Having a Natural Birth in the Hospital |
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Having a Natural Birth in the Hospital

elizabeth b. November 30, 2012

When I was expecting my first baby, I had little to no desire to have an all-natural childbirth experience. I knew from the get-go that I was very interested in an epidural and would trust the experts once I got to the hospital. When the big day came, I was not only given a spinal (epidurals weren’t available in this hospital), but a few IV drugs, as well as Pitocin, and then a myriad of other interventions.

I left the hospital knowing I wouldn’t repeat the experience. I decided that I would have a natural birth with little to no interventions the next time, but was this possible? Would I be able to get the support I needed?

After a few phone interviews, I found a doula I immediately clicked with and knew she was the one for our family. It also helped that my OB had worked with her in the past and recommended her.

My second birth was a completely different experience compared to my first birth. I was able to have a natural birth in the hospital!

Suggestions from the Birth Professionals and Experienced Mamas

Personally, I believe hiring a labor and birth doula was key to my success, but here are a few suggestions from Sara H., a doula from www.SweetLandDoulas.com; Rochelle B. of Simply Supportive Doula Services; Genet, a childbirth educator from Thoughtful Birth; and other experienced moms:

  • Go over your birth plan with your OB/family practioner, and ask that it be included in your chart. The earlier you can do this in pregnancy, the better—if your care provider won’t support your preferences, you want to know soon enough to feel comfortable changing providers. Also have copies printed out, and make sure the nurses get a copy and read it.
  • Be assertive with what you do/don’t want. Don’t be rude or aggressive.
  • Ask questions if you don’t completely understand something. Use “Is this an emergency?” and “can we wait and think about it?” as your go-to questions for suggested interventions.
  • Be as friendly as possible with the nurses. Don’t view them as an enemy. In fact, when you check in, ask for a nurse who likes working with natural birth.
  • Don’t come to the hospital too early in labor. If you wait a bit, there will be less chance of having an unwanted, unnecessary intervention.
  • Make sure you have the support of your husband and/or a doula during labor.
  • Be prepared. Bring several of your own comfort items such as a birth ball, a sock filled with dry rice to heat up in the microwave, relaxing music, and your favorite light snacks.
  • Request that you not be hooked up to the monitor continuously. Most hospitals will allow you to be hooked up for only 10 minutes an hour. (Many times natural-friendly nurses will “forget” monitoring as long as everything is progressing normally.)
  • Be open- minded. Remember that even though you want a natural birth, sometimes things happen. Be open to the possibility that things might change.
  • Take Bradley, Hypnobabies, Lamaze, Birth Boot Camp, or similar natural childbirth classes if you are able. If you’re not able to, read as many books on the topic as you can and post/read in forums online that support natural childbirth. Attend ICAN meetings to educate yourself about c-section prevention and to get support in your desire to have a normal vaginal birth. Attend meetings for any other natural childbirth organizations in your area if available.
  • Try to find a hospital that allows for laboring and/or giving birth in water. If no hospital in your area has labor tubs, ask if you can bring a rented one; and if that’s not an option, mention in your birth plan that you would like to labor in the shower as desired.
  • In the case that things don’t go as planned (and in the hospital, they so rarely go exactly as planned/expected), try to re-frame the situation. Focus on things that are going according to plan and share what’s top priority with your birth team. Keep a flexible attitude.

Image by istockphoto.com/duobrasil

A Final Piece of Advice

While all of the above are great suggestions from mamas and doulas who have experienced natural birth in the hospital, remember to be open in case things deviate for legitimate reasons. I told the nurses that my birth plan was my “ideal,” but if at any time the baby and I were in danger, then the birth plan goes out the window.

Regarding birth plans, I used to feel pretentious about writing one, but as my doula told me, the OB and hospital staff have already created one for me, so I could either go with theirs or contribute with my own. Providers are generally accepting of birth plans but prefer them to be simple and no longer than a page or two, if possible.

If you’re choosing to have your baby in the hospital and desire to go the natural route, many women have gone before you and have experienced beautiful births. It is possible, especially if you know your options and have a strong support system. Regardless of where you choose to have your baby, it’s your birth, so don’t be afraid to speak up or ask questions.

Now it’s your turn. Have you had a natural birth in a hospital setting? What advice would you give to other women?

 

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  1. All of my 8 births were in the hospital. The first birth was not natural b/c I had preeclampsia. But the rest were natural and pretty quick, thankfully. I tried to labor as long as I could at home. I was given an IV or at least an IV port. I had “some” monitoring, but not continuous. I did not need pain meds, so afterward I felt great, rather than drugged. I would change very little about my birth experiences, if I could.

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  2. My new favorite piece of advice is to refuse most or all vag checks starting in late pregnancy. The cervical check tells you nothing about when you’ll go into labor or when the baby will be born. It can, however, introduce harmful bacteria that lead to early labor or infection. Checks can also really put the pressure on mom to “progress” when in fact we know that it would be abnormal to dilate exactly 1 cm/ hr… and moms who aren’t “progressing” are often pushed to have interventions like augmentation with Pitocin. Oh, and for many moms the dilating cervix becomes tender, swollen, and in some cases extremely painful with handling – which I think hinders dilation.

