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Natural Birth in the Hospital: Yes, it is possible.

I just got back from vacation and boy are my arms tired!!! Ehhh....ehhh Ok ok I am one of a few in the world who actually loves bad jokes. In all seriousness I missed a couple weeks so I could rejuvenate and yes I will write about that soon.

For this week something came up while I was having a prenatal with a client. She is having her second baby in the hospital and had her first at home. It has been challenging for her to step into such a different setting the second time around. As we spoke I realized that she had a concern and I'll even say fear that so many families have about going to the hospital: Will I be heard? Can I have the birth I want? Will I be pressured into interventions and procedures I don't want? Is it even possible to have a natural birth in the hospital?

A word before I launch into all this. I believe that all birth is natural whether it be with interventions, no interventions, a c-section or a home birth. For the purposes of this blog post I am referring to natural birth as a hospital birth without medical intervention

I completely understand these concerns. When I began as a Doula in 2007 hospitals were much less likely to listen to the parents. I remember

fighting for birth balls because the entire L&D only had one on the floor, or asking the OB to hand the baby to the mother while also telling the nurse they wanted to sit for a bit...I could keep going trust me. Today, hospitals in Northern California automatically have birth balls in each room and the "golden hour" protocol of the baby not leaving the parents arms for 1 hour is common. I have taken this as a victory for the years Birth Professionals nationwide kept pushing for are basic needs and rights for a family. We still have a ways to go for hospitals to truly be family friendly but at least you will have a birth ball.

Though we have gotten a few changes in the hospital that make for a family friendly environment, hospitals still are a place where many people are having babies at the same time. Therefore, the protocols in place can be a bit "one size fits all"...I hear from nurses and Docs that "this is what we do when X happens" and to an extent that is true. What gets missed is that though there are some general understanding about the mechanics of a birth each birth truly is unique and needs unique attention. This is no easy task when maybe 6-10 nurses and 2 OB's and a Nurse Midwife are who we have to care for 20 or more families a shift. Having tools to best support a natural birth allow for the best chance to have just that.

Get a Doula!

I will admit that I am biased but we now have research to back up the fact that a Doula significantly reduces the chance of a c-section, length of labor and use of medical interventions. You a check out my blog post about Doulas and certification to learn a bit about how a Doula is trained. Suffice to say that a Doula will help you create a birth plan to support the kind of birth you want to have. In addition your Doula will be there to help inform you, guide you and advocate for you during your entire labor at the hospital. A well trained and experienced Doula will know all the tricks to making a natural birth more possible. We are well worth the money you spend having someone there you know you can trust and will fight for your birth experience. Doulas are your best bet to making it more likely you will have a natural birth experience.

Have a Birth plan

I know some Doulas hate birth plans but I think they are a great way to inform yourself and get clear about what you will and will not want. A birth plan also walks you through what kind of environment you may want so that you can have solid deliverables to make that happen. Keep in mind however that birth has many surprises so it is best not to marry yourself to the plan and know you may need to be flexible. There are many birth plans online and many hospitals hand them out to parents what is most important to be clear on is:

the kind of environment you want( Do you want dim lights or music playing)

What kind of monitoring is OK ( Doppler, Telemetry ect)

What pain interventions are you ok with (this moves into medical interventions but it is still good to talk about this in case it comes talk about Epidurals, Fentynal and any other options that maybe available.

Which newborn procedures you would like (circumcision, vitamin K ect)

Do you want the option to labor and/or birth in the tub

Do you wish to labor and/or birth in any position

Who do you want in the room with you (I suggest the fewer the better)

In case of a c-section who will be in the operating room with you, do you want a hand free to hold your baby ect...

What kinds of augmentation of labor is ok with you (again this moves into medical interventions but good to go over: Pitocin, sweeping membranes, breaking of the waters ect)

Know what are good coping tools for when you are stressed

Birth is stressful, long and painful for most so it is good to have those things that make you feel good when you may not feel so great. Have an app you like ready, a favorite blanket, some music you love or a real good friend; anything you know will help.


I get plenty of rolled eyes when I mention aromatherapy but it is a great tool for me as a Doula and can be for you as well. Lavender is great for calm, Citrus scents are good when you feel icky, Peppermint can boost energy and that is just 3. There are so many to choose from and as long as you like and can tolerate it; go for it. Keep in mind a little scent goes a long way so a drop or two will be just fine on a cloth with water. You can waft it in the air or keep it close to your nose.

Childbirth Education

Knowing what to expect when you are in labor and what your options are will help you create a plan that works for you. Most hospitals have a childbirth education classes at low to no cost. I suggest an independent childbirth educator, those classes are more expensive but much more comprehensive. Plus, you can ask more pointed questions to help you figure out what you want.

Doula Consultant

You can ask a Doula if they can support you as a consultant which is usually far less expensive. A Doula consultant will talk with you by phone or by video conference to help you create a birth plan and give you tips for the best birth possible.

Talk with your Nurse Midwife or OB

Let your practitioner know you plans for a non-medicated birth and ask about how the hospital handles such request. Having staff know your plans as you come in can really open the door to getting more of what you need and want.

Having a natural birth in the hospital is completely possible. Above are just a few ways to help make it more possible for you to have the birth you want.

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