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Want a Natural Birth in a Hospital Setting? 10 Questions to Ask

Due to a variety of very odd geopolitical realities and bureaucratic idiocies I chose to have my baby delivered by an obstetrician in a hospital. I knew going into it that my choice of birth setting and birth attendant meant that my chances of having a natural birth were significantly lowered. But I was committed to ensuring that in the absence of any significant medical problems that I would be able to deliver my baby naturally.

For me that meant reading a lot of the right books and developing a strong birth plan. It also meant having a doula to support me and ensure that my needs were met during the birth and that I was as comfortable as possible at all stages. In the later stages of my pregnancy, I prepared my birth plan and reviewed it at the hospital with the obstetrician to ensure that all of my wishes would be respected within the framework of their model of care. In the end, I had a quick, uneventful, dare I say easy, natural birth and was able to start breastfeeding within a minute or so of delivering. The hospital was respectful of my needs and my doula ensured I had the support and assistance I needed.

In the past few days, I've seen Sara (lil_gruntlings) of Custom-Made Milk tweeting a lot about the need to ensure that your hospital is truly supportive of natural birth (if that is your preference). She ended up changing hospitals at the last minute when she discovered that she was not going to get the support she wanted for her choices.  I thought that was a really great point and when I saw a great new article up on Mothering called 10 Maternity Center Questions, it seemed like a perfect complement to that conversation and her recommendation.

The 10 questions the Mothering article recommends you ask are:

  1. Are there any restrictions on who is allowed in the room?

  2. Can I eat and drink during labor?

  3. Can I walk and move around during labor?

  4. What are the rooms like?

  5. Will I have to change rooms during my stay?

  6. Are there rules about what I can wear and what I can bring?

  7. Do I have to deliver lying flat on my back?

  8. Can I nurse my baby immediately?

  9. Can my partner stay with me after the baby is born? What accommodations are available?

  10. How does the hospital support breastfeeding?

The 10 Maternity Center Questions article has more details on the importance of each of those questions and why you might want to ask them. I'd encourage you to check it out!

In the event that you cannot have the perfect birth environment or that something goes differently than planned, you should also consider what you are willing to compromise on and what you would dig your heels in about. The hospital staff is there to work with you and if you are confrontational the first time there is a disagreement about something, it could set the tone for a difficult birth. But if you are willing to bend on something that is not that big of a deal, then they might be more accommodating of other wishes too. For example, I wanted to wear my own clothes and the obstetrician had said I would be able to. In the end, the nurse insisted that I wear the hospital gown. It wasn't what I wanted, but it wasn't a big deal either. However, when the nurse suggested that I might want to get up on the bed and put my feet in the stirrups when I really didn't want to do that, I put my foot down and said that I wanted to continue labouring standing up at that point in time.

Did you have a natural birth in a hospital setting? What did you do to ensure your wishes were respected? How did you prepare? Did you run into any obstacles?

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Reader Comments (67)

I would add to the part about digging your heels in versus letting some things go that you also have to decide when to listen to your doctors. I was stubborn as hell about a natural birth and turned to an epidural after 28 hours of a tough labor (after 48 hours of pre-labor). As it turns out, I likely narrowly escaped an emergency c-section. I should have trusted the doctors earlier when they said that an epidural was just needed for this to be a vaginal birth in the first place rather than being difficult. The voice in my head kept saying, "oh, these awful hospital doctors, they're trying to convince of their awful little schemes of medication!" Turns out, they were right all along - I was one of those cases for which medication is in fact needed. I wish my mind had been more open to that possibility.

February 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJuli

I did have a natural birth (med free birth) in the hospital. I had a detailed birthplan, four pages long. Although, I was "made" to sign a release for an epidural as soon as we got there. Other than that- everyone was quiet, unseen and supportive. I think I just had the right type of nurses- by chance and feel very lucky. Besides making me sign the release form, no other mention of drugs or relief were issued or mentioned. Also, I had a midwife deliever, I think that was a strong message in itself. Everyone was pretty laid back and easy going.
We were treated with respect and I'm so thankful.

February 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

I had an unmedicated birth in a hospital setting--a teaching hospital at that--and one that is known for being quick to intervene. We deliberately chose a hospital setting (my father is an OB and my husband likes to be cautious). However, we were also deliberate in our communication of our wishes. We wrote a 'birth vision statement' rather than a 'birth plan'. It was a simple one page document, with bulleted statements. A month before our due date, I had the document placed in my hospital chart; we presented the document to our nurse upon admission; we tacked it to the bulletin board in my LDR room. My husband and I were on the same page. As a result, we both gave consistent messages to all hospital staff. In addition, we were respectful (both in the document as well as in our communication) of the staff's expertise and honest that we had deliberately chosen a hospital setting on the off chance that something went wrong. I had a beautiful, peaceful, and deliberate labor and birth. And, oh were we thankful that we were in a hospital setting when our little one struggled to breathe only moments after birth. After one nervous hour, she began to breathe normally on her own--and we returned to our birth vision and postpartum vision of gentle, intervention-free, family-focused time. Our nurses, resident, and doc all commented on how refreshing, rewarding, and fun it was to participate in our birth... So clear, consistent, respectful communication is my key to a successful unmedicated hospital birth.

