As a doula, one of my biggest goals for my clients is that they are completely aware of all of their options surrounding the birth of their baby. Because choosing a care provider is one of the first decisions you make after finding out you’re pregnant, the place you plan to give birth is also decided quickly. Fortunately, we have a plethora of options right here in Elkhart County so planning for the birth you want is definitely possible! Let’s explore all the local birth places as well as different things you need to consider as you make your choice.
THE NUMBER ONE FACTOR
When choosing where to birth, I always tell people that the number one factor is deciding where you will be most comfortable and feel the safest. This is because labor cannot progress well when the mother is tense and afraid. Fear is a sign to your body that now is not the time or the place for a baby to born. Unfortunately, for many moms this fear turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. They are afraid birth won’t go well so their body slows the process down and guess what? Birth does not go well. So finding a way to eliminate fear is step number one.
Are you someone that will only be able to relax knowing that you’re in a hospital, right down the hall from the operating room should an emergency happen? Will your support team be tense enough to stress you out outside of the hospital? If you answer yes to either of these and you’ve done your research on the safety of birth, then the hospital may just be the best place for you to labor and meet your baby.
On the other hand, will constant beeping from the monitors and people continually coming in and out of your room stress you out? Will you be intimidated by all the wires and the equipment and will the knowledge of an epidural distract you from your natural birth plans? Can you truly feel at home and comfortable on a twin bed and small couch? If these questions raise a concern, consider a birthing center with a homelike atmosphere and a peaceful environment to labor in.
Finally, does the idea of quickly packing your bags and driving to your birth place while having contractions seem chaotic to you? For some, it’s enough stress to disrupt the flow of labor, at least temporarily. Would you be most comfortable in your own home, in your own bed, knowing that as soon as baby is born you can start to settle in to your new life? If this sounds like a dream, why not try for a home birth?
With all of these options available locally, I encourage you to truly consider each one. Take tours of both maternity units and birth centers. Ask your friends about their experiences. Does one option stick out to you more than the others? What does your gut say? Your instincts may know more than you think.
MIDWIVES VS OBSTETRICIANS
Another big factor to consider when choosing a birth place is if you want your birth attended by a midwife or an OB. In Elkhart County, there are different midwives who attend home births, birth center births, and hospital births but obstetricians only attend hospital births. So what’s the difference between the two? Obstetricians are qualified physicians who have gone through many years of schooling. They are well trained in the various complications of pregnancy and are able to use different medical tools during birth such as the vacuum extractor, forceps, and cesareans. Conversely, midwives typically have less years of schooling but are well trained in healthy, normal, low risk pregnancies and birth. Though they do not have the license to treat serious complications, they are diligent at screening for any and all issues that may arise and they follow specific protocol for when to refer a client’s care to an OB if necessary. Therefore, if you are someone who is in good health and you view birth as a normal, physiological process that women have been navigating for centuries, you can be confident that you will be well taken care of by a midwife both in and out of a hospital. On the other hand, if you are high risk or issues arise during your pregnancy, you will likely be cared for best by an OB in a hospital.
Another factor to consider when choosing a birth place is the financial cost. Though money should never be the main reason you choose to birth at a specific location, it is nevertheless, important to consider. In general, a home birth is your least expensive option, followed by a birth center birth. A midwife attended hospital birth will be considerably more expensive and a birth with an OB costs the most. However, you must factor in your health insurance with counting costs. Some insurance companies do not cover home births or birth centers which means you might pay the least out of pocket if you give birth at a hospital. Other health sharing ministries cover home births, birth centers, and midwives at a higher percentage because they bring the overall cost of health care down. Every insurance company and plan is different, so be sure to thoroughly consider your options as you choose where to give birth.
So now that you have an idea of what you might be leaning towards, let’s go a bit more in depth about your specific options in the area. In Elkhart County, Indiana, we are fortunate to have two hospitals, two birth centers, and several home birth midwives. Of course, looking just outside of the county presents you with even more options but for today, we will stick to these five.
ELKHART GENERAL HOSPITAL
The Elkhart General Center for Women and Children is a Baby Friendly Hospital meaning that it values bonding and breastfeeding and follows specific protocol to support those processes. This includes allowing babies to room in with their parents 24-7 and constant support from lactation consultants. Furthermore, nurses will never give a breastfed baby pacifiers or formula without the parents consent. Elkhart General Hospital’s facility is also equipped with an in-depth security system to keep your baby safe and a level 2-B NICU should you need it.
