So you want to have a natural birth at the hospital!? Navigating our current maternity health care system can be a little tricky. However, a natural birth in the hospital is possible. Lots of families before you have done it. It is a feasible and realistic goal. So we say – you can do it!
By “natural birth” most are referring to having an unmedicated birth with as few medical interventions as possible. In a hospital setting you are surrounded by authority figures and established protocols. We recommend you do some preparation so you are ready to ride the waves and arrive at your final destination. Here are six tips to help you have a natural birth at the hospital:
1) Take a childbirth class.
However, taking a childbirth class is one of the best ways to learn about and prepare for birth. Understanding the process of birth and common interventions will help you as you are making decisions and plans.
In a good childbirth class you will also learn and practice comfort techniques for coping with the sensations of labor and birth naturally. This gives you a strategy and empowers you to persevere throughout labor.
Some methods include use of a labor tub or shower, many different positions, counter-pressure, massage, vocalizing, breathing, rocking your hips, swaying on a birth ball and many more. Try anything that feels right and stick with it for as long as it works. You will find your own rhythm and routines that work for you.
2) Choose your hospital carefully.
Your choice of hospital can have a significant impact on your birth experience.
The biggest risk factor for cesarean is “the hospital a mother walks into to deliver her baby, and how busy it is.” This data is from Neel Shah, M.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, who has studied C-section rates in the U.S. and around the world.
Find a hospital that has a reputation for using an evidence-based approach. Look for a hospital with a low c-section rate. Choose one that makes you feel comfortable, supports your goals and has the options available that you prefer.
3) Find a supportive care provider.
Just like your hospital, your care provider can significantly influence your birth experience. Selecting your care provider is one of the most important decisions you will make. Ask around for recommendations, interview several options and find out what their views are. If a doctor uses dismissive or disempowering language you might want to move on to the next person on your list. Trust your instincts. The way you are treated is important. Pick a provider that you feel comfortable with and who believes in your ability to give birth naturally.
Also, consider working with a midwife. Did you know that certified nurse midwives work with low-risk families that are delivering in hospitals? Midwives approach birth like a normal life process with watchful patience, unless a complication arises. They offer personalized care geared toward natural birth.
4) Hire a birth doula.
A birth doula is an expert on coping with labor naturally and has tons of tricks up her sleeve to help you. She can make recommendations for different positions, massage, and other comfort techniques. When you are feeling defeated, she will lift you up. She can also answer questions and provide information if you are facing challenging decisions.
Your doula helps to create a positive and calm environment. Unlike your doctors and nurses who have medical responsibilities, she is entirely focused on supporting you and making you as comfortable as possible. Most importantly, she is on your side, looking after you and your state of mind.
5) Have a birth plan.
Write out a birth plan and share it with your birth team (provider and nurses) to let them know what your preferences are in labor and the immediate postpartum time. Birth is unpredictable and we can’t fully control everything that will happen. However, clearly communicating your priorities gives you a better chance at accomplishing your goals.
Some points that are commonly included on a natural birth plan include: avoiding Pitocin and premature rupture of membranes unless medically necessary, declining anesthesia or analgesia, and limiting cervical exams. Other options you might consider include: freedom to move around, intermittent fetal monitoring (rather than continuous monitoring), and access to the bath or shower. Your doula can also help you finalize your birth plan.
6) Prepare yourself mentally.
Your body reacts to your thoughts and emotions through your hormones. When you are fearful in labor, this results in stress hormones, which can increase tension and pain in your body. When you are feeling mentally calm, confident and peaceful your body will release endorphins. As a result your muscles will be more relaxed and you’ll have less pain.
We live in a fast-paced, high-anxiety society and most of us are not good at relaxing during times of stress. This is why we recommend you practice relaxation during pregnancy to create good habits and prepare for labor.
There are a lot of different ways to do this. Prenatal yoga is a great option for physical and mental relaxation. Hypnobirthing uses breathing, visualization and other techniques to help you accomplish deep relaxation. Apps like Expectful provide guided meditations for pregnancy and motherhood. Treat yourself to a prenatal massage, or unwind by soaking in the tub. Even just taking regular walks in nature can have a powerful effect on your mindset.
Ultimately this labor is yours. Nobody but you is fully responsible for birthing your baby.
Do everything you can to prepare yourself … AND be open to how your birth experience unfolds.
Birth is unpredictable and no amount of planning can guarantee the outcome. Trust in yourself to make the right decisions and do what is right for you, despite the outcome. This will help you to have positive feelings about your birth, whatever it may bring.