7 Tips For Having A Natural Hospital Birth

Kri 6544blog

After my unexpectedly quick labor with Gwen, I knew I wanted to give birth naturally with Clyde.  I knew I could do it, and I liked how easy my recovery was after Gwen, so I felt it would be less complicated to give birth without an epidural this time around.  However, I also knew that I did not want to go the midwife/birthing center route - I have a good relationship with my OB-GYN, and I feel more comfortable in a hospital.

In preparation for giving birth naturally in a hospital I read a lot on the subject, and it was somewhat disheartening.  A lot of natural birth resources seem to imply that it is nearly impossible to have a successful natural birth in a hospital setting.  I don't believe that.  Does it take some strategizing?  Yes, I think so.  Is it impossible?  Not at all!

I am definitely not a natural childbirth expert (I don't have any problem with epidurals).  I am not a midwife or a doula, I didn't give birth naturally with all of my babies, my babies were all average-sized, and my labors are short.  I have it easy in a lot of ways, and I am sure there are a lot of ladies who would have better advice than I'm going to list here.  But I wanted to share the things that helped me.  Everyone is different, and I want to share my experience in the hope that something here will be helpful to someone else!

With that said, here are my tips on things you can do to help improve your chances of having a successful natural birth in a hospital setting.

1. Pick your hospital carefully.  Not everyone has the option of multiple hospitals, but if you do, I think it's important to pick one that seems natural-birth friendly.  I had a choice between two hospitals with this birth.  One of them focused on the number of births they had per year and focused on the fact that an anesthesiologist was available 24/7.  The other had a pre-admission program where you could go over your birth plan with the nurses, and birthing balls, a jetted tub, and aroma therapy were available.  I obviously chose to deliver at the second hospital.  There was a clear difference between the two hospitals, and I'm not sure my natural birth would have happened, at least not as smoothly, at the first hospital.

2. Don't go in too soon.  This was tricky for me, because as most of you know, I have a history of quick, unpredictable labors!  But in my labor with Clyde, my contractions did slow down considerably in the middle.   I chose to walk around outside the hospital for a little while to make sure things were progressing before I went in.  If I had gone in right away and my contractions had slowed down in the hospital, I think there would have been more of a push for Pitocin.  Making sure my labor was well-established was definitely a help.

3. Ask the nurses not to mention the epidural.  I was afraid that in the thick of labor I might give in if someone tried to convince me to get the epidural.  I told the nurses that I knew an epidural was available, but I would rather they not mention it to me - if I wanted it, I would ask for it.  They respected my wishes, which was a big help to me.

4. Don't get stuck in bed.  When I gave birth the first time I had to be induced, and one of the worst parts was being stuck in bed, strapped down with the monitors and IV.  This time I asked for the wireless monitors so I could move around.  They put in an IV, but they didn't have me hooked up to it during my labor.  Not being constrained was huge for me.

5. Ask to avoid unnecessary cervical checks.  It can be frustrating to hear a lower number than you were expecting, and it gives everyone a (sometimes) unnecessary worry.  Unless my labor was excessively long, I decided to ask to avoid cervical checks altogether.  I could tell when I was going through transition, so getting constant updates before that point would have been distracting and discouraging to me.

6. Try to relax and focus on things other than your labor.  With both of my natural births I had distractions during labor, and it made my labors seem to go by so much faster.  Sitting in the hospital focusing on your pain with no distractions is not fun.  We watched movies during my labor, and it was such a nice diversion!  If your hospital doesn't provide movies, bring your laptop and some DVDs. Choose something funny and make jokes - I think laughing kept things happy and it helped me to relax.

7.  Remember that the medical staff is not the enemy.  You chose to give birth in a hospital for a reason - maybe because of certain complications, or maybe because you wanted trained medical staff to be available in case there were complications.  One of the books I read (Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel) said that in essence, you have hired the hospital staff to look for and treat any complications that arise - so you can't get upset when they try to do their job!  Communicate your wishes, try to make sure they are on the same page that you are, get them on your team.  Put your foot down if you have to, but try to do it in a nice way.  Be flexible if a serious complication does arise.  Remember that you chose to give birth in a hospital for a reason.  It will go much smoother if you are friendly, and it will be a much better experience if you treat your caregivers like friends instead of enemies.

I am so grateful that my delivery went smoothly and I was blessed to be able to apply the above tips - I definitely know from experience that things don't always go so smoothly, and these tips aren't going to be practical for every situation.  Labor can be so unpredictable, and things may not always turn out exactly like you want, no matter what you do.  I think it's important to be flexible and not let it get to you too much if the unexpected happens.  If things don't go as planned, se la vie, and it is okay.

However, having a strategy beforehand doesn't hurt, and I think doing these things definitely helped me toward my goal of having a natural birth in the hospital!

If anyone has anything to add, I'd love to read your tips below.

Note: I'm working on a post with the labor resources that I found useful - stay tuned!

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Caroline @ In Due Time said...

Great tips! We are going to use a birthing center, but I know a lot of these same tips apply! Thanks

Amanda said...

I agree with your list! Not going in too soon if you can help it is huge. And not getting checked real often definitely helps keep up morale if you aren't progressing as quickly as you'd like (I speak from experience!) As someone who has had long, difficult labors, having a doula was a Godsend. She helped communicate my birth plan wishes to the nurses, gave the hubby a break, and encouraged me tremendously! Although it may be difficult, be open-minded about things not going exactly as you planned. While birth is a natural event, it doesn't always happen smoothly and might require interventions that you weren't anticipating. Both my deliveries had some surprises in them, but in the end, we trusted the doctor to do what was necessary to bring our girls into the world safely and were at peace about that.

Susannah said...

Thanks for these tips!!! Since I'm hoping to have a natural birth in a hospital (with a midwife, not an OB-GYN) I love hearing all the tips I can get! :-) I can't wait to hear about your labor resources. Get that post written SOON, missy! ;-)

Elizabeth said...

Definitely an important topic and I would love to hear more. I tried to go natural with my first, but it was one of those long/difficult/posterior labors and I ended up needing an IV and they gave me something when they eventually broke my water for me. If I do it again I think I would like to hire a doula to help me get past some of those setbacks such as nausea and failure to progress. I read the Cynthia Gabriel book and I found it helpful. Avoiding cervical checks helped me stay calm and I know in the book they recommend how to sort of stall for time, because the medical staff can be a little pushy. Basically if they aren't acting like it's an emergency, you have plenty of time to let things happen at their own pace. However, the staff will do what they are trained to do, and in most cases that's a good thing.

Veronica and Daniel said...

Great tips! I'm hoping to have a natural birth at the hospital (our hospital has a midwife practice) and I will totally be keeping these tips in mind - especially #6 - I think I would be very discouraged to hear a low number :) Something I pray for everyday is for God to instill in me and Daniel the confidence that He made my body to carry and deliver this little girl and to remember when things are hard that He will give me the strength to get through it! Cant wait to read about your resources. I've got a few books, but could always use some more recommendations!

Sarah @ The Not Quite Military Wife said...

Great tips Callie!! I would love to see your birth plan. We are just starting to think through all of that!

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