When it comes to planning for the birth of your baby, one of the biggest decisions you will make is where your labour will take place.
The most common choice for mothers-to-be is a hospital birth.
But contrary to common belief, choosing the safety of a hospital doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your birth plan or giving birth in a sterile or unpleasant environment.
“Quite the contrary,” says obstetrician Dr Brad Robinson.
Modern obstetric care in Australia recognises patient autonomy and encourages women to have the birthing experience they desire within a framework that quantifiably improves outcomes for mums and babies.
“Women have a safe and comfortable physical environment, can have loved ones and support persons present for the experience, have numerous pain relief options available to them, and medical assistance on hand should the need arise.”
The first choice you will need to make is whether to opt for a public or private hospital.
Either way, it’s a good idea to have a tour of the birthing suites and maternity ward, ask questions and be comfortable with the environment.
When it comes to the big day, what takes place when you arrive at hospital may depend on what stage of labour you’re in.
Usually, when you first arrive, an admission CTG (cardiotocograph) takes place.
“This is an analysis and interpretation of the fetal heart rate which assists in determination of fetal wellbeing,” says Dr Robinson.
If your pregnancy is low risk and the CTG is normal, you may spend time in the maternity ward with your support people during early labour.
As contractions become strong, you’ll be moved to the birthing suites where you’ll be supported by a midwife and commonly have access to showers, birthing balls, music and television to make you comfortable during your labour.
You may have decided early on that you’d like pain relief and those wishes will be met at your request.
Alternatively you may have chosen a natural birth with limited or no pain relief, a decision which will also be supported and encouraged.
After your baby is delivered he or she will be placed immediately in your arms for important skin to skin contact.
Soon after, your obstetrician will administer a syntocinon injection into your thigh – you’ll barely notice though as you’ll be too busy marvelling at your new baby!
“This injection encourages placental separation, uterine contraction and significantly reduces the risk of maternal haemorrhage,” says Dr Robinson.
Your baby will be given a Vitamin K injection to help protect him against haemorrhage and a hepatitis B vaccination.
During and immediately after delivery you’ll receive ongoing medical assessments including observations of heart rate, blood pressure and temperature, as well as volume of blood loss.
Importantly, if there are any issues relating to your baby’s wellbeing during labour or delivery, a paediatrician will usually be present as an additional safety precaution.
When mum and bub are deemed healthy, your baby will be placed back on your chest for her first breastfeed.
A typical stay in hospital following a vaginal birth is four nights, around seven if you have a caesarean section.
“In the days following delivery ongoing regular assessments are made of both mother and baby by midwives, paediatricians, and obstetricians, so that any less obvious issues may be identified and addressed,” says Dr Robinson.
Mothers also have access to other invaluable assistance such as lactation consultants and physiotherapists.
Your stay in hospital following your baby’s birth provides an opportunity to enjoy precious bonding time with your baby without life’s usual pressures.
Remember to ask as many questions as you possibly can and make the most of the 24-hour access to midwives and hospital facilities.