February 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

I had an unmedicated birth in a hospital, but I have to say, get a doula! My mom and DH said they would advocate for me, but when it came down to it and the attending physician tried to tell me my baby was too big and would get stuck and probably die between my legs from shoulder distocia and I *should've* had a C-section weeks ago and I would have if I were *her* patient, they got scared and urged me to get the section. I KNEW I could birth him and insisted on it and he was totally average size: 8 pounds, 20 inches. I got him out in 4 contractions and rushed because I wanted to prove a point and ended up with serious tearing and an episiotomy. I gave in to a lot of the hospital demands because I was scared and there was no level-headed person there to say, "Wait, why does she NEED an IV?" After some woman who's never seen me before flat-out telling me I would not be able to deliver my baby, I didn't even insist on pushing in the squatting position, which was my plan, because I just wanted to get the baby OUT. BTW, I will never have a baby in a hospital again. Not only did they traumatize me during the delivery, but they insisted on a LOT of formula supplementation that I realize now was totally unnecessary. Even when you educate yourself and have a birth plan, they use scare tactics to get you to acquiesce. At the end of the day, I wanted my baby to be healthy and well-taken care of and you feel at the mercy of these nurses and doctors.

February 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElita

I was lucky enough to have a natural birth in a hospital as well. I say "lucky" because my daughter was born sunny side up and a close friend of mine had to have a c-section because of the exact same circumstances. To prepare for my birth, I took Bradley classes and made the effort to read as much as possible. I had an extensive birth plan that I discussed with both my midwife and the hospital ahead of time. But I think the biggest factor in ensuring my birth was natural and un-medicated was that I labored at home as long as I possibly could. I was 7 cm by the time my husband and I got to the hospital so I really believe that helped a lot. I have to credit my husband for keeping me home so long though, because as I was screaming that I wanted to go to the hospital, he was telling me that my contractions were still 7 minutes apart when they were in fact 3. If I would have known that then I may have strangled him, but I'm grateful for it now, as I look back on what may have been. I am currently 22 weeks pregnant and planning a home birth for our next little one. Not because the hospital experience was bad, but because I don't want to be separated from my husband or daughter for any amount of time and I now have the confidence in my body's ability to give birth naturally that I didn't have before.

February 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRhyah

I had a natural (no pain medication) birth in a hospital setting via induction. The reason for the induction was my husband being assigned to work in another state for the summer, and me being alone with my 18-month-old and needing to plan for childcare and for him to make it to the birth. We waited until my cervix was ripe to give the best possible odds for success.

Because it was an induction, I did need an IV for pitocen. And I did sign a waiver for an epidural (at my request, in case things got too much for me), but no one ever offered pain medication.

I delivered with a midwife, and that was the key. She was excellent - suggested laboring on a birthing ball, would rub my back between contractions, helped me into the shower at one point just to kill some time when the contractions were very intense. When I did finally ask for pain medication, she was very realistic with me about how long it would be until I could push, and kept me focused on my goal of avoiding medication. That support was key for me.

She also taught me to trust my body. I was waiting to "be checked" and have the stirrups assembled, etc from my experience with an OB the first time. Instead, she kept me on the birthing ball until my body started pushing, then I jumped into the bed and delivered laying on my side. No stirrups, no spotlights, no cervical checks.

It was a fabulous and amazing experience. My only issue was that my son had low blood sugar and was in the NICU for three days, which seemed totally unnecessary. That was out of my control and out of my midwife's control, though. We just had to ride it out until the NICU would release him.

February 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

i don't know a hospital around that will let you eat during labor. and i'd definitely say to get a doula. i wanted a natural birth so much. my husband knew this and so did my doctor and the rest of the staff. still they continually offered me pain medication, epidural and pitocin. in my distress, after hours of a stall labor, i wasn't in the mindframe to uphold my own wishes and i caved to doctor's suggestions that my labor would not progress without them. (my hubby wasn't strong at that point either). the key is having someone there who can speak for you when you can't.

February 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarah jo

I had an epidural, but that was because it was what I wanted. I knew I wanted to have a vaginal birth, but I was scared because of some hip problems and my own lack of pain tolerance. I had a great day with an awesome nurse and doctor. Aside from my epi, everything was laid back, I spent time with family before and after the birth, my daughter did great at her first nursing (although it was the only time.....) and I would do it that way again. I hate that some people look down on you for getting an epidural, or look down on you for not. The point is to have a baby and have it the way you wanted that was right for you and your family.

February 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSara

I had a natural birth in a hospital setting and was amazed at how smoothly everything went. I had gone in fully expecting to have to fight for everything I wanted, but instead found L&D nurses who were practically ecstatic over getting to be involved in a natural birth and did everything they could to encourage that. None of my requests were denied, nothing was done unnecessarily, no drugs or interventions were offered or pushed on me, I had a wonderful warm jacuzzi filled for me to labour in, and overall I was very surprised and happy with how things went.

That said, I had reviewed every detail of my birth plan with my doctor ahead of time, and I had thoroughly discussed things with my husband so that he could help advocate for me while I concentrated on labour. I was also fortunate to have a very supportive L&D staff - and I recognize that may not be the case next time. I have yet to decide whether I'll go with a hospital birth, a birth center, or a homebirth next time - but, as my husband reminded me recently, I should probably just focus on getting pregnant first.