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  3. Great article! Another piece of advice based on my experience. If your OB is part of a large practice, make sure all docs are aware of your birth plan, and try to see each doc at least once if you can. My Doctor was well aware of my birth plan (I didnt want all natural, but there were several specifics, like no c-section unless absolutely necessary, no vaccines, I wanted to pull her out, nurse right away…etc). My doc was excited about all of my specifics and was very supportive. That being said, guess who was NOT the doctor on call the weekend I had my daughter? MY doctor. Instead I got the head of the practice doc who loved c-sections, and just came right out and said, to my face, that MY birth plan was hindering HIS ability to be in control of MY birth. He refused to even brake my water until I agreed to have a c-section if I didn’t progress enough after 24 hours. It was aweful.
    Looking back, I would have done things differently, but thankfully I didnt have a c-section and all of my wishes were followed through on.
    All that to say, make sure everyone knows how YOU want YOUR labor and birth to go, and don’t let anyone intimidate you 🙂

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  4. My second was a drug free VBAC at a local hospital. I got there and was fully dilated (nothing like being in the car for 30 min while in transition) so I clearly didn’t get to there too early. Thankfully I had a good friend with me as labor support who worked for a birthing center and has had multiple home births because the nurse that I was assigned to didn’t not seem to fond of my situation (she told me not to push like my body was telling me to until a doctor got there although my MW was in the elevator on the way up). If I had another child I’d plan for a home birth but I think drug free childbirths can happen at a hospital with the right preparation as you mentioned above.

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  5. I could have written this. With my first I wanted to go as long as possible without an epidural because the idea scared me and i wanted to avoid it, but once the induction started it was too painful to avoid. That turned into a c-section and my second was a routine repeat. But I had a natural VBA2C after finding a new provider, a doula, and lots of support. And if you get the right nurse and doctor, they can be your biggest advocates. My OB told my nurse that I could deliver on the birthing ball if I wanted, and helped the nurse to relax and let me do my job. He understood that women have been delivering for millennia with just the support of other women and his job was to be there only when needed! It was an amazing experience, and I wish all women could experience a hospital birth with that kind of support. Now that I’ve had my VBAC, he’ll even back me up with a HB! Women need to be empowered and supported, not told what they can do and pressured into things they don’t want.

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  6. I would say the most important things, as you stated, are going over the birth plan and being assertive. I typed out my birth plan, gave a copy to my doctor and kept an extra one that I brought when I went into labor. I made sure during each appointment that it was understood that I did not want pitocin or anything else (unless a true emergency arose). I had an amazing nurse and doctor that totally respected my decision and did not once mention the word epidural. I also had a ton of support from my husband. This was my first natural birth, fourth baby. I did get overwhelmed with the strength of the contractions the last 20 minutes (basically when it came time to push), but the nurse helped me focus on keeping calm and letting my body do what is was made to do. We had an wonderful experience and will be having our next baby, due in April, at the same hospital. I had my first two children at one hospital and my third at another. Even though with my second and third I stated I didn’t want an epidural, the nurses and doctor really pressed. When I got to a certain point and my contractions were getting bad, I caved. It was really great (with our fourth) having a husband, doctor, and nurse all encouraging me that I didn’t need help! The nurse even told me that so many hopitals treat women in labor like a sick patient and there is no need. They were just there to help me when needed.

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  7. Great Advice! I have had 2 hospital births, both with a Midwife. My birth plan has been to deliver naturally each time, but my first child was posterior and once I had tried everything on my own and then with help (pitocin, epidural), his heart rate was getting too slow and I ended up with a c-section. This was not at all what I’d hope for but I was so thankful for the SAFE delivery of my son, and the Midwife even assisted in the c-section. When I became pregnant with my second child I was determined to have a VBAC naturally! Again, with a Midwife at my side (my Husband and Mom too) I was able to deliver naturally with no interventions! The support of all those who were with me during labor helped me tremendously and learning as much as possible about natural deliveries gave me confidence in what I was doing and greater understanding of the different stages of labor so that I was not fearful of what was happening, even though it was painful!

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  8. I just had my 5th child and this was the first time I wanted to go natural. My midwife sent me to the hospital because I was dilated to an 8…but 3 hours went by and I had not “progressed” they made me have pitocin…or I had to go home. I honestly don’t believe you can have a natural birth at a hospital unless it fits the timetable of the doctors/and or insurance company. I will not be going back to a hospital for birth unless it is a bona fide emergency…I am going to try a pregnancy center with a midwife and if that doesn’t go well then a home birth if I can convince my husband. Hospitals are like assembly lines….in and out as fast as possible but keep the money coming in with interventions. That is my 2 cents. I felt violated of my rights as I did not want pitocin.

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  9. I have had 3 wonderful, completely natural births in the hospital. In my opinion, it is the doctor and nurses that make the difference. My OB goes so far as to offer her suggestions on positions to try to help the baby or my comfort level. At my last birth, 2 weeks ago, my nurse stayed with us the whole time, helping from the background. Wonderful experiences, no pressure & totally supported!

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  10. […] Having a Natural Birth in a Hospital […]

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  11. So I’ve had a hospital birth. It was not planned at all because I had such an easy pregnancy with my son. Somewhere with in the last week and a half before he was born he flipped and was breach. When my midwife and nurses showed up that night, he was breech. Sadly my head midwife was gone so I had to be taken to the hospital as no one else was registered to do specialized births. I knew everything was going to be okay no matter what route I chose, and I stuck to having a natural birth. They fought me every step of the way but my son was born drug free and butt first. Honestly, it really took me sticking to what I believed and what I knew what was okay. This time I’m in a new area and a hospital birth is the only option but I’ve found myself a great doctor who is working with me to the best of his abilities to give me what we want, a natural birth. We did a birth center tour at the hospital so we knew what our options were and that helped us write our single page birth plan with what we’d like. My OB went over it at the next appointment and helped us write things out better so that it was clear as to what we wanted for the nurses. I have a copy in my binder that we’ll take with us to the hospital for the nurses. I’ve heard a lot of people say that if you live far enough away from your hospital and are no longer comfortable at home but not quite ready to check in, labor in the lobby or somewhere local to the hospital if possible.

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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

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