labour doula or Edmonton childbirth educator. I relied heavily on my mom and older relatives for birth advice, but I found that a lot of them (other than my mom, who’s an L&D nurse) had very dated or one-sided info for me.
In our day and age, we’ve got choices galore when it comes to having a baby. Everything from how late or early our baby comes, to how they eat and even if they are vaccinated or not – the choice is left in our hands as parents. Some of us struggle with all of these choices, but the important thing to do is make sure you become as educated as you can before you make any final decisions. One of the first choices you will make as a parent is what type of birth setting you’d like to be in for the birth of your child. Though things aren’t always going to go your way, it’s a good idea to explore all options so you can be prepared. Let’s dive into what the many types of births look like!
The most common type of birth (though I’m sure they are losing popularity slowly with all the other options being presented) is a regular ‘ol hospital birth. Hospitals are a common place to give birth as there is a plethora of medical staff at your disposal should you need it. If your care provider is an OBGYN or a family doctor, you’ll almost always be delivering in a hospital, but midwives do deliver there too. A birth in a hospital (specifically an Edmonton hospital, which is where I practice) usually follows this protocol: your labour starts and you head in at whichever point you feel is necessary, you are sent into an assessment area where nurses will decide if you are far along enough in your labour to be admitted or not. If you aren’t, they will send you home to wait a bit longer (limited beds mean you don’t get one until you’re dilation is at a certain point) and if you are, you’ll be brought into your own room where you will likely spend the rest of your time in labour. Nurses will perform a number of checks to see how you and baby are doing, including electronic fetal monitoring, temperature checks, blood pressure checks, etc. If all is well, you’ll be left alone and checked on approximately every half hour until the second stage, however if things don’t look completely normal you’ll be monitored more constantly by the nurses. Once you reach second stage (pushing), a nurse will be by your side the entire time and once your baby is crowning, a few more nurses and the doctor will come in for the big finish. There are many other scenarios of a vaginal, hospital birth but this is what an average birth looks like. After your birth, as long as you and baby are thriving you’ll be sent home anywhere from 3 to 24 hours later to go start your journey as a mom.
The other type of birth that some women experience in a hospital is a cesarean birth. This type of birth is performed if an emergency arises where a baby cannot be delivered the natural way (vaginally). The procedure involves making an incision just above the pubic bone, and through this hole the baby is delivered. Cesarean births are performed only by OBGYNs and should only be done when absolutely needed. As scary as open surgery can be, c-sections save moms and babies lives in some cases so this type of birth is very important! You will be allowed one support person in the operating room with you along with all of the medical staff involved, and cesarean births usually mean longer hospital stays to ensure that you are healing well form the surgery before heading home. Recovery times are general longer – usually around 6 weeks and more painful. Luckily with our advanced medical knowledge, a cesarean birth usually means you can still go on to have more children, sometimes even vaginally (known as a VBAC).
Are hospitals not really your jam? Well why don’t you try birthing at home! That’s right, many women choose to birth their children in the comfort of their own space, and as long as your pregnancy is healthy and low-risk, this is a perfectly safe birthing option. Home births are performed by midwives so it’s crucial that you are under midwifery care in order to have a home birth. Your midwife will bring all of the equipment she will need to deliver the baby with her, but if by chance medical care is needed you’ll be transferred to the hospital quickly and efficiently. In a home birth, you’ll spend most of the early moments of labour at home with your partner and your doula, if you’ve hired one. Once you get into active labour your midwife will come and check on you and either stick around, or head out and return when it makes sense to do so. Once you have reached second stage, your midwife will be accompanied by an additional midwife to ensure that they have enough hands to care for both you and baby. Home births are a great option if you are someone who prefers to be left alone or in a more quiet space when you birth, but they aren’t always the best for the type of people who worry easily or who are planning for pain medication during labour. In order for a home birth to be successful, you have to have a lot of trust in your body and it’s ability to birth (which all women should!).
If you’re like me, and you were living in a rented apartment when you first gave birth, then you might not like the idea of such a special memory being in a place that is not your own. Or maybe staying home just doesn’t sit well with you… whatever your reason may be there is another option to giving birth outside of a hospital, which is at a birth centre. Birth centres are sort of like hotels – they have beautifully designed rooms that are super cozy and all set up for babies to be born in them. They have some birthing tools on hand like a big soaker tub and special beds, but once again your midwife will bring all of their tools with them to the birth. It’s quite similar to what you would expect birthing at you home, only you’ll have to pay to rent a room (like a hotel) and often you won’t need to cook the first meal you eat post-birth (as it will be provided for you – yum!). Here in Edmonton, the birth centre is located in very close proximity to one of the city’s hospitals so a quick transfer is simple if you were to require more medical assistance.
Finally, this last type of birth is more a style of birth than a location. In all areas I’ve listed previously, home, hospital or birth centre, there is often an option to do a water birth. Yes, you can birth you baby directly into a pool – how cool (rhyming intended)! I know you’re probably thinking won’t my baby drown? The cool thing about infants is that they don’t actually take a breath until they hit the air outside of the womb. They do “practice breathe” while in the womb but they take in amniotic fluid instead of air in order for their lungs to mature. Babies receive their oxygen through the placenta in utero, and the placenta stays attached and functioning for a while after baby is born so as long as the umbilical cord has not been cut or baby doesn’t hit the air before the water, baby will not drown. Your midwife will still pull the baby out relatively quick though so that you can begin the bonding experience and they can see how the baby is doing. Many women rant and rave about water births being quite comfortable and pain-free, so they are definitely worth a try if you’re intrigued! Like any other midwife attended birth, water births are a safe option if you are experiencing a low-risk pregnancy.
There are so many other scenarios we could chat about when it comes to “types of birth”, but these are the actual options you have when it comes to birthing your child. I encourage you to do more research and become more familiar with these options, or book a prenatal education class in Edmonton with yours truly – I’d love to build more on these exciting options for bringing your baby earthside 🙂