February 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia

I would like to add one note: I love the natural birth trend, but as a physician, I made sure that the hospital I chose had a level four nursery, and was capable of handling any neonatal emergencies. No amount of convenience and loving delivery is worth risking your baby's life.

February 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Mother

@ The Mother - That is one of the complicated reasons for choosing the hospital that I did. I had an opportunity to birth with a midwife at a birthing center that is right around the corner from another hospital. However, a friend of mine that gave birth at that hospital and had complications ended up with her baby being transferred to a different hospital while she had to stay there. The possibility of that separation scared me so much that I chose to go to a hospital that I knew would be able to handle any complication that could arise for me or my baby.

February 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Those are excellent questions and a few of those I had on my list for when I had planned a hospital birth (esp. 8,9, and 10). I ended up having home births for all my children, but I do know of several friends who wanted natural births at a hospital, and they unfortunately didn't get their wishes. On the other hand, I have another close friend who just recently had a baby at the Montfort with her midwife, and it was a natural birth where she felt very empowered and supported by the entire hospital staff. I agree that a detailed birth plan is key.

February 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

We had a long struggle with our first birth and ended up having a emergency c-section. I am classed as a high risk…but only in some peoples eyes.
I had been terrorized by the OB and was so fearful of giving birth. My midwife was young and fearful too. We started in a birth centre and ended up in hospital. I have to say the hospital was pretty cool with us right up until the end…then everyone started getting angry at each other…sigh.

I had been leaning again towards a birth centre but am now starting to think that maybe starting in hospital with support there if my midwife needs it would be a better idea…I don't know.
We are going for natural and are doing hypnobirth classes.
I felt I was educated last time…but even more this time

I've been reading the Immaculate Deception II by Suzanne Arms (I didn't really read any birth books last time) which has really opened my eyes on birth and even my husband who 'tries' to read some books I pass his way is saying that it’s a really good book.

I better make up my mind as I'm 30 weeks but its great to hear of good natural births in hospital…for me its all about fear in how well its going to go…the more fear the less work is being done on getting the baby out.

February 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Our first son was born in hospital, here in the UK. My wife had wanted a midwife-led centre, but because Baby was overdue, it had to be the hospital. It was an 'easy' natural birth, with a midwife, who afterwards said, "You did very well. Next time why not have a homebirth?!"
So we did. Twice (The second was a water birth too). And they were great.

*You* get to decide on who is allowed in the room, whether you eat, drink, and move about. You know what the rooms are like, and what you'll be wearing. And unless you give birth in a stable, there are no stirrups in sight.
And, on top of that, you get to sleep and feed in your own bed with your baby and his dad from day one.

February 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob A

The things that I wished were different about our birth are, thankfully, related to our decisions and not those imposed on us by the hospital. For a small town with limited choices, we are very lucky to have a wonderful OB and wonderful birthing center (and friends have told me the one 20 minutes away is top-notch as well). HOWEVER (and this is a BIG HOWEVER) the question I never see on any lists that I would have loved to know ahead of time is:

If I plan to breastfeed is there a Lactation Consultant available 24 hour a day?

Our hospital had a wonderful LC (two actually) and we breezed through the first afternoon, first night, and second day. However, around 6 P.M., the Munchkin started cluster feeding voraciously and screaming when not latched on. That remains one of the most miserable nights in our lives as parents. The nurses on duty, while very sweet, could only make offers of taking her from us. As soon as the LC arrived in the morning, she came in and helped us and the world was right again ;) I know of another person at a different hospital with a similar experience in which the nurse came with the supplemental feeding kit for nursing moms but did not know how to use it. I think that having a LC on all night would be very valuable OR at minimum have a "breastfeeding at the hospital" class (akin to L&D classes).

Perhaps I have a biased view because our labor was quick and we had an accomodating hospital during labor, but birth plans sometimes fly out the window and in the end you can recover as long as baby and mom are healthy and safe--but the real "knitty gritty" comes afterwards. Even my husband asked during that night if we should be supplementing her because we were both desperate to do our best for her.

February 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnita

Thanks so much for sharing this. My hospital birth was terrible, horrible, god awful. Induced, labor for 39 hours, all kinds of interventions, and to add insult to injury it ended with a c-section.

Next time around I am DETERMINED to have a natural birth and I think these questions are very helpful. Now that I know more I will be going to the next state to deliver (KY has one of, if not the highest c-sec rate in the country, almost 40% I think).

If possible, I would add having someone there (partner, friend, mom) who has gone over the Q&A with you and is ready to fight tooth and nail to have your choices honored. With my first child I was so scared, overwhelmed, and eventually in so much pain (I went the first 20-24 hours no meds) that I was in poor shape to make decisions and fight hard.

Thanks for sharing!

Great post! I am so glad we made the decision to have Owen at home, but I know it's not for everyone, and I know not everyone has access to the wonderful care of midwives (Hey! Ontario Government! We need more midwives!), so it's great that you've put this together. I get SO FRUSTRATED with the unnecessary interventions I hear about when some of my friends talk of their births. I also hear stories about great OBs and lovely natural hospital births. I hope that we are moving towards a world where all women can be informed and in control of their choices about their bodies and their births, regardless of where they choose to give birth, and that interventions are only what they were ever meant to be - life-saving procedures, used when appropriate and necessary.

