Home Birth versus Hospital
Until relatively recent times, nearly all births took place at home, and this is still true in many parts of the world. In the United States and Canada, however, most couples prefer to give birth in a hospital, primarily because they feel it is safer than at home. If an emergency arises and medical intervention is required, the mother and child can receive immediate attention.
Nevertheless, some couples may consider having their child at home under the guidance of a licensed nurse-midwife. If you are interested in this option, check to see if home birth services are covered under your health care policy, and if they are, to what extent. If you have to pay out of pocket for home birth services, this could affect your decision.
If you and your partner are considering having the baby at home, you both need to talk to her obstetrician about it. You should also talk to other parents who have had home births. As your partner's labor coach, you may feel more comfortable at a hospital with lots of medical backup close at hand. Whatever your feelings, they need to be part of the discussion.
The Gripe Against Hospitals
Some parents criticize hospitals for being insensitive to their needs. They feel that the hospital environment is cold, impersonal, and not in tune with the “natural” act of having a baby. They also feel that doctors and nurses sometimes follow a strict medical protocol regardless of the wishes of the parents, particularly those of the laboring mother. For these reasons and others, they choose to give birth at home.
Partly in response to such criticism, many hospitals and medical facilities have made a concerted effort to be more welcoming to new parents. For example, many have built labor and delivery rooms that resemble suites at the Sheraton. Before they come to the hospital, each couple prepares a “birth plan” (covered later in this chapter), which explains, in writing, how they want the birth to proceed. Physicians and nurses use this plan to guide them and—it is hoped—provide parents with a satisfactory birthing experience.