Here’s what a typical hospital labor can look like these days: a pregnant woman is in bed with an IV in her arm infusing fluids into her arm. Possibly, she’s also receiving a drug called Pitocin to aid her contractions. Numb from the waist down from an epidural, her waters artificially broken, she’s likely to birth her baby with her legs up in stirrups and to receive an episiotomy cut to help the baby out of her body.

What’s wrong with this picture? If this is what you expect for your baby’s birth, or have even experienced with previous labors and births, then maybe nothing seems wrong.

But, many elements in this scenario simply aren’t necessary and can even cause complications, especially for women who have previously experienced problem-free pregnancies and labors. All of these interventions come with risks, and most pregnant women in the U.S are simply unaware of these potential problems.

Did you know you have choices when it comes to how you want to labor and birth your baby?

Pregnancy, labor and birth are normal body functions

Your body is designed to have a normal, uncomplicated birth without interventions. Sure, there can sometimes be complicating factors that require medical intervention, and in consultation with your healthcare provider, you can sort out your options and choose a birth plan that’s best for you.

Your body is an amazing vessel capable of sustaining and bringing forth a new life. For most women, the only things you absolutely need to give birth are a knowledgeable, experienced birth attendant, a safe environment, support people who will believe in you and your abilities throughout the process, and a belief in yourself. Some women do develop complications during pregnancy, and these women do need to have interventions performed during labor and delivery to help ensure their health and the health of their baby. But, when you do not have any contraindications necessitating intervention, then you have options! You have the power to decide what is best for you and your baby.

Know your birthing options

Did you know your first option is choosing where you want to birth your baby? Most women in the U.S. birth their babies in a hospital but there are also birthing centers and some women choose home births.

If you choose to birth in a hospital, call the facility and plan a tour. You’ll also likely be able to sign up for classes and other meetings designed to help you learn how births are typically managed in that particular hospital’s setting. At the hospital, ask what is and isn’t allowed during birth, such as wearing your own pajamas, using a birthing ball, bringing in family, friends and whether you may be able to be up and walking during labor.

Birthing centers are free-standing centers that are either close to or associated with a hospital – some are even in hospitals. They usually offer a more home-like atmosphere.

And if you decide that you and your partner want to birth your baby at home, you should have knowledgeable and skillful care to guide you through the birthing process. Also, know how far it is to your closest emergency center should complications arise during the labor or birth.

Your healthcare expert at your birth

Often the type of healthcare provider who attends your birth is driven by your birth location choice. For example, most physicians will not attend home births, and many hospitals don’t have certified nurse midwives available. Most births are attended in the U.S. by a obstetrician or a certified nurse midwife (CNM), and both types of these practitioners work in hospitals.

CNMs (an RN who has additional training, and in most states, training at the master’s level) can give you more options when it comes to birthing. Regulations as to who can attend births in what settings vary by state, so again you will need to research which options are available to you.

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