Thanks for giving women a concrete tool for empowerment!

February 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay @ Kickypants

I had a fast, easy, painless birth at a major NYC teaching hospital. I had no medication whatsoever. This was because I arrived at the hospital fully dilated- I almost had my baby in the taxi on the way there! I think we waited too long, but my labor (first child) went extremely, unexpectedly quickly. My tips:
1. choose a good OBGYN who will let you have a natural birth if there are no complications. (I swiched doctors at 33 weeks)
2.get a Doula!
3. Wait until you are almost fully dilated to go to hospital. I was at the hospital for only 20 minutes before my son was born.
4. Make sure your OBGYN encourages latch on right after delivery.
5, make sure your OBGYN will let you have your baby on your chest for a long time after birth if there are no complications.
I didn't have a birth plan, I just told my (new!) OBGYN what I wanted and she listened.
I had a great experience in a hospital with a 94% epidural rate!

February 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

I did.
It didn't occur to me to ask my hospital or doctor any of those things. With one hospital and a huge shortage of doctors in the town I was living in at the time I just kind of took what I got.
I wanted a natural birth and for the most part I got exactly what I had pictured in my mind. The only thing I hadn't planned on was being induced. (Not the drip though)
The nurses and the doctors immediately tried to push any and every kind of drugs on me. They intimidated me by telling me (without checking me at all) that I was going to be in labour for daaays (it hadn't even started yet).
My hospital experience itself was ridiculously terrible. I would never give birth there again. Never. The nurses and staff were rude and neglectful (they induced me and then didn't come in and actually check me to see if I was going into labour until I told them I had to push almost 10 hours later and when I DID tell them that they told me I didn't know what I was talking about and I couldn't possibly have to push, and to stop making my body push *rolls eyes*. They forgot to bring meals to me and didn't bathe my son after birth until the day before we left the hospital. Told me that I didn't know anything because I was young, single and a first-time mother. Even though my doctors said it was okay to discharge me the nurses refused to, specifying that it was because I was single *sigh* They belittled me for not only wanting to breastfeed but for trying it without their "supervision" while I was walking around looking for something and only stopped once they saw that he'd latched on no problem and was eating just fine.)

My actual birth and my doctor were fantastic.
No drugs, just massage, walking, breathing, the bathtub.
I went into labour at 2:20 and he was born at 5:08 -- although it probably would have been sooner if the nurses had actually believed me... lol I had no tearing at all. I couldn't have dreamed up a better birth!
I think I fared pretty well considering just how insistent the staff at that hospital were about drugs.
They even tried to make me take painkillers afterwards -- after recovery and settling into my room -- and I still have no idea why! I mean, I was sore, obviously but I was not in any amount of pain that required pain killers.

I would LOVE to try a home birth for the next one!

Sorry about the long comment -- it's just a topic that sets me off on a rant!

February 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

I guess I should add that the main reason that I didn't want an epidural was because I have a huge fear of needles!
A silly reason, I know lol
But it was a decision that encouraged me to do it completely naturally and drug free!

February 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

"In the event that you cannot have the perfect birth environment or that something goes differently than planned, you should also consider what you are willing to compromise on and what you would dig your heels in about."

This is one of my biggest objections to birthing in the hospital, and why I think natural childbirth in the hospital is not possible. It should not be required to make concessions on your own labor and delivery. If you have to write up a birth plan in order to avoid being taken advantage of, you are in the wrong place. Also, if you have to "compromise" or "dig your heels in" about anything, you can't possibly have birth as nature intended. Maybe drug-free, but not unhindered, by a long shot.

March 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEmily Jones

Get a doula! Get a doula! Get a doula! I had a pain-med free birth and the hospital, and overall, it went well. But they insisted on things that weren't necessary, like constant monitoring, which just made it a pain to get out of bed. The biggest reason I'm going for a home birth this (the third time) is that my doctor "induced" the first two because I started dilating at around 36 weeks. I've since learned that there are many women (including my mother) who dilate early. While the hospital staff were supportive of the idea of natural birth, in practice, they still have this idea in their heads about what should be happening, and they kind of inadvertently use scare tactics on you, especially for a first time mom. I was really glad that I had my friend who was a doula there to keep me grounded and willing to fight.

April 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCLT

[...] If you are planning a hospital birth, you should take what measures you can to avoid unnecessary interventions, such as hiring a doula, writing a birth plan, and taking other measures to avoid the medicalization of your birth. [...]

My husband and I planned a homebirth. However, after 44 hours of labor (my water broke when labor started & I started with a bang - contractions every 4 minutes, lasting 45 seconds each), my midwife said I had been stuck at 7 cm for a while & needed to go to the hospital. After a 10 minute drive to the hospital, I was complete & started pushing about 20 minutes after we arrived. I had a completely natural birth at the hospital because the doctors had no choice. They were a little peeved at me though because I live in a state where if prenatal care is not given by a doctor, it is considered not having prenatal care at all. So despite excellent prenatal care from my midwife, my records state that I had no prenatal care whatsoever. For that reason, the doctors wanted to give me IV antibiotics during labor, but it was too late, which I was grateful for. They also respected my wishes about placing the baby directly on my stomach after birth, delayed cutting of the cord, no shots for the baby, etc. And all that from a little piece of torn paper we had desperately scribbled our wishes on when we learned we'd have to transfer. Next time I know I will labor at home as long as possible - I'm almost positive that's the only thing that saved me from an unnecessary C-section with my first birth.

