Congratulations, you're pregnant! Whether this is your first or fourth baby, things in the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum world are always changing. There are so many decisions to make, and so many choices, how do you decide on anything? Everyone is always ready to give you advice and tell you what they did. I find the best thing to do is think about what you want, what are your preferences, and why.
You have to do your own research to help you decide what is best for you and your family.
Here is a brief comparison of your choices to bring your new baby into this beautiful world. The most common option is in a hospital birth center. If your OBGYN or midwife is affiliated with a specific hospital, that is where you will plan to birth your baby. Many hospitals have specific policies in place and tend to use a lot of birthing/labor interventions often times one leading to another, sometimes medically necessary, and sometimes not. Having a natural birth in a hospital setting is less common. If you have a high risk birth and/or pregnancy complications, your OBGYN or midwife will likely suggest you give birth in the hospital setting. Depending on the hospital you usually have access to things like a birthing tub, pain medications, epidural, cesarean, induction medications such as pitocin, if needed. I highly recommend you tour the hospital birth center and inquire about their policies and procedures to see if your preferences and birth plan are in line with hospital policies & procedures.
Another option for giving birth is an out of hospital Birth Center. These centers are often ran and owned by Midwives and/or Naturopathic Doctors. A midwife is a medically trained professional that specializes in the care of pregnant women before, during, and after birth. They are usually able to safely manage full term births from 37 weeks on, uncomplicated pregnancies, and low risk births. Typically birth centers are set up to look and feel like as much as a home as possible, and take away the hospital feel. They offer limited medical interventions and focus on more naturopathic measures for pain and comfort. Some offer things like nitrous oxide for the laboring person to breath in during contractions, and then remove the gas once the contraction is over, which has no effect on the baby, but comforts provides comfort through the contractions. You would choose a birth center birth if your birthing plan includes limited interventions, you don't plan to have an epidural or other interventions done in a hospital setting, and prefer a midwife over an OBGYN. Contact your local birth centers for a tour and more information and/or to connect to a midwife that might be right for you.
The last choice for giving birth is a home birth. This most definitely entails an uncomplicated pregnancy and low risk birth with your chosen midwife. Your birth plan would require you to want to have very limited interventions. Home births are great in the way that you don't have to worry about getting to and from the hospital, your in the comfort of your own home which is a very comfortable and intimate setting. You can use things like a birthing tub (usually rented from a medical equipment company) and all the non-medical interventions you can think of. After baby is born you can just relax in the comfort of your own home and bed!
While out of hospital births are on the rise, I suggest making a well thought out birth plan to really think about how you envision your birth, your preferences, values, and desires. Find your preferred care provider whether it be a midwife or OBGYN. Set yourself up with tools, knowledge, and a plan so you can make the best decisions for you and your family!