Home or Hospital - Deciding Where to Birth in Calgary
In Alberta, we have the opportunity to birth in a variety of locations. The option to engage in care from either a doctor or a registered midwife opens the door for birthing people and families to have a choice in where they give birth - in hospital, at a birthing center or at home. Here in Calgary, we are blessed to have many local maternity clinics and acute care centers that facilitate birth - South Health Campus, Rockyview General Hospital, Peter Lougheed Centre, Foothills Medical Centre, as well as High River Hospital. We also have the Arbour Birth Centre, and many amazing midwifery clinics allowing Calgary and area birthing families a wide variety of options when it comes to choosing with whom and where they would like to give birth.
So how does one go about making that decision? Sometimes your pregnancy will dictate your birth location. Registered midwives are only able to provide care for the pregnancies of low-risk, healthy birthing people. If your pregnancy is deemed medium or high risk for any reason, then you will likely be cared for by one of the many amazing doctors or obstetricians in your area, and your birth will take place in hospital.
However, if you are a candidate for midwifery care, then you have the ability to choose your birth location. Many people still prefer to give birth in a hospital setting and registered midwives maintain hospital privileges which allow them to accommodate this preference. Why would someone choose to birth in hospital with a midwife? For many reasons! Although some birthing families may love the midwifery model of care, perhaps they still feel an increased sense of safety birthing in hospital where an obstetrician is only a moment away should they be needed. Perhaps their home is not set up in a way to accommodate birth. Occasionally as labor progresses, a birthing person may change their preferences and choose to move to the hospital for pain management solutions. There are many reasons why a birthing person or family may choose to deliver their baby in hospital and they are all completely valid!
Similarly, there are many reasons why someone may choose to labor and birth at home. Previous hospital-based experiences that have left a negative imprint may mean some birthing families feel an increased sense of safety and comfort birthing in their own home, some people may enjoy the idea of laboring amidst their surroundings and not having to move back and forth to the hospital, and occasionally, the progress of labor dictates that babe will come earthside at home whether that was the original intention or not! Midwives in Calgary, and Alberta as a whole, saw an increase in home births during the Covid-19 pandemic as birthers worried about the safety of birthing in hospital.
No matter where your preferred place of birth is or your reasons for choosing it, remember that it is your preference, and while those around you may have thoughts, opinions or advice, this decision is for you and your birthing partner to make. There is no “wrong” place to give birth. Evaluate both yours and your partner’s feelings about giving birth in various settings, and let this guide you as you choose the best birth space for you!
If you’re planning to engage in doula support for your birth, know that doulas are welcomed in all birth locations! Current hospital policy in Calgary and throughout the province of Alberta allows for TWO designated support people, allowing your doula to join you and your partner if you choose to birth in hospital. There are no restrictions on support people if you choose to birth at the Arbor Birth Centre or at home. When interviewing doulas, consider asking if they have experience supporting births in your preferred setting or if they have a strong preference in supporting births in one location over another. Ensuring your doula of choice is open and passionate about supporting you in your preferred birth location is key! I was shocked to find that a doula I was interviewing for my first birth was very negative about supporting me in birthing at my hospital of choice - this was a very important learning and was instrumental in making my choice to hire an alternate doula. Although many doulas are comfortable in supporting all types of births in all birth settings, like birthing people, some doulas may also have preferences and boundaries based on their own beliefs and experiences! Finding a doula who aligns with your preferences and beliefs and sparks a feeling of connection, comfort and safety will help your trajectory towards a positive and empowering birth experience!
Tell me, where did you choose to give birth and what were the factors in helping you make that decision??
Lindsey is a DONA certified birth doula and certified prenatal yoga instructor in Calgary, Alberta, CANADA
Lindsey van der Lee
Birth Doula and Prenatal Yoga Instructor
CD(DONA) || CYT 250+