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

I had a drug-free, natural childbirth in a hospital in Washington, DC known for one of the nation's highest c-section producers. I strongly believe that a woman's ability to have a natural childbirth is equal to her determination to get one and her willingness to self-educate and her wise choice of provider. I also felt most comfortable in a hospital, but didn't want to deal with the interventions. I went through three different OB's until I found the right one, who answered my initial questions about "what would you do in this scenario? in that scenario?" in a way that made me feel confident in his judgment and in him as a partner in my birth. (Why go the hospital route if you don't trust your doctor to intervene if it really IS necessary? the key is to make sure you understand when your doc is likely to intervene and how you feel about that ahead of time).

When my water broke with no contractions in sight and some very heavy bleeding, I had to go to the hospital earlier than I wanted and it seemed like my plans were on their head (I"d planned to labor at home as long as possible). There were some rules I followed because I didn't care not to (I allowed intermittent external monitoring because it did not bother me) but there were some rules I flagrantly flouted (I ate peanut butter and honey sandwiches throughout to keep my strength up, despite a very stern admonition from a nurse not to eat). My doctor was high touch and came to check on me three times (he's a single practitioner) during my pre-labor. My labor was hard work (baby was face up and I was only able to turn him to face my thigh) but it was rewarding. Both my OB and the second nurse (much nicer than the first!) who attended me said our birth was one of the most beautiful they'd seen. I didn't have a doula, because I knew I wouldn't want another body in the room. In fact, knowing myself and what I might want for a variety of different scenarios (plan A, plan B, plan c...and so on) was the key for me.

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFaye

Julia, which hospital was it? I am 18 weeks pregnant, this is my 2nd baby, we live in NYC and are trying to find a good hospital and OBGYN that will support our wish to have a natural birth...

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterviviana

Expect to fight an uphill battle at a time when you are least able to marshal your thoughts. Be prepared for nurses and docs to roll their eyes at you, and don't be afraid to be the "difficult patient." If you are squeamish about making yourself "difficult" they will walk all over you, all the while assuring you it's for your own good.

Sorry, I know there are friendly practitioners out there, but if you go in just hoping for doors to swing wide open, you're likely to find yourself sorely disappointed.

My first was born the standard hospital way. I was 23 at the time, and just went along with whatever the staff wanted.

Induction after pinhole leak, epidural, etc; I came within an hour of having a "required" C-section, which would have been stupidly pointless. Especially for a first baby! Why on earth do docs not take into account the likelihood of a young mom's subsequent pregnancies when making "by the book" decisions about her first baby?

Second was a homebirth with lay midwives. The most perfectly astonishing experience of my entire life. Changed my entire outlook on birth, which is what HB advocates always SAY, but it's hard to believe how different it is till you've been there.

Due to insurance issues, my third was born in hospital, and while you'd think I would have been a pretty good self-advocate, I was amazed by how powerless I felt to fight "support staff" during labor. Even really dumb things like refusing continuous EFM were this huge uphill battle.

And this was with a CNM! Freakin ridiculous. (she did finally "compromise" on a telemetry unit and a hep lock, but c'mon. She talked like she was doing me a HUGE favor.)

My fourth will be another hospital birth, due again to insurance issues and lack of local MW availability. Sigh. We're talking military hospital, 90 plus percent epidural rate, 40 percent C-section rate. helloo?? I know a lot of the ladies 'round my local area really WANT the whole medical model shebang, but they also can't understand how their environment affects their ability to handle "natural" childbirth.

I never understood the Laura Shanleys of the world till I found myself in THIS pickle.

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterceebee

Can I ask who your OB is? And what hospital you delivered? I'm looking for this kind of experience and am having a hard time finding someone to support these wishes. Thanks.

January 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTC

My hospital: NY Presbyterian at 68th and York in Manhattan
OBGYN: Dr. Lauren Feit

January 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

Why do I always hear that natural birthing is a "trend"...It never was a trend it's always been around we are the only country with heavy medicated births and scheduled C-sections. I am currently pregnant and plan on having a natural birth I just hope the military hospital I go to agrees with my plan or I will be a very stubborn patient lol.

March 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLexi

oops forgot to say I had a friend who I knew who got an epidural and it paralyzed her from the waist down for life. My great grandmother, my grandmother had a natural birth my mom did and so will I :)

March 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLexi

Yeah, I would totally agree with you normally, as I had my first three children at home. But there are situations when people may just not have the choices to have a homebirth (either due to money, availability, etc). I'm out of the country now and am stuck having to go to a hospital and can only make the best out of it I can. So, you can't always be so judgemental and hard on some people because they may have no other choice.

May 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermom of 3 homebirths

I have 3 kids and I had 3 hospital births, one epidural and 2 drug free. My reason for getting the epidural with my first was kind of the "usual" story. I labored for hours at home. I wanted to be in the hospital as little as possible. When I got to the hospital, my OB had an emergency and I was left with the nurses. They laughed at me when I said I didn't want an epidural. Then they told me, "the baby is doing better when you lay down." SO, of course, if the baby is doing better when I lay down I HAD to lay down. I was on my side and they told me that I HAD to lay on my back.....which sent me into back labor and I ended up with an epidural.

