By Nina, Modern Alternative Pregnancy editor
I walked into the hospital shortly after 6 am, checking in for my induction. At 36 weeks, I had been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and pre-term labor and my doctor wanted me to have my baby as soon as possible. Regardless of the induction, I had hoped for a natural childbirth, but ended up with IV pain medications and, eventually, an epidural.
Unfortunately, this outcome is common for many women hoping for a natural hospital birth. They enter expecting to have a drug-free birth, and experience something drastically different. What is going wrong here?
In order to get a better understanding, I approached my long-time friend, Amber, a labor and delivery nurse in a local hospital. I explained that I would love to get a nurse’s point-of-view to help women as they prepare for a natural hospital birth.
Here’s what she had to say about what she sees with her labor and delivery patients:
Do you regularly see laboring women who ask for a natural birth, but end up with some kind of intervention (IV meds, epidural, c-section, forceps, etc.)?
Women who desire a natural child birth end up with some kind of intervention 9 times out of 10 for a multitude of reasons, including but not limited to:
- She is not educated on the birth process or the process and requirements that are legally placed on the hospital, doctors and the nurses.
- The patient has unrealistic expectations about birth, has no plan or very little labor support from family or friends.
- The patient and doctor have not spoken about the patients desired birth and plan or potential complications or changes to that plan.
- Patients are routinely inpatient and do not allow their bodies to make the natural progression to labor, many instead opt for induction because they are tired of being pregnant or are uncomfortable- this in itself can increase the interventions and risks by at least 2 fold.
- Many patients are also unaware that they have the right to say no and ask questions about anything that the doctor or nurses do or say – patients do not feel empowered.
- There is no way for us to to be 100% accurate on how a labor will progress or how a baby will react to and tolerate labor. These variables are something that cannot be controlled by anyone. Labor complications run from mild to severe and usually require some kind of intervention. Being flexible on everyone’s part can help make any interventions needed for complications go much smoother and may decrease the degree of intervention required.
- The patients that I am seeing are sicker and sicker and have more medical complications themselves. It is very important to be fit and healthy before you become pregnant and to continue that lifestyle during the pregnancy to help promote the health of the baby and mother and decrease potential complications during labor
Have you noticed any common factors?
In my opinion, the patients that received interventions despite their initial request/desire for a natural birth are not educated about their bodies, labor process or fetal responses. They tend to also be unaware that they have a voice and a choice as a patient. They tend to have unrealistic expectations about the labor process and their role in it.
Have you noticed any common factors in women who want a natural birth and have one?
They are very well educated about the birthing process and their role in it. They are not afraid to ask questions of their doctor or the nurses and they know they have a voice. In my experience these women are also flexible and are not rigid in their birth plan.
Does having a birth plan help?
No, having a written birth plan does not help in my experience. Usually those birth plans are unrealistic and are void of any flexibility on the patient’s part or the nurse’s part. The best thing to do is talk about the plan with your support person and your doctor or midwife and your nurses.
Patients need to communicate with everyone that participates in their care. I would also encourage these patients to be flexible and know that as nurses we are there to support them in their desired birth experience, we just need to know what that is and be allowed to be their advocate.
As a nurse, what steps do you think a woman should take to prepare for the labor/birth she wants?
Mothers should take a child birth class of some kind. They should also discuss their plans with their spouse, support person and their delivery professional. Mothers also need to know that births do not always go as planned and to be flexible.
Please communiate with your nurses so we can help you in any way that we can. Remember we are there to be your liason between your birth professional and you. We are your advocate and we want to help you make decision that you are comfortable with and still have the kind of birth that you desire.
What are the best treats to bring for the nursing staff? 🙂
We of course love chocolate, but are very thankful for any treats that patients send. We really love pictures of the new baby and the family, that is what we really look forward to. And having them stop by and see us a few weeks after delivery is always nice.
Any other thoughts?
Educate, educate, educate!
Thanks so much for your time, Amber, and for answering my questions. I know this will help many women who are preparing for a natural birth in the hospital to increase their odds of that outcome.