Are you planning a low-intervention birth? While home birth or birthing centers are great options for low risk women, some families feel more comfortable birthing in a hospital setting. Out-of-hospital birth is not the only option available for families choosing natural birth. It is totally possible to have a low-intervention birth in a hospital setting if you plan accordingly.
Here are some tips I have gathered from my experience as a birth doula and educator.
Take a childbirth class outside of the hospital
In my experience attending these classes, most (perhaps not all) of these classes focus on hospital policies, routine medical procedures, and what to expect when arriving to the hospital. This can be really important information for families, but it is not the kind of childbirth education that will help you learn about the birth process, make informed choices, and plan your birth.
Courses such as the Bradley Method, Hypnobirthing, or other local childbirth courses can be extremely helpful in planning your birth. Many of these courses offer birth planning sessions while teaching you the natural birth process. Also, these courses are great for learning about the risks and benefits of routine medical interventions in birth and assisting you in making an informed choice about your care.
It’s also important to note that many of these classes can now be covered by your health insurance. So don’t let cost be a barrier to your education.
Ask your provider TONS of questions about their policies, procedures, and protocols
It is CRITICAL that you ask your provider as many questions as possible about their policies, procedures, and protocols for care. If you know you want to have a low-intervention or natural hospital birth, you need to ask your provider specific questions to make sure they are supportive of your choices. Don’t wait until the third trimester to ask these big questions!
Questions to ask include:
- What is your cesarean rate?
- Do you require your patients to use an IV in labor?
- Do you support intermittent fetal monitoring?
- What is your protocol if my water breaks before labor starts?
- What procedures do you follow for pregnancies that go past the “due date”?
- Do you support movement during labor?
- What are my choices for using water in labor?
- How do you feel about using a birth doula?
- Do you support eating and drinking during birth?
- What is your protocol for second stage labor (when mom is pushing)?
- When do you perform cervical exams? How do you feel about your patients declining exams?
- What is your position on induction of labor?
Don’t be afraid to choose another provider!
If you ask your provider all of your questions and you are unhappy with their answers, do not hesitate to find another provider. This extra step (I know it can be a hassle) can be crucial in having the birth experience you want for your family. Ideally, you want a provider who is on board with your decisions and comfortable with shared decision making. If anything doesn’t feel right, it’s probably because it isn’t right for you. Don’t be afraid to fire your doctor and find one that you love. Find local birth and parenting groups on Facebook and ask for recommendations from other moms in your area. Set up consultations and ask the tough questions.
Ask your provider about the risks and benefits of any procedure
If your provider suggests a medical procedure, be sure to ask them about the risks and benefits of the procedure. Demand informed consent. For example, if your doctor offers to break your water (artificial rupture of membranes), be sure to ask them what the risks and benefits are of this procedure.
BRAIN is a great acronym to use for informed consent. When faced with a medical procedure and you need to make a choice, consider the following:
B – What are the benefits?
R – What are the risks?
A – What are the alternatives?
I – What does your intuition say?
N – What happens if I do nothing?
Stay home as long as possible in labor
Most providers will tell you their policy and procedure for when they want you to arrive at the hospital. Statistically speaking, if you want a low-intervention birth, the best thing you can do is to labor at home as long as possible to avoid unnecessary early interventions. In the absence of other medical needs, consider staying home until your labor is in a strong established pattern. You can labor in the comfort of your home until you really need to be at the hospital. Be sure to discuss this with your provider along with your questions.
Hopefully this gave you some food for thought while planning a natural hospital birth! Be bold, and don’t be afraid to demand the care that you deserve.
(I struggle with using the term “natural” birth while discussing birth choices. I find it to be unclear, divisive, and particularly inciting for some families. When I use the term “low-intervention birth” I am specifically referring to a birth that reserves medical intervention for those cases where it is truly necessary or desired by the family. This is in opposition to treating all birthing women like machines, where providers routinely provide medical intervention to ALL birthing women in their care regardless of their individuality or desires.)