According to the Leap Frog Group, 17.4% of first time, low-risk, full term mothers will have their babies via cesarean section at Elkhart General Hospital putting them well below the natural target (23.9%). Additionally, 2.5% of moms receive an episiotomy here which is better than the national target of 5%.
There are several different obstetricians who attend births at this hospital and the Beacon Medical Group OB/GYN employs a couple of midwives who manage births there as well. As far as pain relief options go, every labor and delivery room is equipped with a shower and most of them have tubs as well for labor, though water birth is not an option. Of course, narcotics, epidurals, and even low-dose epidurals are available as well.
The Circle of Caring Birthplace at Goshen Hospital is also a recognized Baby-Friendly hospital that values the family unit and moms are given ample resources to support breastfeeding. They are also armed with a security system to make sure you and your baby are never separated.
This hospital did not report its cesarean or episiotomy rate to the Leap Frog Group.
Fairhaven OB/GYN employs a team of midwives who attend births at Goshen Hospital as long as they are not currently at a birth in the Goshen Birth Center, discussed in the next section. Of course, there are many different doctors who work at Goshen Hospital as well. The Circle of Caring Birthplace has one inflatable tub that can be set up in a women’s suite on a first come first serve basis for use during active labor. However, water birth is not an option in these tubs.
GOSHEN BIRTH CENTER
The Goshen Birth Center is a beautiful, out-of-hospital option for local women seeking a natural birth. Equipped with 3 birthing rooms and comfortable queen beds, the Goshen Birth Center is designed to feel like home. Big, jetted tubs allow for water births and provide much needed relaxation before and after birth. As birth approaches, the midwives began baking fresh bread which fills the Center with a wonderful aroma. Extended family can enjoy the cozy living room as they wait for the newest addition to arise.
Women who see the Fairhaven midwives and who are experiencing a low-risk, healthy pregnancy have the option to birth here. While there are no narcotics or epidurals for pain relief at the Goshen Birth Center, they are one of the only facilities to offer Nitrous Oxide to take the edge off of the pain. Nitrous Oxide provides the women with a self-controlled, temporary feeling of relaxation during the peak of contractions. As the contraction fades away, the laboring women stops breathing it in and returns to a normal, calm state in between contractions. Nitrous Oxide has no effect on the baby and can be extremely helpful in managing transition or active labor.
After the birth, new moms are treated to a soothing, herbal bath and get to enjoy freshly baked bread and whatever else they may have brought to prepare in the center’s kitchen. Families are discharged within 4-8 hours after birth and a nurse visits and checks up on the mother and baby in their own home twice within the first 48 hours.
Furthermore, the Goshen Birth Center is state-licensed and the Midwifes follow clear protocol for when a transfer to the hospital is necessary. Ambulance drills happen routinely to ensure a quick transfer and the hospital is just three right turns away. The midwife goes with the women to the hospital and remains her primary care provider. While transfers are never fun, these aspects help to make the process smooth and safe.
BLESSED BEGINNINGS CARE CENTER
Located in Nappanee, Blessed Beginnings Care Center is another out-of-hospital option for women. They have 7 rooms equipped with a queen bed, a shower, and a jetted tub in each room. Additionally, they have one room with a whirlpool tub for water birth. Clients also have access to Nubane and anti-nausea medication to help ease pain, if needed. Certified Nurse-Midwifes with their own individual practices attend births here. Usually these midwives do not have hospital privileges so, in the event of a transfer, a hospital doctor takes over the care and the midwife becomes part of the support team. Clients are allowed to stay at Blessed Beginnings for up to 72 hours. Call 574-773-7755 for a current list of midwives to schedule your prenatal care.
Many of the same midwives who attend births at Blessed Beginnings also attend home births. Birth tubs are available to rent if needed and the midwife brings all necessary equipment for a safe birth. Because birth happens in the mother’s home, the environment is set up exactly like she wants it and she never has to worry about accidentally forgetting to bring certain items since they are already there. Immediately after the birth, the new family can settle in with their sweet addition. Usually the midwife does home visits after the birth as well.
Elkhart County truly is equipped with multiple options for new, local mothers which allows for most pregnant women to find the perfect fit for them. Feel free to reach out if you have more questions about any of these options. I would love to help you find the birth place that is right for you ❤️