Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Birthing Naturally in the Hospital

If you're expecting a little one (or planning on expecting one in the future), no doubt you've thought about how you'd like things to go at your baby's birth. Maybe you long to have a home birth, but for whatever reason, that just isn't possible. You can still have a natural experience if you are giving birth in the hospital. I will share a few tips that will get you closer to your goal.

Create a Birth Plan- I will just say this up front: if your desire is to just let nature take it's course, please, please, please do not show up at the hospital once you're in labor and expect it to just "flow" that way. You must have a plan. (Now, I know in some circumstances, plans can go out the window, so to speak, but if you have a plan, you're way more likely to see things happen the way you envision than if you didn't have one in place at all.) I would guess that the majority of hospitals are used to laboring women receiving the whole nine yards of interventions. In my experience, having done my utmost to deviate from this path, I was met with a ton of resistance- hospital staff members just aren't typically used to the natural birthing process (again, just in my experience).

Find an OB or Midwife you are very comfortable with- Explain to them in the beginning what you would like to see happen at the birth of your child. Make sure you're both on the same page. Expect your practitioner to ask questions like "what do you want to do in this or that situation?" If your doctor seems adamant that any particular situation would require augmentation or any kind of intervention, you may want to consider finding another birth attendant if possible. You want your doctor or midwife to be open to your ideas, and it's also nice to know that they see you as an informed party, and not just a silly pregnant woman with outlandish ideas. I realize that obstetricians probably see hundreds of births per month, and so they're quite used to the birthing process. They are definitely necessary if things go awry, but I think often times, they have a set "routine" or a mindset of how things should go. You want to know that they don't view you as just another patient. You are about to become a mother- and you want them to be a partner with you in helping you make that transition as smoothly as possible.

Research your Hospital- Find out their C-section rate. Find out what kind of policies are in place. Are they natural birth friendly? Do they offer laboring tubs? Will they readily provide non-medical pain relief measures like birthing balls, allow you to labor in the shower, or somewhere other than the bed? Take a tour of the hospital if it's available (usually it's done by one of the nursing staff) and ask any questions you have during or after the tour. If the staff seems familiar with natural pain relief methods, that's a good indication that many other mothers have given birth naturally in their facility, and they're used to it!

Read, Read, and Read Some more! There is so much information out there that you won't get during the five minute face-to-face you get with your doctor during your prenatal visits. Here are some of my favorite books for pregnancy and birth. You must take responsibility for your health and the health of your baby. Become familiar with the routine prenatal tests, as well as hospital procedures and find out which ones you will consent to and which you will decline. (Did you know you could decline certain tests and procedures?) Should you take the glucose screening test? What about ultrasounds? You need to know the benefits and the risks to each one. Is it necessary for the baby to be monitored the entire time you're in labor? Researching ahead of time will help you to make the best decisions.

Stay Home as Long as Possible- The longer you're in the hospital, the more pressure you are likely to get to receive some sort of intervention to speed things along. Often times first labors take a LONG time (there are definitely exceptions to this rule, though!) Many times once an intervention takes place, it starts the "cascade of interventions". (Receiving Pitocin is a biggie- it causes more intense contractions that are very difficult to handle with natural pain relief methods. Many laboring moms opt for an epidural once labor really picks up, and this can lead to even more necessary interventions. Just because something is done routinely, doesn't mean it's necessarily safe or the best option). Staying home while you labor can help you feel more comfortable, and in the event that labor takes a really long time for you, you can likely avoid many unwanted interventions. Another thing you may want to do is preregister for your hospital stay, that way you can quickly get checked in to your room once you arrive at the hospital.

Are these tips helpful? Did you give birth naturally in the hospital? What other ideas would you add for those who desire a natural experience in the hospital?

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