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Question #1 – Where to give birth?
Working as a childbirth educator for the past seven years in New York and New Jersey, I hear a consistent concern arise from expectant parents who have moved to Jersey City: Should we give birth here or there?
“Here or there” meaning of course, on this side of the Hudson River or over in Manhattan.
It’s a legitimate concern and one that you may not have the ability to change, depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy. For expectant parents who have moved from New York to Jersey City, you probably chose your obstetrician (OB) while still living in New York. Your practitioner’s office may be near to your place of work, and you will be giving birth wherever your doctor has privileges, not where it’s most convenient. Before you consider switching to a local doctor, note that most OBs will not take “late transfers” (more than 28 weeks pregnant), though a few will do so if you are not considered “high risk.” Your ability to switch practices has a distinct cut-off point.
For those who would like to stay with their original New York OB and birth at whichever fine hospital in Manhattan, your doctor delivers at, remember one thing: Birth takes longer than you think! I know we’ve all heard stories about women popping out their babies in taxis or on the subway, but that is rarely her first baby. First births can take anywhere from 6 to 24 hours or longer, whereas a second birth could be as short as a few hours. So keep that range in mind when you picture a panicked ride through the Holland Tunnel at the height of rush hour.
One upside to giving birth in Manhattan is your baby will always have “New York City” as her place of birth and a respectable answer when asked at future cocktail parties, “Where were you born?” Superficial jokes aside, there is no medical advantage to a New York hospital over a northern New Jersey one. Both sides of the river offer exceptional care, high-level NICUs, plus extremely skilled doctors and staff.
What to consider if you’re newly pregnant.
If you’re in the first half of your nine months of gestation and you’re living in Jersey City, consider the following: Choosing your hospital and medical practice should be more than an issue of convenience though this is a factor that cannot be ignored for many. If you work in Manhattan and your practitioner is in Hackensack, NJ you might have a difficult time getting to all your prenatal appointments. Keep that in mind when during the final months of pregnancy you are seeing your doctor every other week, then weekly.
Apart from location, you can look at how a hospital measures up against others. Consider the stats that are made public, like percentage of certain medical interventions used in birth and percentage of births that are c-sections. You may learn of these details in a childbirth class, but then it is often too late to start making changes. So first consider the hospital that suits your needs and perhaps give thought to the style of birth you’d prefer for your experience.
Choose a practice where you feel comfortable and not like just another pregnant lady on a conveyor belt. Does your doctor listen to your concerns and answer with consideration? Do you feel like your wishes for birth will be impeded by your doctor’s agenda? Does the hospital your doctor uses meet your needs for a satisfactory birth experience? What about using a midwife instead of an OB (we can explore that in a separate blog!)?
I find that many of my students are often swayed by, “My hospital has a level IV NICU!”(That refers to the level of treatment and surgery the neonatal intensive care unit can accommodate – level IV being the most sophisticated.) The chances you are going to need a level IV NICU are very slim, but the chances of you having a normal labor and delivery are quite high. Mostly level IV NICUs are necessary for babies born prematurely – not full term, healthy babies.
Speak to women about their birth experiences at various hospitals and with different practitioners. You may find similar stories about one hospital being very restrictive and a different hospital being quite liberal and accommodating during labor. Sometimes it’s the doctor herself who can “customize” your labor requests to suit your needs – so consider that aspect as well. Many of my students don’t realize that having a simple conversation and making basic requests about their labor goes very well with most doctors. He or she is typically fine with accommodating your needs, for example, you would prefer to hydrate orally instead of being on IV fluids during labor. A simple request, and if you and the baby are doing fine in labor it can often be easily met. Yet if you had not mentioned it to your practitioner you would be doing what everyone else in the hospital is doing — having an IV in your arm.
All of the above are general guidelines for making a wise decision about your care and how your baby comes into the world. Your practitioner and the hospital work together to create the experience that is unique to your birth, so making a wise choice is as important as selecting a quality pediatrician.
So whether you’re birthing in New York or New Jersey, the real concern is the type of care and attention you receive from your practitioner, and the way your hospital manages labor. To learn more, speak with a doula or childbirth educator to get some insight on the differences. Consider working with a midwifery practice instead of an OB if the idea limits and restrictions in labor ruffle your feathers. And lastly, relax, you’re not going to give birth in the Holland Tunnel. And if you do, that kid will have a great story to tell!