With my second and third, I did more research. it also helped that I was in nursing school and had access to lots of OB information. My OB happens to be very supportive of natural birth and didn't even mention a CS after the sonograms showed HUGE babies in my second and third pregnancies(even though I am petite, which for some OBs automatically means you can't deliver a large baby).

So, this time, going into the hospital, I knew there would be no problems with my OB, that it would be the nurses I would have to deal with. So, I just stuck with what I wanted. The nurse asked me to lay down I said NO. They took my BP and I told my OB if my BP is fine, I'm going to take it off now. He was fine with it. My second and third births were perfect. Baby #2 was 9lbs, baby #3 was 9lbs 7oz. One thing I changed though, from the second to the third was non-directed pushing. With my third, I pushed when I wanted to push.....which is SOOOOOO much easier. When I eventually have my fourth, I will have another hospital birth, mostly because my OB is awesome and I hemorrhaged last time around. But anyone I talk to I always encourage to see a midwife.

I do think it's hard for an FTM to go natural in a hospital. You really have to be well prepared and really know what you want. You also have to be prepared to argue with medical professionals and that is not easy to do, especially when you're in labor.

February 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAntonella

I had a drug free uncomplicated, unhassled birth at a hospital in Austin, Texas. I went in with a one-page clearly defined yet cheerful birth plan which my L&D nurse followed happily. She had had 2 NCBs in hospital settings and said she'd do everything she could to help me.

It was quiet, I was able to drink as I wished (I wasn't there long enough for food) and no one bothered me or ever offered anything I didn't want.

The only thing I didn't like was that you had to be IN THE BED to push, and standing was my preferred laboring position. and my wonderfully supportive nurse told me my first push wasn't effective enough and convinced me that purple pushing was the way to go and I ended up with 4 panels of sutures in my lady parts from pushing my son out in 20 minutes.

I feel like my wishes for delayed clamping were not observed to the fullest, however, nor was my desire to breastfeed immediately observed. I had to wait until my sutures were done, which took about an hour and a half. They told me my baby was "tired" anyway, which I know is not the case with most natural births, especially after only 5 hours of labor.

It wasn't perfect, but it was natural in a hospital.

February 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpamela

I had a hospital waterbirth with a midwife. I was able to eat, drink, and move freely during labor. I did not have an IV. My birth was wonderful. The only problems I had were with the postpartum care. I was constantly butting heads with nurses and trying to violate all sorts of "hospital policies". It was horrible and I couldn't get out fast enough. It is one thing to ensure that your provider and your hospital will be supportive of your birth plans, but people also need to be sure of the policies in place for *after* birth. My postpartum experience was enough that I will be going with a homebirth midwife for my next pregnancy.

February 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda P

Oh yeah. Big time. The postpartum experience was awful.

I gave birth at a very baby friendly hospital (which was actually mentioned in Mothering for this) and the pp nurses were still very antagonistic.

One told me my breasts were too big to breastfeed, I had to tell at least 4 people not to circumcise my son, I had to fight to keep them from taking him to the nursery, and I had to beg for ice packs for my stitches.

Someone bothered me every 15 minutes, it seemed, for asinine things like checking on how long he had eaten and diaper counts and to check my epidural (didnt' have one...had to tell every single different person that I didn't).

The room was tiny and we had to beg for a cot for my husband.

Hated Hated Hated postpartum.

February 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpamela

I had, in order, an unplanned c-section (with a doula), an epidural VBAC, and a drug free hospital VBAC. The first two were in Loudoun County, VA and the third was in Prince William County, VA.

I'd say the difference in having a natural birth in hospital was that I WAITED AT HOMEas long as I could stand it, and then a little longer. I arrived at the hospital 9cm dilated and gave birth within an hour.

I was also much less shy of conflict the third time around. I rejected an IV (compromised by getting a hep lock) and insisted on a fetal monitor that allowed me to move around. The only time I was on my back was when they were examining me. I labored leaning over the bed and squatting, and finally on the bed on my hands and knees. I did not ask if I could deliver on my hands and knees, I just did it! Later the OB and her resident both told me they had never seen a woman deliver in that position before. So I am glad to have contributed to their education-- now that they have seen me do it, maybe they won't be so shy of "letting" other women do it.

