Birthing Options

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Exploring Your Childbirth Options

Welcoming a new baby is a significant occasion, and understanding your childbirth options is important for your individualized birthing experience. This guide will explore various childbirth options and discuss how various factors may influence the best birthing choices for you.

You should feel empowered to explore your childbirth options. Adequate planning and preparation, such as working with your provider on a personalized birth plan, can help ensure you have a more positive and empowering experience.

Factors Influencing Childbirth Options

It is important to consider your personal preferences and desires for birthing options, but there are various factors that can influence which childbirth options are available to you, and those that are safer for you and your baby.

Several factors that can influence birthing options may include:

Your Health

Your physical health can affect how your providers will approach childbirth. Your age, whether you are carrying multiples, and conditions including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy, asthma, and opioid use can impact the choices of birthing options and protocols that are safer for you and your baby.

You may be referred to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist if you have a preexisting medical condition prior to pregnancy, develop a medical condition during pregnancy or experience issues during delivery. The team of specialists at Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine will partner with you, your OB/GYN and other care professionals to provide specialized care for both mother and baby.

Fetal Health

The health of your unborn baby, or fetal health, is key when considering your childbirth options. A detailed birthing plan with a team of providers is necessary. Monitoring the baby’s development during pregnancy and labor is critical for a safe delivery. Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine collaborates with different types of specialists to provide multidisciplinary neonatal care for many fetal health conditions, including congenital heart defects, pulmonary conditions, neurological conditions and conditions requiring multiple specialties, such as spina bifida and more.

Previous Childbirth Experiences

Past childbirth experiences may determine how you approach your birthing options during your current pregnancy. Certain health conditions also may dictate the safest childbirth options available to you. For example, if you previously delivered via cesarean section, you may consider if you are eligible to attempt a VBAC or vaginal birth after C-section. You also may want to deliver your baby in the same way. Consult with your provider to determine your current condition and which options are best for you.

Personal Preferences

You should feel empowered to explore choices for childbirth options, and personal preferences are important when determining your personalized birth plan. These considerations can range from a desire for natural birth instead of the use of medication to management pain. Although it’s important to be flexible, your birthing choices should align with your values and comfort. These decisions also include whether to involve a midwife or doula and the overall atmosphere during your labor and delivery.

Medical Recommendations

The health and safety of you and your baby will be of utmost importance during your childbirth experience. Check with your provider for guidance on the birthing options that are available to you, based on your unique health circumstances and your baby’s. Safety and health considerations, health risks and your individualized care plans are all considered when making choices for your childbirth. Your birth options are important decisions, and all preferences should be reviewed by the members of your care team. Medical recommendations are not universal and can vary based on individual needs and circumstances.

Birthing Options

Choosing the best birthing option for you is an important decision, and Norton Women’s Care offers a variety of choices for your individual needs and preferences. Talk to your provider about which options are best for you.

Available childbirth options offered by Norton Women’s Care include:

Natural Birth

Natural birth is a labor and delivery process with minimal medical intervention. Those who choose this method often rely on alternative methods for pain relief, such as breathing and relaxation techniques. Additional pain management aids such as a labor tub is available.

Vaginal Birth

Vaginal birth is a common childbirth option that can be either natural or medicated. It involves a childbirth with the baby passing through the birth canal. Medical interventions, such as epidurals or pain medications, are available to reduce labor pains, if desired.


A cesarean (C-Section) birth involves a surgical procedure, where the baby is delivered through an incision made in the abdomen and uterus, when medically necessary. C-sections may be planned for existing health reasons, or unplanned due to complications during labor.

Water Labor

You may choose to labor in warm water to help minimize pain and stress during childbirth. This may be a more soothing or comfortable choice during labor if you are not relying on an epidural, spinal anesthesia or IV pain medications.

Nitrous Oxide Labor

Nitrous oxide is administered via a breathing mask to help reduce anxiety and labor pains. This is a popular option for those choosing a natural birth.


Epidural is the most popular type of pain relief chosen for labor and delivery. This type of regional anesthesia is administered through a tiny tube or catheter in the lower back and numbs the lower half of the body to reduce pain caused by contractions and delivery.


If you have previously given birth via C-section, our providers support vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) if it is deemed safe for you.


Norton Women’s Care offers certified nurse midwives , who are highly trained and board-certified nurse practitioners who are able to deliver babies in a medical setting. Our midwives offer compassionate and personalized support for those seeking a more holistic health care approach.


