Millions of babies are born each year, with almost 4 million deliveries in 2010 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention While a hospital birth is sometimes necessary, depending on the health of the mother and baby, it isn't always the only option. Understanding the differences between a hospital and home birth can help you to decide on an appropriate and acceptable setting for your newborn's arrival.
When the Hospital Is a Must
Some situations require a medical setting for labor and delivery. For example, if your doctor diagnosis you with pre-eclampsia — a pregnancy condition characterized by elevated blood pressure, high protein levels in the urine and body swelling — you will need to deliver in a hospital. Likewise a C-section, or other procedure that requires anesthesia, necessitates a hospital delivery.
Giving birth in a hospital is a more modern practice than home births, gaining popularity starting in the 20th century. But hospital births have changed, too. Husbands and significant others are welcome in the delivery room and it's possible to have other family members nearby. You may have an obstetrician deliver your baby or you can opt for another certified medical professional. Certified nurse midwives can deliver babies in both home and hospital settings. You may choose to have your baby with you or have her go back and forth between your room and the nursery.
A Home Birth
A home birth can provide a more comfortable labor and delivery environment, plus you can have family and friends with you at all times. A midwife typically delivers the baby during a home birth. The midwife — or person delivering the baby — will bring her equipment, and your health care provider can give you directions on making your home ready for the birth. A major advantage to a home birth is that the mother and baby can stay together in their own home after delivery.
If you choose to have an epidural, spinal block or narcotic pain relief, you'll need to go to the hospital for delivery. But if your plan includes a natural, drug-free birth, you can deliver in either the hospital or the home. During a home birth your midwife or other support system members can help you to deal with the pain. While in the hospital your doctor and nurse can administer medications as needed. Depending on the state's certification rules, a midwife may or may not be able to administer drugs, but most likely can start an IV for fluids.
Changing Your Mind
Obstetrician Patricia Santiago-Munoz tells the Southwestern Medical Center's Healthwatch that women choosing a home birth should have a backup plan should something go wrong and they need medical intervention.