So, I should probably start by telling you that baby #3 was born in a birth center. That birth center happened to be overseas, in Bulgaria. So, there way be some things that aren't quite the same as in the USA. Giving birth, however, is universal! Having a baby overseas was an adventure into the unknown! It was also my first labor and delivery in a birthing center.
First up, a quick definition. A birthing center is a medical facility (usually near a hospital) where midwives or doctors deliver babies. The atmosphere is typically more homey and relaxed then a hospital. Most birthing centers have between 3-10 rooms available.
So, why the birthing center?
Well, when I became pregnant with baby boy #3, we were living in Bulgaria. There, home birth, while not technically illegal, is illegal for any trained medical professional to endorse or attend. So, choosing a home birth means choosing to give birth unattended, which I am not comfortable with. It also could have raised potential issues with our visas.
To this point, I had only had home births, so a large hospital in a foreign country was just too much. Thankfully, I was referred to a small birthing center in the center of the city, only 10 minutes from our home.
This center had 6 rooms, and one delivery room. It was staffed by 3 OB/GYN's and an anesthesiologist. (I don't think most centers offer much anesthesia, however).
When I went into labor this time (at 6 am, super convenient!), I was determined to wait as long as possible before leaving home. I didn't really know what that looked like, though, since I had never had to judge that before!
I ended up in a place where, around 11am, contractions slowed and nearly stopped. Thankfully, my husband remembered that this often happens right before everything REALLY kicks in and starts happening fast!
He encouraged me that we should head in, and he went down to put the bags in the car. By the time he returned, the contractions were one on top of the next, and I wasn't sure I could get in the car.
We drove for 11 minutes, and I had 9 contractions on the way. Whew!
Check In Procedures
When we arrived, there were some check in procedures, but they were far less involved then at the hospital (I would later learn). My cervix was checked, blood pressure, and I wore a fetal monitor for 10 minutes to evaluate the baby's condition. Then I was moved to a private room, where the intention was that I would labor until I was nearly ready to deliver.
When we reached the room, one nurse prepared the IV, while another peppered us with questions related to my medical history. (For some reason, I was not asked to complete all of this prior to labor. I think that might be different in most US centers.)
I needed to pee, so I escaped to the bathroom (I might have also been avoiding the IV!). As soon as I was alone, my body started to push! My cervix had only been at 5cm 20 minutes earlier, so no one believed me at first. Then they started to scramble all over themselves to get the delivery room ready!
And Here Comes Baby
Switching rooms in the middle of my pushing phase wasn't the greatest, but we got there. Then I realized that the bed had been set up for a feet-in-stirrups position, which I refused. So while they were rearranging the bed, I continued to push. This was probably a blessing in disguise, because the medical team there definitely would not have wanted me to be standing and walking while pushing.
They finally had everything ready, and the doctor wanted to check me one more time before I got on my knees. I don't think she believed I was pushing yet!
When she checked, she saw his hair and told me to push. HA! 2 pushes later, I was holding my son.
At this center, there were many options available that I didn't have time to use. Birthing balls, birthing stools, anesthetics, showers, walking, and lots of privacy were available. Each room had a private bathroom, and since the center only had 6 rooms, it was quiet and even dark in most of the building on a weekend. Meals were delivered from a nearby restaurant.
Remember, my story may not be typical of most US birthing center experiences, but that's the story I have to share. Also, please don't be scared of giving birth overseas. If there are qualified medical professionals available, I say go for it! Your body knows what to do, and in the end, that's what makes your story unique.
Birthing Center Pros
- Many options for labor available, including walking, showering, TV, birthing balls, squatting, etc.
- Usually more relaxed in regards to eating during labor
- Most birthing positions are generally acceptable, as long as there is no emergency or fetal distress
- Birthing center patients often have far fewer interventions than in the hospital
- Emergency services are typically very close, and emergency equipment is usually on hand
- It's generally quiet, and more private than the hospital, but not as much as home
- No exposure to the illnesses found in the hospital
Birthing Center Cons
- Some insurance plans may not cover birthing centers
- May be full, closed for holidays, or unavailable if staff is on vacation (ask what happens in such cases, or if there is enough staff to remain open under such circumstances)
- If you develop complications during your pregnancy, you will probably be asked to switch to a hospital birth
I'd love to hear your story, and I'm sure my readers would too. Feel free to tell it in the comments, or leave me a link if you've already blogged your story!