After my post about my wishes for this upcoming birth, several of you reached out and asked me to compile the advice I have been given for planning a natural birth in a hospital setting. As I mentioned in my previous post, my goal is to go into labor naturally (avoiding induction) and to labor and deliver as naturally as possible, as well. While both of my previous births were beautiful and empowering, they were not “natural,” so I am leaning on others for their wisdom. I am fortunate to know so many women who have given birth naturally – whether at home or in a birthing center or hospital. I reached out to some for their advice and some of you even emailed me with your own stories, so I am overflowing with tips and tricks and I appreciate you allowing me to share your wisdom in this space.
**Please note that my goal here is to provide tips & tricks that were helpful to other mamas. This is not a time to debate about what to do or what not to do, but rather to provide a spectrum of real-life advice for planning a natural birth in a hospital setting. Disrespectful comments will be deleted.
I struggled quite a bit trying to decide how to organize this post and how to include specific advice from the mamas I talked to. I heard very similar things from each of the women I spoke to, so there’s lots of truth and wisdom here. I broke it down by categories, including a little explanation and some real-life advice for each one. Enjoy…
Choose a great doctor
Nearly everyone I spoke with told me how important choosing a great doctor was in their ability to give birth naturally. Obviously, we have our doctor picked out already, but I have also had several great conversations with her about my desires for labor and delivery. She already made a note to NOT offer me an early induction, which I so appreciate.
Make sure your partner is on board
This one is a no-brainer. Every woman I talked to mentioned how great either their husband or their doula was during labor, and that they could not have done it without them. Phil has been amazing during this entire process and he was a great birth coach when Adair and Ingrid were born, too. I do not doubt his ability to help me through my third birth.
“Jason and I did all of research together and he was in full support and educated on pain control options to help when I was in a weak moment. We watched documentaries, read books/blogs/articles and educated ourselves on the risks of epidurals- which had me more scared than the pain. We made a birth plan with all our goals including requesting pain control not be offered, so I wasn’t tempted. Again, we considered a doula, but they are $300-$500 in KC and we felt if we went into it with the right mindset and education we could succeed on our own.” – Crystal
Know your options
Hospitals vary in their expectations for labor and birth, as well as in what they provide you with during the process. For instance, many women recommended laboring for part of the time in a tub. My hospital doesn’t have tubs! When my doctor and I talked about a natural birth, we agreed that I will only have to have an IV lock (just the port) instead of being hooked up to fluids, etc. We also agreed that I will only have to do fetal monitoring for 15-20 minutes every hour, instead of the entire time.
*Most hospitals offer tours, where they show you what is available and explain their usual protocol, etc.
*I will also say that my first birth plan clearly stated I did not want to receive an episiotomy, which I later found out was pointless to include because my doctor doesn’t routinely do them!
Make a plan
A birth plan might seem like a silly thing to put together, but my doctor and the nurses at the hospital actually prefer it. No, they don’t want an essay, but when they see so many patients day in and day out, it can be difficult to remember one mama’s wishes from the next. Even if it’s just a list of 5 bullet points or something, it gives them a quick overview of my desires.
“The thing that made it all possible was having everyone on board with my wishes. My doctor, husband, family, everyone knew I didn’t even want to be offered medication, and they took it seriously. My birth plan was written out super clearly and direct.” – Deborah
Set the environment
Probably the biggest reason women choose home birth is because they get to labor and deliver in an environment that is comfortable and familiar to them. While the hospital can be an unfamiliar place, many mamas recommended setting the environment how I’d like it. Obviously this means different things to different women. This time around, I did purchase my own delivery gown as I find the hospital gowns to be really uncomfortable and irritating.
“You basically want to go in and kind of claim the room. I put out my own pillows and blankets, put on music, had an essential oils diffuser, a desk top fountain for water sound, those fake flickering candles, etc.” – Kim
Have a laundry list of laboring techniques
It’s completely obvious from talking to all of these mamas that labor is different for everyone. Some women prefer to labor while walking or standing, while others prefer to ball up or squat down. Some women said that low, deep breathing is what helped them through, while others said that words of affirmation or humor is what worked.
“I felt more comfortable in a standing/moving position and had a huge hospital room, so I paced and swayed through contractions. When in bed for fetal monitoring I stayed on my side and Jason or my nurse massaged my lower back. The harder the pressure, the more relief I found.” – Crystal
“Forcing the mouth into the “o” shape helped, but also using a clock with a second hand helped. You lose track of time, you know? And for me, knowing that no natural contraction is longer than 90 seconds was a gift. Contraction would start and I would look at the second hand. The first 30 seconds aren’t so bad, then you’ve got the middle 30 seconds that suck, and then the last 30 seconds it fades away. So really, you only have to do the hard, hard thing for 30 seconds. You can do anything for 30 seconds!” – Dwija
“Horse lips and cow moans…sound totally stupid, but they’re awesome!” – Lauren
“I would even count backwards, out loud, from 30 to try and keep my face relaxed. Sometimes I made Tommy count with me. “30, 29, 28, 27….” It was weird but sort of meditative.” – Dwija
Have someone to be “your voice”
It’s no secret that childbirth is no walk in the park. When the going gets tough (and I expect it to get tough!) it’s important that Phil can communicate my needs to the doctor and nurses. Most mamas told me that they rarely talked to the doctor or nurses. Instead, their partner or birthing coach did the communicating for them.
“The most important and best thing my husband did for me in that situation is to be my advocate. To basically protect me from everyone trying to interrogate me, to answer all questions for me, to make it so that I didn’t have to insist on being left alone.” – Dwija
Trust your instincts (and your body)
I definitely believe that my body was made to do this and that it will probably function like it was created to when it’s time to deliver my baby.
“The hardest part is the shortest. If you make it to 7 then you can make it to 10. Pushing is the best feeling in the world after laboring because you can actively do something with the pain.” – Deborah
This is easily the most important part of being able to deliver naturally vs. on pain medication. (And quite easily the thing I am going to struggle with the most.) So many mamas told me how important it was to keep this in mind (even to repeat it over and over) during the thick of labor.
“I think much of my success was mental- mind over matter, or pain- I just kept telling myself: my body was meant to do this, I can overcome anything, that wasn’t THAT terrible, etc. I honestly did enjoy the adrenaline high that hit in late labor.” – Crystal
Last but not least, I am going into this knowing that a completely natural childbirth might not happen. I am completely aware of how painful labor can be, how stressing it can be to both me and my baby, and how sometimes, interventions are completely necessary.
“You’re gonna have to dig your heels in… or at least that was what helped me. I think regardless of what you end up doing that day, you will have a beautiful, wonderful experience. You have nothing to prove to anyone, so if you end up getting an epidural during labor? No big deal. But, don’t give doubt a foothold.” – Lauren
“I totally agree that medicated birth is just as beautiful and amazing, and shouldn’t be shrugged off as a lesser experience. I ended up having pitocin and epidurals with both of my babies after a very long time of laboring naturally – and even those two experiences were so completely different. One birth was traumatic and nearly killed me and the other was completely amazing and everything I could have wished for.” – Gemma
“There is so much middle ground. …You don’t have to fall in one camp, one tribe, because honestly so many of us are in the middle. You will have an amazing birth! Strong and powerful and will amaze your husband and yourself once again.” – Tessa