While going to the spa and giving birth are two very different experiences, expectant moms on hospital and birthing center tours today are in for a treat. Beautiful, spa-like rooms, gourmet food, personalized care, and loads of amenities are becoming the norm rather than the exception.
Not only have the amenities changed, in the last few years, women are now more informed than ever when they go into labor. From midwives and doulas to birthing balls and hydrotherapy, an expectant mom will often spend several months during pregnancy researching her labor and delivery options.
“Women have become more savvy in the last decade and are seeking options which fit their beliefs and philosophies,” says Jessica Anderson, director of The Center of Midwifery at the University of Colorado, Anchutz.
Here in Colorado, we not only have an abundance of options, we also have plenty of open-mindedness and support for whatever path a mom chooses to follow. Here are a few of the latest trends to consider.
Midwife-Attended Births and Doulas
The roles of a midwife and doula can easily be confused, but there’s a distinct difference between the two: A midwife is a certified health care provider who can be used in place of an OB for prenatal care and to deliver a baby. A doula is like a support system for a laboring mom during childbirth and can also offer postpartum assistance.
Midwife-attended births are steadily increasing. The National Center for Health Statistics reports a 12 percent increase in the last decade. In Colorado, nurse-midwives attend 10 percent of all births, which is higher than the national average. Jacque Northrup, program coordinator and birth concierge at Castle Rock Adventist Hospital, reports that 20 to 25 percent of the births there are attended by a midwife.
Birth Center-Hospital Hybrids
The rising interest in independent birth centers has prompted hospitals to create natural, home-like environments situated within a hospital campus. These centers allow women who want the best of both worlds to have a natural birth with the services of a hospital right outside their door if needed.
In January, Rose Medical Center in Denver responded to this growing trend by opening Rose Babies Birth Center, the first accredited birth center within a hospital in Colorado. Rose’s in-hospital Birth Center allows women to have their OBGYN deliver their babies in a low intervention environment. If more interventions are needed, all of the hospital services are right there.
“We offer all scopes of birth at Rose so women can make the choice that supports them,” says Christi King, Rose’s in-house childbirth navigator.
The Center of Midwifery at the University of Colorado, Anchutz follows a similar model.
“We are family-centered, offer water-births, and nitrous-oxide for pain management. We welcome doulas and yet we are located in a hospital, so we have the necessary resources should the need for interventions arise,” says Anderson.
Nitrous oxide has been around for a while, but it is increasingly used as a relaxer for moms during labor. Inhaled through a mask, the mixture of 50 percent nitrous gas and 50 percent oxygen provides relief during contractions. Three hospitals in Colorado now offer nitrous oxide, or laughing gas as it’s also known: Castle Rock Adventist, Littleton Adventist, and University of Colorado Health Science Center. Northrup says about 10 percent of their deliveries now use nitrous oxide. Although many of those moms do still end up getting an epidural, nitrous oxide allows them to labor longer without it.
As mothers search for more natural options during labor, the use of HypnoBirthing techniques have increased. “HypnoBirthing has taken the world by storm—or by calm as they like to say—over the last few years,” says Colleen Newton of Into Loving Arms HypnoBirthing in Colorado Springs. Newton started teaching classes a little over a year ago after she had a great experience with HypnoBirthing during her own delivery.
Adherents of HypnoBirthing use breathing, relaxation, visualization, and meditative techniques for a calm, natural birth. Though the mother is deeply relaxed, she is also an active participant in the labor process. The concept has been around for perhaps centuries, but the actual term and specific techniques were popularized by Marie Mongan in her 1989 book, Hypnobirthing.
Rose Medical Center has embraced this philosophy by offering HypnoBirthing classes taught by a certified HypnoBirthing instructor who is also a doula. “Our nurses and doctors are very familiar with and support this method,” says King.
Water, Tubs, and Hydrotherapy
Immersion in a tub for the relief of pain during labor is not new, but the number of hospitals that are including tubs in their birth suites is definitely growing. Many hospitals now offer this option.
Birth Slings, Bars, and Balls
Birthing balls, bars, and slings allow women extra support and mobility during labor and may contribute to a shorter, less painful labor, possibly reducing the need for medical interventions. Birth slings (fabric attached to a carabiner which attaches to the ceiling) have been used in Europe for a while, but are growing in popularity in the United States. Currently, Castle Rock Adventist is the only Colorado hospital equipped for birth slings.
Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping
This fast growing trend is expected to continue to rise now that the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AGOG) has given its stamp of approval. AGOG recommends delaying the clamping of the umbilical cord for 30 to 60 seconds in vigorous pre-term and term births, citing infant benefits such as increased hemoglobin levels and iron stores and the reduced need for transfusions.
If you have a high-risk birth, you may need to opt for an in-hospital birth. Or, if after studying all of your options, you still decide to have a conventional birth with an epidural, you’re in good company. The majority of babies are still born this way.
From New to Nutty Birth Trends
- Crowd birthing. There was a time not so long ago when the father wasn’t even allowed in the delivery room. Now, some women are inviting the whole family and more to be with them when the baby comes into the world. Many more are documenting the birth on social media for the world to see.
- Dolphin-assisted birth. At Hawaii Holistic Midwifery you can give birth with the dolphins. According to the website, “We intentionally bring the dolphins” energy and joy into the birth room, embracing the birthing mother with strength, joy, and relaxation. The mother’s strength of spirit and body, achieved with the support of the dolphin swims, provides power in the birth process.”
- Labor-pain simulator for men. Electronic waves simulate the pain of labor for dads who want to know what it really feels like. (Or moms who want them to “feel their pain.”)
- Free birth. Three words: completely unassisted childbirth.