In the fourth installment of our series "Baby Steps: A Personal Journey," Health Reporter Erin Billups explains why birth location impacts how your labor and delivery will be handled.
Women are looking to take back control of their birthing experiences - rejecting the over-burdened labor and delivery departments at local hospitals.
"There are so many people that are afraid of the institution, there are so many people that don't want to come into a hospital because they feel that means they’re immediately signing up for an epidural, pitocin and a c-section," explains Rita Wagner, a midwife at Mount Sinai Roosevelt's Birthing Center - the city's only in-hospital birthing center. "The idea of the birthing center is to give women a home like environment where they'll feel comfortable and safe to labor and birth. We find that the larger beds, the lower lights as well as the tub, giving them their own bathrooms and allowing them space to move around lets them labor the way they want."
While women can be discharged faster, Roosevelt's birthing center only accomodates three women at a time. You have to be low-risk, healthy and full term to deliver there.
Drugs like Pitocin to induce labor and epidurals are not offered.
"In the event that the labor does stall, and does need a little augmentation we have that available. We just go upstairs," notes Wagner.
She insists that with the help of a midwife and doula - someone who supports you through labor - birthing at home, which is increasingly popular, can be safe.
But she and other experts suggest waiting until your second pregnancy to try it at home.
"Once you have that experience, it's easier to gauge yes I'm going to be able to tolerate this, and yes I can totally do this at home with my loved ones and a support person," says Wagner.
The idea of having nurses and doctors at the ready was comforting to Andrew and me. But we also didn't want to go somewhere that was quick to intervene.
We looked to statistics, like the rate of c-sections, to determine which hospital and obstetrics practice we would choose. Data shows that vaginal births offer less complications after delivery, and is healthier for mom and baby.
"There are benefits to a vaginal birth in that the action of vaginal birth for example helps to squeeze the lungs of a baby as the baby's being delivered which expels a lot of the fluid making it easier for babies to breath once they're born," says Sharon Griffith, Director of Women's Health Services and OBGYN at Community Healthcare Network.
Still, 33 percent of births in the city are c-sections. We chose NYU Langone where the rate is 22 percent - among the lowest.
While there are necessary reasons for a caesarean, my pregnancy was progressing without issue so I wanted to avoid a c-section. We discussed options throughout my pregnancy with my OB, Dr. Joonhee Park.
"You can still have you know a natural labor, you still have some autonomy on the labor floor. Just because you're in labor at hospital doesn't mean you're necessarily flat on your back and strapped in," explains Dr. Park.
NYU is not immune to the long wait times common in the city. There's really no consistency from hospital to hospital when it comes to maternal care.
NYU says it hopes to address the crisis by expanding its labor and delivery by a third within the next three years.
But even supporters of natural deliveries, like Wagner, say whatever you decide, remain flexible.
"That's the worst thing, as a provider when we see a woman feel like she's failed, even though she’s had a beautiful healthy baby - and a vaginal delivery, but she had an epidural and Pitocin. That's not a failure, that's a success," says Wagner.