Labour and Delivery Options

Which is Right for You?

labour and delivery

Giving birth is one of the most memorable experiences you will have. Planning the birth that best suits you and your family is an important part in making it a wonderful experience, and one that best meets the needs of your family. You have options for how and where you decide to bring your baby into the world and now is the perfect time to plan for the special day. A traditional vaginal birth, a water or hypnobirth, or a caesarean section may best meet your needs.  

Vaginal Birth

A traditional vaginal birth remains the most common method of giving birth because your body is naturally equipped to give birth vaginally as long as there is no medical reason why you shouldn’t. Breastfeeding is typically easier after a vaginal birth as is the recovery because strength and energy generally return quickly and there is usually less postpartum pain. You can choose to take painkillers, such as an epidural anesthesia. This is a regional anesthesia that provides decreased sensation in the lower half of the body, to help you deal with pain while typically still participating actively in the birthing process.1 There may be side effects, such as dizziness, headache or nausea, for example. You can also choose a natural birth, in which case you will not use painkillers but may choose to use non-medicated methods to manage labour pain, such as Lamaze or the Bradley Method breathing techniques. You might also choose a water birth or hypnobirth:

Water Birth

In a water birth you enter a tub or pool when you go into labour, and may give birth above the surface or in the water. Adherents believe a water birth is a more comfortable method of giving birth as it may reduce anxiety and relax muscles. It may also be a gentler method to enter the world for the baby who has been floating in the amniotic sac for the past nine months. If you are interested in this method check that there is a birthing pool in your hospital or birthing centre, or baths and showers that are used for labour. Speak to your health care provider well in advance to find out their experience with this type of delivery and the options that are available to you. Pain relief options when giving birth in water include massage and breathing techniques. Depending on your health care provider and where you choose to give birth nitrous oxide and oxygen may also be an option, although not all women find them effective and they may cause nausea or drowsiness. Water births are not suitable for high-risk pregnancies, multiple pregnancies or breech births.

Hypnobabies.3 This childbirth method teaches deep relaxation, visualization and self-hypnosis techniques to assist you during labour. The philosophy is that birth need not be painful if the mother is properly relaxed and has been taught to trust her body and work in harmony with it during labour. If you are interested, look for an experienced practitioner that can provide more information.

There are many pain relief options during a vaginal birth, and it is a personal decision so research is needed to determine which method, or combination of methods, is best for you.

Caesarean Section

A C-section is a surgical method of childbirth and as such, it has a longer recovery period. It involves an incision being made in the abdomen and uterus to deliver the baby. In 1969, 5% of Canadian babies were delivered by caesarean, but today that number has increased to approximately 28%.2 Reasons for a caesarean delivery include a baby is in breech position or a pregnancy that is high-risk. The mother may know in advance she will be delivering in this way, or it may be an unplanned caesarean due to labour complications. A small percentage of mothers choose elective C-sections. This may be done in order to schedule labour in advance – generally one to two weeks before the baby’s estimated delivery date – so that it is known exactly when labour will occur. It is also sometimes done to avoid a traditional vaginal birth. If you are interested in an elective C-section, do your research and talk to your health care provider about the pros and cons. Some health care providers are not in favour of elective C-sections and will refuse a request. Advocates state that the mother should choose the method best suited to her, while those against elective C-sections see it as an unnecessary surgery that tampers with the natural birthing process when there is no health reason to do so.

  Where to give birth - Depending on the method you choose, you have different options. If you are having a vaginal birth you may choose to give birth in a hospital or birthing centre, or at home assisted by a health care provider such as a doctor or midwife. If you choose a home birth assisted by a midwife check first that it is legislated and legal in your province, as it varies across Canada. A caesarean section is a surgical procedure and will be performed in a hospital.

  Which health care practitioner is right for you? - Key to a positive experience is choosing a practitioner that is respectful and supportive. This may be a doctor, midwife or a doula, depending on your needs. A few things to consider:

  • A midwife or a doula typically offers women with low-risk pregnancies a more holistic approach to labour, either at home, a hospital or a birthing centre. The same standard tests that a doctor offers are usually performed.
  • Your doctor may not necessarily be the person who delivers your baby, depending on timing. If they attend your labour they may not be available to be there throughout the entirety of it. If that is a concern a doula is an option. They are professional birth assistants who provide a constant familiar face as hospital shifts change. They do not deliver your baby but act as your advocate and provide support throughout labour (and possibly before and after as well).

Speak to family and friends to get recommendations when choosing your health care practitioner. A midwife or a doctor may be the right choice for you, or it may be a doctor and doula combination. Most important is picking the professional you feel comfortable with, and who offers the support you need.


1 Examining The Epidural November 18, 2010
2 Worries Surround Canada’s Rising C-Section Rate November 18, 2010
3 What is Childbirth Hypnosis? November 19, 2010