Your Birth Environment

Your environment sets the tone for your birth experience. From home to hospital, every birth environment has challenges and benefits worth exploring.

Today, most women in the United States give birth in hospitals. However, this is not the only option available: women also give birth in freestanding birth centers, hospital-based birth centers, or in their own homes. Be aware that some hospitals use the term “birth center” to refer to their regular labor & delivery floor. The American Association of Birth Centers defines a birth center as a home-like setting where care providers, usually midwives, provide family-centered care to healthy pregnant women. Most birth centers are located separately from hospitals, while a few are physically inside hospital buildings. In-hospital birth centers must meet certain standards for independence and must be separate from the Labor and Delivery unit in order to be considered true birth centers. A landmark study published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, shows that birth centers provide first-rate care to healthy pregnant women in the U.S.

Where you choose to give birth will depend on your birth philosophy. If you’d like a natural, unhurried birth, consider having your baby at home or at a birth center. If you’re working with an obstetrician, you’ll likely give birth in a hospital. Explore your options, and discuss them with your care provider.

A comfortable environment is going to help you stay relaxed and this is crucial in allowing the physiologic process of labor to occur. An intricate blend of hormones is released during labor – some are helpful, but others can be destructive and even slow things down. Fear and stress may “stall” labor and create a need for medical interventions. If you do choose a birth environment other than your home, consider laboring at home as long as possible, and explore ways in which you can make the transition to the birth center or hospital as seamless as possible. Music, eye masks, and continuous labor support – such as a doula, family member, or friend – can be a great help.