Most women expect to go to the hospital some time after labor begins, experience excruciating pain or have an epidural, and hopefully get a healthy baby at the end of it. But the truth is, there's a lot more that happens in birth! A woman's experience of her birth can leave her feeling anywhere from utterly traumatized to euphoric and powerful. Hospitals have a system designed to keep us safe in emergencies, but this system doesn't always support natural birth or empowering women. We have more power than we think when it comes to our birth choices in a hospital. So, what can we do to have the most gentle hospital birth possible?
Find the right care provider
Having a care provider who is a good match goes a long way for your desires and needs being met as well as your experience of your birth. You should be able to choose between a midwife or an obstetrician. Many hospitals have both. It's important to think about what you care about and talk with your care provider about it. If your care provider's methods or policies are not a match for what you want, it's okay to pick a different care provider. This also goes for the nurses on shift during your labor. You can always request someone new.
Some things to consider before talking with your care provider:
Do you want to be offered drugs or not?
Do you want to be able to move around or eat during labor?
Do you want directed pushing or let your body guide you?
Do you want immediate skin-to-skin and delayed cord clamping?
Do you want vitamin k shot or eye ointment given to your baby or not?
Click here for a detailed list of questions to ask your care provider.
Listen to the Birthful Podcast Episode 30 - Choosing Your Care Provider
Gather your support team
Whether your support team only consists of your partner, you have friends or family assisting, or you're hiring a doula, it is crucial to have a supportive environment during labor and birth. Whoever you choose to support you must be someone who lets go of their own agenda and advocates only for you, especially in the moments when you need to go within. In your most intense moments of birthing your baby, your support person must be able to hold space for you, help you feel confident, and bring you deeper into yourself.
Listen to the Birthful Podcast Episode 17 - Birth Doulas
Prepare your body
eating healthy - optimizes body functions
drinking lots of water - keeps you hydrated and provides more fluid for baby
being active - increases blood flow and makes space for baby to engage
chiropractic care - optimize ligaments, muscles, and pelvis for birth
sitting on exercise ball - creates strength helps position your pelvis
squatting - more effective for pelvic floor strength than kegels
Prepare your mind
read books & positive birth stories
practice hypnosis and affirmations (learn HypnoBirthing)
create visual images you can hang around the room
create a music playlist
practice the 3 r’s - relaxation, rhythm, ritual
Know your options and create a birth plan
eating during labor - not only safe but important for energy (evidencebasedbirth.com)
free to move during labor - keeps you in a rhythm and helps baby descend
labor in water - incredibly relaxing and allows you to open (Learn More)
intermittent monitoring - not being constantly hooked up to a machine
dim lights - provides a calm environment
do not disturb - stalled labor is not an emergency; we usually need to be undisturbed for birth hormones to flow (Learn More)
drugs or no drugs - pitocin, epidural, narcotics (Learn More)
birth in whatever position feels right - hands and knees or side lying can prevent tearing
undirected pushing - following your body's urges
immediate skin-to-skin - regulates baby's temperature and heart rate (Learn More)
delayed cord clamping - boosts neurological development (Learn More)
vitamin k, antibiotic eye ointment, vaccines - accept or decline
circumcision - surgically removing baby's foreskin (Learn More)
cesarean possibilities - delayed cord clamping, skin-to-skin, vaginal swab (Learn More)
Click here to create your birth plan.
Take a childbirth class
meet other people going through the same life transition
practice breathing & relaxation techniques
get questions answered by childbirth educators
Labor at home as long as possible
being at home for the majority of labor allows you to be in a familiar and safe place, which helps labor progress - often times going to the hospital too early can slow or stall labor
take a nap or rest
take a shower
listen to music or hypnosis
sway on exercise ball
“I was really set on a home birth until I found out that I lived too far from the hospital for my midwives to attend (a policy issue). I decided to go into the hospital with a no-nonsense attitude and treat it like a home birth. This is MY birth. I still had midwives by my side and didn't see a nurse until after baby was born and never saw a doctor the entire stay. Just remember that YOU of all people know what you're doing best. The midwife/doctor is there to help and guide you but not control your birth. Write up a birth plan if you have a feeling the hospital may be uptight. Really just trust yourself and focus on yourself during labour." - Anonymous Badass Mama