If you have been trying for a baby for some time, or are an older first time mother, you may want to consider 'going private' when examining your birthing options. You could go to a birthing centre, choose a private clinic through BUPA or think about hiring a 'doula' or a labour coach to assist you in an NHS hospital or at a home birth. This is because it may not be possible to have the sort of birth you want if you just rely on the NHS. This is especially true if you want to opt for a home birth. This is due to a variety of factors - the 19% rise in the birth rate in Britain over the last ten years combined with a chronic shortage of midwives, as well as the financial cutbacks in the NHS.
Midwifery Services Stretched
According to the Royal College of Midwives, the NHS needs at least another 3,500 midwives to give every women everywhere in the country the same level of care. Having a home birth is not even an option for many women in certain areas as some doctors are reluctant to agree to a home delivery. This is partly out of safety concerns, as many first time mothers are older women who are at a higher risk from giving birth. With only about 18,000 home births in 2009, (2.7 % of all births in Britain) it's not surprising that many doctors are unfamiliar with home births or worry that agreeing to it will overstretch already stretched services.
Birth Centre Option
Some doctors offer a half-way option of a small birthing centre or midwife-led unit which has a homelike atmosphere together with good medical equipment and the services of skilled midwives. If your birth goes smoothly, you will have the benefit of one-to-one care from your midwife. However, should an emergency arise, you can be transferred to the centre's delivery ward by bed or trolley. In some case you may need to be transferred to a more distant hospital by ambulance.
Birthing centres also offer birthing pools, complementary therapies, comfortable furniture in low-tech birthing rooms, and other home-from-home touches like cups of tea. These GP units, as they are often called, are available on the NHS in some areas. Otherwise you may need to 'go private' to get the privacy and personal care that you want with the security of knowing there are back-up medical services available. Remember midwives are highly trained specialists and very competent at handling labour.
Doula Or Labour Coach
If you prefer to go to hospital you may want to take your own doula or labour coach with you. The NCT (National Childbirth Trust) runs courses for doulas so you can be sure that they are trained, will be familiar with hospital procedure and can act as an advocate on your behalf. Doulas usually meet with you a few times before the birth to discuss your birthing plan and to devise a backup plan if things go wrong. By having your own personal labour coach with you during the whole labour, you will feel more relaxed and supported than having to just rely on a (perhaps) very busy midwife. Your doula will support you in every way, explain any procedures to you, and help you to deliver your baby the way you want. They can often give post birth support too, like helping you with breast-feeding.
Many women find that having a doula means that they have an easier, shorter labour and need less pain relief too!