February 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSherri Edman

We were supposed to be a home birth and had to go to the hospital due to being two weeks overdue and having what my midwife described as an "alarming" amount of meconium detected on the ultrasound conducted at +12 days. We were induced, which really bummed me out. Turns out it was good we were there, as our son had to have his stomach pumped and mouth cleared (thankfully, there was no aspiration due to quick action immediately after birth, but it apparently WAS an "alarming" amount of meconium). But we hadn't been prepared for a hospital birth and had to create a birth plan on the fly. We were able to get a doula at the last second; she was training and not certified yet, but she was WONDERFUL, and less expensive, and was able to get some much-needed experience, too. GET A DOULA!!! We also had known which hospital was our backup in case of transfer, and it had the reputation of being the most respectful of natural birth (10% C-section rate as compared to 34% at some local hospitals). The reputation was well-deserved! Although we were offered morphine multiple times and warned repeatedly that our midwife had NO privileges and would absolutely not be allowed to assist, everything else related to the nursing staff was beyond terrific. They referred to our birth plan throughout labor, and I remember a hilarious moment right before I delivered when the nurse leaned over and said, "Do you still want a mirror?" and I said, "$*#& no, let's just do this!" (I was honestly too scared to look at that point.) My biggest gripe was that the O.B. (really a very sweet old man who let me labor without harrassing us for a C-section much longer than most, my midwife told me) insisted I deliver on my back. I was very cranky about it and made them wait til the end of a contraction and move me themselves. I also ignored any attempts for him to coach me through pushing; I probably caused myself a little damage by pushing my son out in one push rather than going for head, then shoulders, but it was kind of fun to ignore the doctor and one of the few times I felt I was in control (and not just watching my body do this crazy thing). My partner was in the bed with his arms wrapped around me for the last several hours and was very, very involved; he got to sleep with our son on his bare chest for four hours during the night after we gave birth (giving me a much needed break and yet providing our boy with skin-to-skin contact).

So, we were prepared in that we'd read a ton about what we did and didn't want to have in our birth and attended Bradley classes, and had some element of a back-up plan. We were unprepared in that we had no doula, were initially terrified of the hospital staff, and weren't sure what we were willing to compromise on (induction, having to hand our son over for a medical intervention and immediate cord cutting as a result, birthing on my back, etc.). But we felt that the birth went well in the end. And if we ever do this again, we're going to plan for another home birth.

February 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

I really wanted a natural, non-intervention child birth...but sometimes the baby and your body have other plans. My water broke, but labor never started on its own. However, I can say that the hospital where my son was born was wonderful. They explained that they baby needs to be born within a certain period of time after water breaks because of risk of infection. But, instead of pushing the pitocin on my right away, they let me wait several hours to see if labor would initiate naturally. I waited pretty much til the last possible second before being induced. Because I had stated that I wanted a natural child birth, no sort of pain relief was ever suggested, recommended, or pushed. I decided on my own to take the epi. 7 hours after the first drop of pitocin, my son was born, and placed directly on my chest for me to hold while my husband cut the cord. (My husband also assisted in the delivery). After a which wipe down and check of vitals, he was given back to me, and we were initiating our first breast feeding within 10-15 minutes after his birth. Never once were we offered formula, nor was it suggested we use it.

We've moved to a different state, but the hospital where I will be delivering in a few weeks has several doulas on staff for patients. Unless requested otherwise by the mother, the baby is placed directly on mom's chest after delivery, and unless there are serious medical concerns with baby or mom, the stated goal is to ensure a first breast feeding happens within an hour of birth. Again, my goal is a natural, unmedicated child birth. But, the health and well being of my baby is what comes first!

February 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSara

due to limited options, I did have a natural birth in a hospital and my birth preparation looked a lot like yours. I read several books on birth so that I would know what to expect, and I had a very specific birth plan, which I asked each of the obstetricians (I also had a you-get-whoever-is-on-call situation) to look over with me in advance. I think this really set the tone, and helped both me and the hospital staff know what to expect. They knew my wishes, and I knew their limitations. In the end I got a lot of respect and nearly everything I asked for, including saying no to the hospital gown. I compromised on one thing, and that was the HEP lock. I did not want an IV of any kind, but the doctors respectfully requested that I wear a heparin lock "just in case." I really did not want to, but there had been so much take, that I felt like a little give was in order and I agreed. I never did end up needing it, thankfully.

Update I had a natural child birth Nov 5th I didn't have my DD in the military hospital because my water broke at 3am and the drive was 45 minutes away and my contraction went from every 4 minutes when I got into the car to by the time we were halfway down the high way to less than a minutes apart. So we went to Stafford Hospital and I tell you it was AMAZING!! I had a room and bathroom all to myself it was a private suite and the nurses were very helpful with letting me labor in different positions to get the head down, I had my DD at 11:54am the doctor said that was the fastest delivery he has seen for a first time mom. I recommended Stafford Hospital to my other friends who were lucky like me to have their water break in the middle of the night and a fast L&D. :)

February 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLexi

I had a natural birth in a hospital. I used the only local midwives available. They do not attend homebirths and they do not have a birth center, so hospital was really my only choice. I took a Bradley class, which helped me learn a great deal.
I think there were two things that were very helpful
1. I waited as long as possible to go to the hospital. I labored at home for a number of hours which meant I was already 6cm when I arrived at the hospital.
2. I refused an IV. It was hospital policy for all laboring mothers to have an IV. Just standard. I refused and instead asked for a heplock. Even this was a big compromise for me because I hate needles. Just getting the helplock in while laboring through contractions was very difficult. Without an IV I was free to move around, which speeded up my birth.

April 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCaitlin

did you by chance have your baby in a hospital in nyc

July 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhalema davis

I had a home birth with my daughter and it was a wonderful experience. She was in the posterior position, which meant a long and intense labor. At some point, the midwife called the hospital and instructed them to prepare the OR. She didn't think I could handle anymore. But my husband insisted that wasn't what I would want, so we continued at home. My baby turned around just before I started pushing, and I ended up having no stitches, perfectly healthy mom and baby.