A doula provides emotional support, assistance and advocacy throughout the pregnancy and childbirth experience. At Norton Hospital in downtown Louisville, if you are receiving pregnancy care from a provider at Norton OB/GYN Associates or Norton Women’s Specialists, you qualify for a doula at no charge through Norton Women’s Doula Program, thanks to support from the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Options Immediately Following Delivery

The moments immediately following childbirth are a mix of joy, relief and emotions, combined with several decisions that can help shape the early bonding experience between you and your newborn. These options may include:

Rooming In

Rooming in is the practice of the baby staying in the same room with the mother after childbirth, promoting bonding and early personal care of your baby, such as feeding and diaper changes. This family-centered approach also can help you feel more prepared to go home with your infant.

Delayed Cord Clamping

Delayed cord clamping of the umbilical cord allows for an increased transfer of blood from the placenta to the baby, offering potential health benefits to the newborn. While “early” cord clamping occurs within the first 15 to 30 seconds after birth, delayed cord clamping occurs after the first minute. This practice can help promote healthy blood and iron levels. Speak with your provider about this option.

Cord Blood Storage

Cord blood is rich in stem cells, and it can be collected and stored for future medical use, should your child develop a serious illness later in life, such as cancer. Cord blood storage is available after birth, and may be used for 20 years or more.

The Golden Hour: Skin-to-skin Care

Skin-to-skin contact, also known as the “golden hour,” involves placing the newborn on the mother’s chest immediately after childbirth, which can promote immediate bonding, warmth and comfort and can help initiate breastfeeding.


Breastfeeding is encouraged as a natural way to nourish your baby, with health benefits for both mother and infant. Norton Women’s Care offers breastfeeding education and support in the hospital, immediately after birth and throughout the postpartum period.

Importance of a Birth Plan

The childbirth options and type of delivery you choose are unique to your preferences, values and current health status. While there is no “universally correct” answer when it comes to the best type of delivery, being informed and having a birth plan will help guide these important decisions.

What is a Birth Plan?

A birth plan is a tool that outlines your preferences for labor, delivery and postpartum care. As much as it is necessary to be prepared, you must also must remain flexible to accommodate unplanned circumstances or emergencies during labor and delivery.

A birth plan addresses the following topics, including backup or contingency plans:

  • Hospital admission
  • Labor and delivery
  • Pain management
  • Choices immediately after delivery
  • Postpartum and baby care
  • Visitors and privacy

You may download your own copy of the Norton Women’s Care Birth Plan to review and discuss with your family and health care providers.

Looking Ahead to Childbirth

When considering birthing options, the medical recommendations provided by your health care providers must be taken into account. Recommendations may vary based on your current condition, medical history and what options are offered by your provider. Collaboration is key for a positive childbirth experience, and most important, the safety and well-being of both you and your baby.

What to Expect from Norton Women’s Care

More mothers in Louisville and Southern Indiana choose to deliver their babies at Norton Hospital or Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital than with any other hospital system in the area.

We deliver more than 8,000 babies a year. We’re close to you with more than 90 providers at more than 25 locations around Louisville and Southern Indiana. Choosing Norton Women’s Care gives you many options for how delivery day could go — all with the confidence of knowing that our obstetrics and pediatric specialists are there to help. With Norton Women’s Care, you’ll find:

  • The birth experience you want: You can choose natural childbirth, a midwife, labor tub, nitrous oxide and other birthing options. We’ll recommend a C-section (cesarean section) or induced labor only if it’s medically necessary.
  • Preparation: Our specialists offer the support you need, including free Lamaze and other childbirth classesnew parent classesbreastfeeding supportchild safety classes and more.
  • Confidence and quality in care: Norton Women’s Care has been recognized as High Performing — the highest rating available — for maternity care with fewer complications and C-sections, plus breastfeeding support and other benefits.
  • We offer the highest-level (Level IV) neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in Louisville and Southern Indiana at Norton Children’s Hospital, and a sophisticated Level III NICU at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital.
  • Around-the-clock OB/GYN care is available at Norton Hospital and Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital emergency departments.
  • Our board-certified maternal-fetal medicine specialists  can help guide you through a high-risk pregnancy, from treating preexisting diabetes in the pregnant patient to a fetal echocardiogram to diagnose a congenital heart condition before a baby is born.
  • Medicare, Medicaid and most major commercial insurance plans are accepted.
  • Convenient access to your medical record: Communicate with your health care provider, get lab results, renew prescriptions and more through your free Norton MyChart account.

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