One of the things that helped me realize all the options I had was getting my hands on a birth plan template. From there, I researched some of the things that I hadn't given much thought to, because they weren't things that I'd really thought about or realized I had an option of.
Homebirth vs. Hospital Birth
The first decision, if you're low risk and looking for a natural birth, may be whether to have a homebirth or a hospital birth. There have been several studies in the Netherlands that have attempted to ascertain the safety of a home birth when compared to a hospital birth.
Birth Unplugged does a great job discussing study 2 and study 3 on her blog:
- How Homebirth Benefits Babies
- Homebirth Research: Another Side of the Story
- More Thoughts on Research
If a homebirth isn't right for you, but feel that a hospital birth may provide unnecessary interventions, you might consider a Birth Center.
Whether you opt for homebirth, hospital birth, or a birth center, there are questions you'll want to ask about the place you expect to deliver and the type of care you'll receive. ICAN (the International Cesarean Awareness Network) talks about the different birth options and provides a fantastic list of questions that you may want to consider at the bottom of the page.
Probably one of the biggest decisions most women think about when planning their labor and delivery is what type of pain management they want. There are a number of options for women who want to use natural pain management techniques. Even if you don't plan on using pain medications, I strongly encourage you to research the different pros and cons of each type of pain medication, to ensure that you are as fully informed as possible about the risks and benefits of each prior to going into labor. A starting point for some of the benefits and risks of the different types of medications can be found in the Labor & Birth section of AmericanPregnancy.org, though I strongly encourage comparing information from several different locations (as well as talking to your prenatal care provider about them to determine if there are additional benefits or risks in your particular case).
Note that this is not necessarily a comprehensive list of the options, but an overview of some of the common options available
- Spinal Block (note that this is different from the epidural)
- Local Anesthetic
- General Anesthesia (may be used in the event of Cesarean)
Natural Pain Relief
Again, this list is an overview, and not intended to be considered comprehensive
- Counter Pressure
- Breathing Techniques (ex: Lamaze)
- Positioning with Birth Aids (ex: Birthing Ball, Squat Bar)
- Setting up a calming/relaxing environment (ex: use of music)