One of the first decisions you will make about your birth is where you will have it. This is a crucial part of your birth plan, and although you make an initial decision right at the beginning of the pregnancy at the booking in appointment, you are not obligated to stick with this and you can change it later in the pregnancy if you prefer
When it comes to where to give birth, there are basically three main choices – home birth, a birth centre or a hospital birth.
At the mention of home birth, a lot of us dads feels a bit uncomfortable or even outright shocked at the idea. It’s normal to have worries like – will be too messy, too noisy or what if something goes wrong?
However, do your research on home birth as a choice, because in many ways it is the most dad-friendly way to birth!
What is a home birth?
A home birth is exactly that – giving birth to your baby at home. Midwives will come to your house for the birth, bringing with them any equipment they may need.
Does a home birth mean no drugs?
No, your partner still has the options of using gas and air or pethidine during the labour. However, if your partner wants to try and labour without medicalised pain relief, she is more likely to achieve it at home.
You and your partner can also choose whether or not to hire or buy a birth pool. You can get very sturdy inflatable pools which you can put up and fill within an hour, so they don’t have to take up lots of space while you are waiting for baby to arrive! If your partner does really want to use water to labour and/or birth it, this is a great way to make sure you have the best chance to use it.
Pain Relief Options
In the event of any concerns about your partner or baby, they would be transferred to hospital. Statistically home births are as safe, if not safer, than hospital births and have better birth outcomes. The main reason women in labour are transferred into hospital is because they ask for additional pain relief which cannot be given at home, rather than any kind of emergency. In the event of medical support being needed, it is extremely rare that during birth things go from being fine to urgent quickly. The majority of the time there are warning signs – and that is why you have a midwife with you! If she sees anything which concerns her, she will discuss with you moving the birth to hospital.
The other beauty of home birth is that for whatever reason, even during labour, you change your mind about giving birth at home, you can! It is no problem at all to just decide to go to the hospital instead – so it is a great way of keeping all your options open.
While it is easier to gain the support from your local health trust for a home birth if your partner’s pregnancy is low risk, a higher risk pregnancy does not automatically mean this is not an option for you. Ultimately where you choose to give birth is your choice, and if at home feels like the right choice for you, discuss it with your midwife and ask to speak to the Supervisor of Midwives at your local hospital to discuss how they could support you as well as any other options with you. Some hospitals also have a dedicated home birth team, and these can offer a lot of information and support.
In some areas of the UK you may have access to a birth centre, which offers an environment and support specifically dedicated to birth. This means that you are more likely to both feel more calm, relaxed and confident throughout labour and birth.
There is often good access to options such as birth pools, and dads are often able to stay for the whole time, rather than be restricted to visiting times.
Similar to a home birth, it also is more likely your partner will have a straightforward vaginal birth.
If you choose to birth in hospital, that isn’t quite decision made, as you also have the choice of which hospital. Many of us might think that it doesn’t really matter which hospital we go to, or that it’s just best to go to the nearest one, but there are considerations to look at when making your choice.
Points you may wish to consider include:
- What are the experiences and feedback of other parents using it?
- What are their rates for assisted birth and C-section? If you want to increase the likelihood of having a natural birth, then choosing a hospital where this is more likely to be achieved statistically might be something you wish to consider. A great website which enables you to compare hospitals maternity statistics is www.birthchoiceuk.com
- Does it have access to facilities you may want to use in birth such as a birth pool? How many are available? If there is only one of something, there is a higher risk that it won’t be available on the day you want it.
- Does it have midwife-led birthing rooms as well as a delivery suite? (Keep reading for details of what this means)
- How far away is it, and how long will it take to get there at busier times of day?
Choices with a hospital as your birth place
Once you have narrowed it all down and decided that a) you want a hospital birth, and b) which hospital you wish to use, there may still be additional choices to make! Many hospitals now split their birthing facilities into a delivery suite and a midwife-led unit.
Delivery suite usually consists of medicalised birth rooms, with hospital beds and the usual hospital equipment. Just because the rooms have beds in them, does not mean that your partner has to lay in one – she can still use birth balls and stay mobile in these rooms. Even if your partner is using one of these rooms for monitoring or to be on a drip, does not preclude her from sitting on a yoga ball or using positions like all fours or kneeling.
Midwife led units offer birthing rooms which are usually less medicalised than delivery suite, although how homely they are varies dramatically. They often promote and give access to choices like birth pools, are less likely to have a bed in the room, and are more likely to be furnished with things like beanbags, birth stools, birth couches, and so forth.
To most easily access a midwife-led facility for birth, your partner would need to be considered a ‘low risk’ pregnancy. However, even if she is not, this does not mean that automatically she cannot use the facility. If your partner is classed as ‘higher risk’ and has been under the care of a consultant for the pregnancy but would like to use the facilities of a midwife led unit, you should both talk to the consultant about it. The consultant may support your wishes to use the facilities – you don’t know if you don’t ask! It is important to have cleared it and confirmed in your notes before labour begins though as they are unlikely to be around when you go into labour to personally give it the thumbs up – so it is an important aspect of your birth plan to consider.