Maternity Ward or Labor and Delivery Unit
Considered the conventional hospital environment for deliveries, the maternity ward offers up-to-date equipment and access to obstetricians and, often, certified-nurse midwives. Some hospitals have expanded their maternity units to offer water-birth, natural birth, and birthing chair options. An advantage to the hospital setting is the access to additional health care for the mother and newborn if difficulties arise during the labor.
Many women choose to give birth in their own homes, allowing them to set a calming environment specific to their own needs. This option is considered best for women with low-risk pregnancies. With a home birth, you can choose to have a midwife or doula present to help with the birth.
Midwife-Run Birthing Center
Birthing centers run by midwifes offer many of the comforts of a home birth combined with the sense of security of being close to trained midwives. Because the birthing centers often do not have the same medical equipment or capabilities in an emergency as a hospital maternity ward, a midwife-run birthing center is considered a viable option for women with low-risk pregnancies.
Natural childbirth is an option for mothers who wish to avoid epidurals and other drugs during delivery. When foregoing medicinal pain relief during labor, creating a calming atmosphere plays a large role in easing the birth. Music, moving about the room, or taking a warm shower can offer relief. Some women find massage helpful, especially on the lower back and the legs.
Birthing pools are an option for delivery and some hospitals even offer the method. During a water birth, a woman sits or floats in warm water, which can help relaxation and working with contractions. Birthing pools are even available for rental if you choose to give birth at home.
Sometimes complications during a pregnancy or labor will lead doctors to suggest a Caesarean section for the mother’s or baby’s safety. In this procedure, an incision is made through the mother’s belly and uterus, the baby is delivered through the incision, and the uterus and belly are closed with stitches. In most cases, spinal anesthesia or an epidural is used to numb the area, rather than general anesthesia.
Doulas are trained to provide one-on-one emotional and physical support to women in labor. They are not trained to offer medical care, but rather to offer comfort, reassurance and confidence during the labor. A doula remains with the birthing mother throughout the labor, even if doctors and midwives change shifts. Care from a doula can reduce the length of labor, the use of epidurals, and the rate of Caesarean sections, according to the UC San Diego Health System.