The inspiration for this post came recently after doubting my choice of birth location, which led me to realise I hadn’t been given great advice at the start of my pregnancy when asked by the midwife at eight weeks pregnant: “Where do you want to have your baby?”
Now, if you’re the sort of person to ask lots of questions whatever situation you’re in and have known for a while what sort of birthing experience you want, then this post is going to be irrelevant to you. However, I found out we were expecting pretty quickly without having too much time beforehand to think much through about pregnancy and birthing options, which I believe is why I’ve found the whole process quite daunting that I admit (up until now) I’ve relied on my midwife and GP to guide me through every step of the way.
When asked the question very early on about where I wanted to deliver baby Dando, I simply chose Basingstoke Hospital because it was the closest distance to my home in Newbury, Berkshire. Home birthing didn’t even cross my mind as no-one had expressed that it was an option. So when it came to choosing between my closest hospitals, Royal Berkshire (RBH in Reading) and Basingstoke, I assumed there probably wasn’t much in it when it came to the level of care as I know they both have pretty decent ratings. So I went with my choice and felt quite happy with my decision…that was until I started chatting to another mum-to-be who is having her baby at Royal Berkshire Hospital (RBH) and lives only a stone’s throw away from me.
“Why are you going to Reading?” I asked.
“Because they have a lot more birthing pools and a comfortable birthing centre in the hospital,” she replied.
It was in this instant that I realised I simply had not asked enough questions. Stupid, you may think. But this experience is so new to me that I admit I expected my midwife to talk me through the various hospitals and home birthing options available to me and alert me to the differences, but I simply wasn’t given this advice.
I’ve soon become to understand that RBH has:
• The ‘Rushey Ward’, which is a comfortable birthing centre (apparently the check in desk is like a hotel!) that is meant to relax women to enable a natural as possible birthing experience
• Three birthing pools available
• Even though the birthing centre sounds like the dream, because it is midwife led they cannot give you an epidural and the doctors are not there to intervene with the delivery, without transferring you to the labour ward or operating theatre in the hospital
• In the main hospital is the labour ward where you have access to all doctors and midwives. For example you can have every pain relief option available or they can intervene in the delivery of your baby if needed, in your own delivery room without any transfers (unless you do have to go into the operating theatre)
Compared to Basingstoke which has:
• A labour ward that has access to all doctors and midwives i.e. pain relief options and any interventions can take place in your own delivery room (unless again you need to be transferred to the operating theatre)
• One birthing pool
If you’re a One Born Every Minute fan, then you’ll understand why I’m swaying towards having a water birth. Is it just me or does every water delivery on that show look like the best experience ever?! So as I was having this discussion about the differences between the hospitals near me, I was shocked to hear that Basingstoke probably wouldn’t be able to accommodate me in a water birth. Also I wanted a check in desk that was like a hotel!
Now, I don’t want to bore you with the ins and outs of my to-ing and fro-ing to decide whether at last minute I decided to transfer hospitals or even have a home birth. But what I will tell you is the extra information has made me confident that Basingstoke WAS the right birthing location for me. Why? Because, I’ve now managed to ask all the questions I want answers to, quiz as many people as possible about the various options available to me, and work out what is right for my husband and me.
The main reason for writing this post is because I wanted to recommend questions for other first time mums-to-be reading this to ask themselves, their midwives and GPs, and other parents who have recently given birth, to give you the confidence to choose the right birthing location for you. Why the NHS doesn’t have a simple questionnaire or fact sheet about options available to you at your first appointment, I don’t know. It would make things so much more black and white!
1. What is important to you when giving birth? For example, comfort, having baby in a place with instant access to all types of doctors and midwives, pain relief, water birth etc.
2. If you have decided you want to have your baby in a hospital, ask all questions about the locations near you. For example, the rating of the maternity wards, how long does it take to get from your home to the hospital, what have other peoples experiences been like, do they do tours of the maternity ward etc?
3. If you want a home birth then do quiz your midwife on how they will support you, how to prepare your home, or what happens if they need to transfer you to hospital? A very close friend of mine has found some local ‘home birthing’ groups of women who are either thinking about choosing this option, or have recently had their baby at home, which she has found very useful.
4. If you want pain relief, think about what you may want and where these will be available to you.
5. If you don’t want a home birth but the thought of hospitals does not float your boat either, talk to your midwife about birthing centres near you. I had no idea these even existed!
These are just some of the questions that I had, but I’m sure you will have more. And you know what…ask them! No question is ridiculous. You need to feel comfortable with your choice. And whatever choice you make is going to be the right choice for you. People may have opinions about what you’ve chosen, but block them out. As long as it feels right for you, your partner and your baby, then this is all that matters!
Here are some useful places where I found good information to help me in my decision making process:
Home birth: http://www.nct.org.uk/birth-topics/home-birth
Birthing centres: http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a548986/all-about-birth-centres
Water births: http://www.mumsnet.com/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/water-birth
Video about Rushey Ward at RBH: http://www.itv.com/news/meridian/update/2012-09-19/revamp-for-maternity-unit-where-duchess-was-born/
Basingstoke Hospital maternity unit: http://www.hampshirehospitals.nhs.uk/our-services/a-z-departments-and-specialities/m/maternity-services/basingstoke-and-north-hampshire-maternity-services.aspx
Love me xxx (5 weeks to go!)