I just love the way I was so supported and everyone in the room had confidence in me. The midwives were so calm, so knowledgable...

I am now in my third trimester with my second pregnancy. I'm in a new city and wasn't able to get a midwife here, as they are in high demand. My experience having my pregnancy followed by a doctor instead of a midwife is completely different. Instead of going every 4 weeks, I normally stretch it out to every 6 weeks, because I feel there's little point to the visits, other than ordering the standard ultrasound, glucose tests, etc. It seems like the medical approach to childbirth is all about identifying medical problems or emergencies, and responding to them. If you're having a normal, healthy pregnancy/labor, they have nothing to offer (other than to rule out the possibility that something is wrong, which of course is important).

In my first visit, I explained that I would be thankful for medical intervention in the event that it was required, but that it was my hope to have an unmedicated delivery. My doctor flat out told me that I would need an epidural, because second births are more painful than first. I can tell it's going to be an uphill battle trying to let a healthy, normal delivery stay that way. But I have confidence in myself and my husband has confidence in me. It would be preferable if I could be surrounded by professionals who also have confidence in me, like I was the first time when I gave birth at home, but I'll keep an open mind. Who knows? Maybe I'll get really cool nurses who are excited about attending an unmedicated birth.

October 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCF

Check out the book I wrote about having a natural hospital birth! It is possible! After years of being a doula, a mother of three, and conducing my own research I've worked to empower women and have created this guide. I wish you all well! http://www.amazon.com/Natural-Hospital-Birth-Best-Worlds/dp/1558327185/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321234080&sr=8-1

November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia

Your hospital may say that they do all of these things, but that does not guarantee that they will happen. It all depends on which OB is on-call that day, and which nurse you get. Having a doula is so essential, because she will be the only one who will know what you really need/want. Also, a lot of other factors play into this - eg. more and more women are being induced, many for strange reasons. If you are induced, know that your chances for a natural birth are very limited, and that you have a much higher risk of a c-section. It's important to do your research about the hospital, but it's also very important to become educated about normal birth in general

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMisty Pratt

Also, make sure your doctor is TRULY on board with your natural birth. This makes an enormous difference!

And, be sure YOU'RE fully educated on what the hospital lingo is, what your rights are, and keep an open mind to changes that may happen, but make educated decisions on those options.

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMAGGIE

Having a doula was one of the major differences between my 1st and 2nd childbirth experiences. With my 1st there were heart rate concerns and my pushing wasn't effective. I tried different positions, but I didn't research enough about the options and consented to a c-section. I gave birth to my 2nd son this past July; 100% natural vbac. I showed up at the hospital pushing, but baby was having some similar heart rate concerns. I was terrified I would end up with a repeat section, but my doula suggested a different position, I found my groove, and my son was born. Looking back, if there had been one person to offer some suggestions for me, I believe my 1st could have been born vaginally. It probably didn't help that I went into labor in the early morning end to Labor day and my ob was not back on call until 8am. I don't know if she would have stuck around and had suggestions, but her on call coverage didn't.

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKerri

I've had a hospital birth and a home birth. I have no issues with the hospital birth itself - I was transferred there by ambulance and given an epidural because I was beyond the point of exhaustion, but in the end my attending OB was as patient as my midwife and they let my daughter come out in her own time.

My problem was after the birth - despite nursing right away and often, the nurses kept insisting that my baby was hungry because she was crying. Because of the awful labour, I could barely sit up, let alone get to her bassinet. My husband couldn't stay to help me the first night and my baby cried relentlessly in her bassinet. I begged the nurse to hold my crying baby but they refused to take her to the nursery unless I agreed they could give her formula. Eventually I relented because I couldn't bear to have her cry anymore, but I was physically unable to help her. It was the worst night of my life, followed my many months of PPD.

If you go to a hospital, find out what support you and your baby will be given afterwards. If I had known how it would turn out, I would have chosen a different hospital.

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTamara Watson

I don't think that anyone looks down on a mom who chooses to get an epidural. The plain and simple fact is that epidurals greatly increase the odds of other interventions up to and including a c-section. So while the other interventions in and of themselves are mostly harmless at best and have minor or low incidence of risk at worst (mostly...), trying to avoid the c-section is the real reason not to get one. I, too, had an epidural with my first birth- I hadn't intended to get one, but my labor was LONG and I wasn't prepared (I agree with everyone- if you want an unmedicated birth in a hospital, GET A DOULA... the only women I know personally who have done so have done it with a doula or midwife). And I managed to deliver vaginally. BUT it was by sheer force of will, and invloved a vacuum extractor after 3.5 hours of pushing. And at that point they said "you get three pushes and then we're going in surgically." And it was totally because I couldn't feel to push effectively, and because I couldn't get in a position to speed things up. Based on all of this, even though I had a medicated vaginal birth in a hospital (and I do have to admit the epidural was a relief in the moment...), I opted to deliver in a stand alone birth center with a Certified Nurse Midwife with my second. My labor and delivery went exactly as my first had, chronologically, but I was more prepared. I had taken hypnobabies courses and knew how to relax, which GREATLY decreased my pain. So even though my labor was just as long, I didn't push for nearly as long (45 minutes instead).

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrandis

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