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Birthing Basics 

Pregnancy and birth: Options in Central Oregon

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After the shock and excitement of discovering that you are bringing a new life into the world, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed as you take in everything you need to do to prepare for your child's arrival—including deciding where and how you want to give birth.

There are several birthing options available for expectant moms, but before you make your decision, local professionals suggest arming yourself with knowledge while taking the time to consider what is really best for you.

Shanti O'Connor is the owner of Rooted & Open, Bend Birth Connection and The Hive Holistic Wellness Center in Bend. She hosted Birth Awareness Week of Central Oregon last November and strives to raise birth awareness locally through a variety of events, including the Birth Tellers Series, expecting parents' groups and women's circles.

O'Connor says, "When families are deciding on where to birth their child, it's important that they get clear about what type of birth experience they want." She suggests they take time to consider where they will feel the safest, respected, cared for, understood and empowered.

Research is key. Know your choices. If you have insurance, start by clarifying your coverage. Find out how much of an intervention-free birth in a hospital setting is covered. Compare your out-of-pocket cost with the costs of birthing with a midwife at home or in a birthing center. Then put together a list of providers to interview.

"Interview a few different birth practitioners and while you are doing so, really pay attention...Do you feel excited and energized or scared and drained after an interview?" O'Connor says, "Your birth practitioner should feel like a trusted friend. You know without a doubt that this person cares about you, will listen to your needs and feelings and will advocate for you."

While gathering all of the information you can is important, O'Connor says deciding where to birth shouldn't necessarily be a logical choice. "Birth is not logical," says O'Connor, "It is raw, emotional, vulnerable, scary and powerful. So, make sure as you are navigating these choices you really tune in to how you feel, your body knows what it needs in birth and it will tell you..."

There are several different kinds of birthing options available in Central Oregon for expecting women to consider.

St. Charles has family birthing centers in Bend, Redmond and Madras that offer the full range of obstetrical services. All of the birthing rooms are private suites with Jacuzzi tubs for laboring moms and sleeper beds for the family. The medical staff includes obstetricians, certified nurse midwives, pediatricians, nurses and family physicians. St. Charles in Bend also houses the only neonatal intensive care unit in the region.

Lauren MacPherson is a doula and the owner of Moonlight Doula Services. She says, "The hospital in Bend is very capable and steers clear of as many interventions as possible while still respecting the medical need for interventions and life-saving measures."

According to MacPherson, there are two options available for families who don't feel a hospital is the right setting for them. "Bend Birth Center provides a birth center where you can labor and deliver your baby in a setting that feels more formal but leaves the hospital mentality at the door," she says. The second option is birthing at home.

Depending on insurance coverage, a hospital birth could be more or less expensive than other birth options. "A birth center will cost more than a home birth due to the facility fee," explains MacPherson. "A home birth is the most cost-effective way to go if your insurance does not cover much of a hospital birth.

When deciding on your practitioner, it is important to consider who attends births where. Physicians deliver babies in-hospital. St. Charles also has Certified Nurse Midwives that deliver in their birthing facilities. LDM (Licensed Direct Entry) and CPM (Certified Professional Midwives), as well as Certified Nurse Midwives, attend to out-of-hospital births.

Both the midwives that run Bend Birth Center and those that work at Mandala Midwifery perform home births for those who prefer to be in their own family environment.

Allegra Lilly is a certified midwife and the owner of Mandala Midwifery in Bend. She says, "My philosophy on birth is to keep it as close as possible to the intimate experience it has traditionally been, while safeguarding mother and baby." She goes on to explain, "I love home birth because it blends traditional care that is mother-centered with modern tools and equipment to keep birth safe."

After you've chosen your birthplace and either an obstetrician or midwife, you may find you feel you need additional support. Hiring a doula is something to consider. According to DONA International, a doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest experience possible.

"A doula is there to provide constant physical, emotional and mental support to a laboring woman and her family," says MacPherson. "They are there to advocate for your choices and educate you..."

MacPherson goes on to explain that a big part of her job is fostering the experience the mother wants for her birth and advocating for the mother and baby when the birth plan does not go as planned. "There is truly something to be said about having someone who can unconditionally support you as you travel through the process of becoming a parent," she says. "Every woman in labor deserves that kind of support and love while she does the most challenging and wonderful thing she can do for her child."

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