Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Natural Birth at a Hospital

Finally there is something I can write about based on experience and not just observation or research. Today our baby girl is one week old. Well before I even got pregnant, my husband and I were determined about having a natural birth. During the first month of pregnancy I had to decide on what kind of care I wanted throughout the experience but I was not aware of the options out there aside from an obstetrician, I did not know much about midwifes or birth doulas. Although choosing an obstetrician for me was a good experience, it might not be the right choice for everyone who wants a natural birth. I was lucky enough to find one that was very professional and respected my natural birthing choices, giving his opinion and advice throughout the pregnancy but never imposing any treatment or intervention on us. It was quite late in my uncomplicated pregnancy that I learned about my choices of having a home or midwife clinic birth, but at that point my obstetrician was already paid and the hospital pre-admission form was filled out, we already took the tour and I cringed at the unattractiveness of the hospital rooms and the myriad of medical interventions that occur there daily. At the end though, it turned out to be the right choice for us, and for the most part a positive experience.

If you came upon this article you are very likely part of that 2% of parents who are aware that they have choices when it comes to the medical interventions for you and your newborn at a hospital. Most parents I've learned though don't question them and take the first opportunity they have to wheel away their newborn to the nursery and get some sleep. The funny and odd thing is that even the hospital staff is often oblivious to state laws and labels everything as mandatory and state mandated - even when the literature they pass out to patients states otherwise. With that being said, here are some tips for a natural birth in a medical hospital setting:

1. Know your rights and be prepared: take time to learn your state laws regarding the Hepatitis B vaccination, Vitamin K shot, newborn screening procedures (including PKU), eye drops (erethromycin), and any other injection/medication. You can always bring your own signed waiver if you want to opt out of these procedures, be sure to note the chapters and sections of the laws you refer to for exemption. Most likely you will also have to sign the hospital waiver forms after the birth of the baby. Hey, at least the epidural is not 'mandated'!

2. Bring a birth plan: some medical staff will roll their eyes at this, but I found that most respect it and actually read it. This way you don't have to repeat yourself and you can just ask each nurse from a new shift to please read it. Also, try not to title it as a 'plan' but rather 'birth preferences' or 'birth choices', because a birth does not always go as planned and you don't want to corner yourself. If you want a natural vaginal birth be sure to state that you do not want an epidural (or any other drug) and will ask for one if you feel that you need one. This is also a good place to note if you want to use some natural comfort measures during labor like walking, the birthing ball, or a jacuzzi - many hospitals offer these.

3. Always respect and never belittle or argue with the staff: everyone there is just doing their job and they do have the best intentions even if they are oblivious to state laws, haven't learned anything outside of med school, or they never witnessed a natural birth. I have actually found that a good number of the staff and nurses were inspired by our choices both with the birth and newborn interventions, saying things like 'it is rare these days', 'I would do the same thing', or 'most parents don't even know what these procedures are'. Do not be surprised though to face some scare tactics and intimidation.

4. Have your husband/partner with the newborn at all times: unfortunately there are people in this world to whom the word 'honesty' or 'respect' do not mean much. Just because you signed a bunch of waivers it does not mean that some girl just out of med school will not routinely inject every baby that comes her way because she thinks it is best. Our newborn was rooming in with us the whole stay and visited the nursery with daddy only twice for the PKU testing and the bilirubin test some short hours before we were discharged.

5. Bring a birth doula with you: I did not have the luxury of hiring one, but I did search for one that was in (DONA) training and could offer free services. Studies show that having a birth doula with you reduces the likelihood of having a cesarean.

6. Enjoy the experience! I know it is hard to put the words 'birth' and 'enjoy' in one sentence, but try your best to relax and let your body guide you and do the work for you.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended as medical or legal advice.



  2. Thanks for the great post and helpful advice. My wife and I are expecting and will be delivering in a hospital. We are struggling with many of the issues you identify.

  3. Congratulations to you and new baby! We followed these guidelines and had a wonderful natural birth experience with our second child at a hospital with a midwife in 2002. Working with the midwife throughout the pregnancy, taking the hospital's birth preparedness class, and practicing relaxation techniques at home was very helpful. It took a little extra effort to convince the doctor on dutry that we were ready to go home the next day, but we did it. I encourage every family to research and explore all options for birth, and remember that you should play a primary role in determining how you want your birth experience to be.

  4. Birth Matters Virginia (an organization that works to promote an evidence-based model of maternity care) is inviting mothers, fathers, filmmakers, film students, birth advocates, and others to create a 4-7 minute educational video about birth. The first-place winner will receive a cash prize of $1000. Second place $500 and an "honorable mention" prize of $100 will also be awarded. The deadline for entering the contest is Mother's Day, May 10, 2009.

    I wondered if you would be willing to help us spread the word about this contest by posting about it on your blog?

    We're very excited about our guest judges: Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, acclaimed producers of the Business of Being Born and Sarah J. Buckley., MD, international birth expert and author of Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering. Ricki, Abby, and Sarah will join a consumer-based panel of judges who will be evaluating the tone, educational content, creativity and more. You don't have to be a professional to enter, and you don't have to be from Virginia to enter.

    For rules and to see how to enter, please visit http://www.birthmattersva.org/videocontest.html

    You can also join our Facebook group to get updates about the contest and exchange ideas with other participants at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=590190465#/group.php?sid=b4abec6992e59a1a885d723bebe774a9&gid=73753459808

    And if you have questions, email Sarah at Richmond@birthmattersva.org

    We would really appreciate any help you could give us in promoting this contest and getting the word out. We think this could be big!!

    Hope this will be of use to you, and let me know if you have any questions.

  5. Every woman has right to dream of having a baby. Tubal reversal allows a woman the ability to conceive naturally without any harm. Although tubal ligation is considered a permanent method of birth control, but at some later stage you think that you have done something wrong and you should not have done tubal ligation. But don’t worry, in approximately 90% of cases the procedure can be reversed.

  6. I wish I would have brought a birth doula with me. Well at least I learned a few things to do differently next time.


We LOVE your comments, please share your thoughts!

Blogging tips