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?