As I approach my third trimester I’m starting to think about where to give birth to my second baby. It’s such an important moment in our lives, so the decision needs to be thought through well. I was shocked to find out recently that consumer research commissioned by the CQC found that 40% of women who’ve had babies either weren’t aware or didn’t feel they had a choice about where they could give birth.
Where to give birth
In my first pregnancy I chose to give birth at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. I had a choice about whether I wanted to birth on their Midwife Led Birthing Unit or in their Delivery Suite. They are both in the same building. The Delivery Suite has specialist teams of doctors and more options for drugs for pain relief. I opted for the midwife led centre. I was convinced I was going to be one of the lucky ones and have a lovely water birth! Sadly once I had meconium in my waters I had to go to the Delivery Suite so they could monitor the baby. It wasn’t a trauma though. It was in the same building, which I knew well (I used to work there!) After a natural birth, the midwife said I should consider a home birth next time. And actually, that’s what I’m now debating.
What’s right for you?
Over half of us spend less than an hour thinking about which hospital to give birth in. Which is kind of shocking really, given it’s such a big decision. Ever the indecisive one, I’m firmly NOT in that category! I’m still not sure whether I want to give birth in the midwife led unit, or have a home birth. I’ve got two friends who’ve had home births, one locally, and one up in Manchester, and both sound wonderful. For me, I’m still weighing up if I’ll be confident enough. My midwife was understanding and said she didn’t need to know for definite until I’m 37 weeks. And even then, if I change my mind on the day, I could just let them know and still head for the midwife unit. It’s fantastic that we are given so much choice.
Research commissioned by the CQC found out these facts about birth choice. Over 1000 women who’d given birth in England in the last three years were surveyed as part of the research.
I had a birth plan when I was pregnant with Miss Belle and I’m writing mine for this birth too. I know some people say “what’s the point? You don’t know how things are going to go, just go with the flow…” And to some extent you have to. But if you have a rough idea of the type of birth you want, you should record it so that the midwives can help you achieve it as much as possible. I went into hospital twice during my first labour. Initially I was just 1cm and I thought I’d have to have an epidural! The midwife saw in my birth plan that I’d done hypnobirthing and wanted a natural birth. She advised I go home. In the end we did and I laboured well using my hypnobrithing techniques for another four hours or so at home.
CQC inspections can help you decide
If you’re not sure where you want to birth, make sure you check out the CQC inspection reports on maternity units in your area. The CQC inspects maternity units and rates them according to things like how caring the staff are, how well led the service is and how safe it is. You don’t have to choose whichever hospital is closest to you, though for a lot of people that is a big factor when deciding where to give birth. If your midwife unit is further afield but you’ve done some research and feel this is the way you want to go, then you can still select it. Just talk to your midwife about it.
There are of course pros and cons to all the options and you have to do what’s right for you. What one person wants will be different to the next person, which is why it’s so great we have the choice to decide where and how we give birth. Some options will only be suitable if you’re “low risk”. I’m in that category, but with another toddler to think about, travel time to hospital if there’s an emergency, as well as how my husband will feel about it, there’s a lot to consider. That’s why I’m happy to spend some time deciding what’s best for us and our baby.
Remember, if you’re pregnant or have recently given birth you can give the CQC feedback about your experience too. For more information about the CQC’s campaign and to find out how to share your experiences please visit www.cqc.org.uk/yourbirthplan
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