Alternatives to Traditional Hospital Birth
If the idea of a traditional hospital birth does not appeal to you, a variety of options are available that offer you a choice about how to manage your pain and get through labor. It's important to note that these methods and styles of birth are not ruled out in a hospital. Many hospitals support these types of methods. You might also consider a birth center, where alternative methods of pain management are encouraged.
Hypnobirthing is a relaxation technique that uses hypnosis to help a woman control pain during labor. The idea behind the concept is that tension increases pain. If a woman can remain relaxed through the use of hypnosis, she will feel less pain, and her labor will progress more smoothly.
Hypnobirthing also incorporates other commonly used techniques, such as visualization and breathing, to create relaxation. You can work with a hypnotherapist during your pregnancy only, or you can also have the hypnotherapist accompany you to a birth center or hospital for your birth.
How successful is a home birth likely to be?
Studies show that women who have previously had children are the most likely to have a successful home birth. One U.K. study showed that only 10 percent of women who gave birth previously were transferred to a hospital, compared to 40 percent of first-time mothers.
In water birth, a woman labors and delivers in a tub of warm water. The warmth of the water is soothing and is meant to ease pain. The baby is delivered under water, which is thought to be less stressful. Other advantages that are cited include reduced stress and anxiety during labor, pain relief, more rapid labor, and increased elasticity of vaginal and vulvar tissues, which makes labor easier and reduces tearing. You can purchase portable water-birth pools for use at a home birth or hospital birth.
One of the key concerns with water birth used to be the inability to monitor the labor, but there are now waterproof monitoring devices available that allow continuous or intermittent monitoring during birth. Babies who experience stress during labor due to umbilical cord compression or hypoxia (low oxygen) may gasp before the umbilical cord is cut and may suffer from water aspiration and even drowning. The warm water may keep the uterus from contracting effectively, predisposing the woman to postpartum hemorrhage. There is also a theoretical risk of maternal water embolism and breaking of the umbilical cord at birth.
There is considerable disagreement in the United States about the safety and advisability of water births. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has not endorsed water birth because there is a lack of data proving its safety. Most hospitals in the United States do not permit water births, so most are performed by midwives or in birthing centers.
For more information about water birth, contact Water Birth International.
Obviously, the final word is not in on water deliveries. It is important that you inform yourself and get several opinions as well as information about outcome rates (success rates) in the center that offers the procedure.
A birth ball is a large air-filled ball similar to a large exercise ball. A woman sits on the ball during labor, and the position is believed to help open the pelvis and decrease discomfort. Some hospitals have birthing balls. Most birth centers do. You can purchase a birth ball for use at a home birth or at a facility.
Although the most common position for giving birth is lying on your back with your legs elevated, there are a variety of other positions that might feel comfortable for you or be effective. Laboring on your hands and knees can be helpful for back labor. Standing, walking, swaying, and leaning are other positions that can be helpful. Squatting can also work for some women. If you are giving birth in a hospital, you need to speak up about your preferences for delivery.