There are advantages and disadvantages of giving birth at home, in a birth center, and in a hospital. It can be argued that a hospital provides a safe environment because expert medical help is available should unexpected interventions be needed during the birth process and there are a variety of pain relief options (Nice, 2007). However, women who give birth in a hospital are also more likely to receive some form of medical intervention and many may not be able to relax as well or have as much autonomy because they are in an unfamiliar environment (Wickham, 1999).
Contrasting hospital birth is the idea of giving birth at home. A home birth can be empowering because it allows a woman to labor in the comfort of her own, familiar environment. This may allow a woman to be more relaxed, mobile, and comfortable to do as she pleases throughout labor (Wickham, 1999). Women are also less likely to have unnecessary interventions if giving birth at home (Oleson, Clausen, 2013). However, there is also the concern that if an emergency arises that there will be a delay in care because the woman must transfer to a hospital.
Lastly, birth centers seem to provide a middle ground between the two extremes of giving birth in a hospital or at home. Birth centers can provide a safe and home-like place for women to give birth and received prenatal and postnatal care, but usually have more resources and may provide quicker transfer to a hospital should an emergency arise (White, 2014).
In the summary of the Chapter 11 case study, “Providing a Safe Space for Birth in Warkworth, New Zealand” the author writes, “…there is no one thing that promotes a positive birth experience for women and their families, but rather an interconnected weaving of many things. Commitment is the common ingredient” (White, 2014). I believe this is an incredibly profound statement that ultimately sums up what our class agreed upon after our discussion on birth location. All of the previously mentioned advantages and disadvantages of different birth locations only skim the surface of the issues revolving around birth and birth location; as birth is such a unique experience for every woman. This is why I believe that our goal should not be to decide which birth location is best, as this will clearly vary, but to commit to perfecting each of these options so that they are safe and accessible to all women.
Nice. 2007. Intrapartum Care – care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth. National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence. Clinical Guideline 55. London: NICE. www.nice.org.uk
Olsen O, Clausen JA. Planned hospital birth versus planned home birth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD000352. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000352.pub2.
Symthe, L., Payne, D., Wilson, S., Wynyard S. (2014). Providing a safe space for birth in Warkworth, New Zealand. In White R. (Ed.), Global Case Studies in Maternal and Child Health (pp. 187-208). Seattle: Ascend Learning Company.
WIckham, S. (1999). Homebirth: What are the issues? Retrieved 2014, from Midwifery Today: www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/homebirthissues.asp
I think an unbiased presentation (with pros/cons) about these three options must be part of every woman’s first prenatal visit. Fully equipped with all of the available information, pregnant women will be able to decide which type of birth most empowers them to have a healthy, meaningful birth experience.