Mamas, I get it. As much as you know I love it, out-of-hospital birth isn’t for everyone. The good news . . . hospitals are starting to listen when we’re telling them that mamas want options. If hospitals want to stay competitive, they’ve got to get with the plan. Mamas are starting to speak up!
It is possible to ROCK your natural birth in the hospital … but if you want to do it, here are 10 things you need to know.
1. CHOOSE YOUR PROVIDER WISELY
If you’re having surgery you want the best surgeon, right? Well, if you want to have natural (un-medicated) childbirth you should choose a provider that’s good at supporting moms during natural childbirth. If this is a goal for you, one of the first questions you ask when you are interviewing a provider should be, “How comfortable are you facilitating a natural birth?” Also, “How comfortable are you working with doulas?” Remember, they aren’t interviewing YOU, you are interviewing THEM. Consult with as many as possible to get a sense of what you like and what you don’t. Check out The Birth Survey, and look up your potential provider’s patient satisfaction ratings. Generally, midwives tend to be experts of natural childbirth. But not every midwife has the same strengths. There are also some wonderful OBs that are like midwives in disguise. Remember, even as pregnancy progresses, if you and your provider aren’t jiving, (or you start to get an “off” feeling) it’s rarely too late to change providers.
Note: Remember to ask how big your provider’s practice is. If there are five midwives in a group, or eight doctors in a practice, then the chances of you having your provider at your birth (without them inducing you 😦 ) might be pretty small. For some mamas, that might be a deal-breaker.
2. CHOOSE A HOSPITAL KNOWN FOR FACILITATING NATURAL BIRTH (& CHOOSE YOUR NURSE)
In every city I have lived, there has been a hospital “better-known” amongst the community of mamas for being more supportive of natural birth. Though it’s not always true, I have found that teaching hospitals tend to be more progressive and up-to-date with tailoring care to unmedicated mamas. Remember that in the hospital setting, most of your interaction with a care provider will be with your nurse. Almost every place I have worked has at least a couple of nurses who have a great natural childbirth “toolkit”, who really enjoy supporting natural-birth mamas and often who have had natural births themselves. When you arrive at the hospital, ask for a natural-birth friendly nurse.
Note: If you are in labor and you and your nurse aren’t hitting it off, remember that you can always ask for a new nurse. No offense, but it would probably be best for everyone involved. It’s always worth it to speak up!
3. HIRE A DOULA
I will keep saying this over, and over, and over again. Hire a doula. It is the best investment you will make. Whether your doula charges $500 or $1500, she will be worth her weight in gold. An empowered birth will prevent so many problems down the line. Beyond their emotional impact, financially these issues may cost several times the amount of the doula’s fees. If you are flat broke, most doulas offer a sliding-scale or a payment plan. Recently trained doulas still charge fees, but their cost is about 1/8 the price of a seasoned doula. There are no excuses! Hire a doula!!!
4. PREPARE YOUR BODY.
Labor and birth is like running a marathon. You need to prepare physically, as well as emotionally!
- Eat Good Food: eat a wide variety of colorful foods, as whole and unprocessed as possible, with over half of your plate being fruits and vegetables. Something pregnant women are rarely taught is that a pregnant body’s first priority is the baby. Your baby will steal all the good nutrients and you will feel like you got hit by a Mack Truck. I love you, I’ve been there, just trust me.
- Keep Moving: Every day. Swimming, walking and yoga are my favorite activities for pregnant mamas. Walk for half an hour without stopping. You will feel great!
- Use Complimentary Therapies: Regular Acupuncture and/or chiropractic care are a god-send during pregnancy! Regular body therapy relieves pregnancy discomforts and prepares your body for a shorter and less-painful labor. Yes, please!
- Read How To Prepare For A Miracle
5. PREPARE YOUR MIND
Birth Preparation is essential for mamas that plan for unmedicated childbirth.
Mama-voted best childbirth preparation classes include:
- BIRTH BOOT CAMP (DFW area)
- BIRTHING FROM WITHIN
- Gena Kirby’s REBOZO WORKSHOPS.
For more information, please read I’m Pregnant! Now What?
6. MAKE A PLAN
I mean, a birth plan! Clearly lay out in writing what you plan and hope for from your birth experience. Your nurse, midwives and/or doctor will all get a copy and it will be placed in your chart. Nurses actually read birth plans! In the heat of the moment you won’t have to give a oral dissertation about your desires and dislikes. Just hand them your birth plan!
7. LET LABOR START ON ITS OWN
Elective induction of labor (labor without medical indication) has been found to be more painful for laboring women, increasing a mama’s need for pain medication, and perhaps increasing her likelihood for having a C-Section (especially in a low-risk mom before 40 weeks of pregnancy). Before being induced, few women realize how much more physically and emotionally exhausting a labor induction can be. Instead of spending early labor at home, maybe having mild cramping or contractions over the course of a week, the early labor process is sped-up. The risk of the medications causing too-strong of contractions requires mom to stay in bed for monitoring and continuous nursing assessments. And for a first-time mom, labor inductions typically last longer than 24 hours.
Trying to sleep in a hospital bed is like trying to sleep at a bus station. Imagine sleeping at a bus station before running a 26-mile marathon!
While enduring the last weeks of pregnancy alone can be an incredible physical and emotional feat, and it may be comforting to know your baby’s birthday in advance, please reconsider letting labor start on it’s own. Your body knows what to do!
Note: If you have any questions, please ask your midwife or doctor.
8. STAY AT HOME AS LONG AS POSSIBLE*
Remember that when it comes to your comfort, there is no place like home. There’s nothing the hospital can do for you to relieve your pain that you can’t do for yourself at home. You can eat, drink, move, moan, shower, bathe or do whatever else you need to without anyone coming in and out of your space to ask questions and perform assessments. Here is where a great doula can save the day: She can meet you at home to offer labor support long before you head to the hospital.
9. STAY OFF YOUR BACK!
Without an epidural, there are very few reasons why you have to stay in bed. Tour your hospital ahead of time and see if they have birth balls or squat bars available for patients to borrow. Ask for intermittent monitoring if possible, that way you can hop in and out of the shower, go for walks in the hallway, and sit on the toilet for longer than you ever dreamed possible (that happens in labor!) Even if you need to be continuously monitored, you can sit on a birth ball, in a rocking chair, stand, lunge and squat, or get up on the bed in hands and knees position. Most hospitals require that you stay in bed while pushing. If so, ask for a squat bar or try pushing on your side. Some hospitals will even allow you to bring your own birth pool. Ask in advance.
10. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY, THEN LET GO
The reason unmedicated childbirth is so empowering is because it is mama-driven. It’s your responsibility to educate yourself, prepare yourself, and begin to come to terms with the fact that no one else can give birth to your baby other than you. No one can save you from the intense sensations of the experience. You’ve just got to get through it. You know why? Because . . .
Birth is never how we expect, and that’s what makes it beautiful. Gather all the information and make all your preparations, then LET IT GO. Place your faith in yourself, your body, your baby, and your ability to surrender control. Who knows? You might just witness a miracle.
*As always, if you have any concerns or questions, please ask your midwife or doctor.