Since we have so many expecting mama readers, we thought we would have a guest writer today. Kelly Whitehead is a birth doula, a birth advocate, a high-risk scientist mom and author of High-Risk Pregnancy – Why Me? Understanding and Managing a Potential Preterm Pregnancy. She was more than happy to share her 10 tips to a more “natural” hospital birth.
10 Tips to a More “natural” Hospital Birth
So, you’re thinking about the big day, hoping for a “natural” birth experience, yet for any number of reasons, a home birth is not an option. Maybe the “natural” birth visions ingrained in your mind are of hippies dancing around the mom-to-be in fields of sunflowers. A hospital is where you will be delivering, like so many in this country. Yes, even for you, a “natural” birth can be in your future. Maybe you’re excited and looking forward to the event. Or more likely, you’re scared, maybe just a bit, or even all out “OMG! How am I going to do this?” This is completely natural and normal, so don’t fret.
C-section rates are outrageously high, with a national rate at higher than 30%, a real concern for many. Lots of factors are at fault including: lessening support systems for women to birth vaginally (continuous labor support, ideal positioning/movement during labor), various medical interventions (like Pitocin), the rush to “just section,” today’s legal/medical landscape which forces doctors to practice “defensive medicine” in an attempt to avoid law suits, and the increasing belief that C-sections are safe and without risks. Even in light of all this, there are ways to help your chances of avoiding one.
With an epidural rate in the 90 percentile for some regions, it may seem impossible to not have epidural pain relief. Hold on. Trust me, it isn’t impossible. Whether your hope is to labor drug free or to hold off “as long as possible,” here are some tips to help achieve your birth plan and get what you want for your BIG day. You may have noticed “natural” (in quotes), this is because there is no one correct way to have a natural birth experience.
Before the Big Day – Tips to Help You Get What You Want:
- Educate yourself. You must be knowledgeable about what you want for your baby’s birth. Understanding the birth process, as well as the pros and cons of your choices, is key to making better decisions.
- Interview prospective doctors/midwives prior to pregnancy or early on. Pick a provider who supports your plan. How do you do this? Ask around. Ask other moms, doulas or lactation groups for a referral. Ask questions about their C-section and episiotomy rates. If your doctor isn’t supportive or you have concerns, move on.
- Consider a doula. Having a solid, knowledgeable, calm (very important, think the opposite of the panicking dad) support system is best. Hint: not all dads make good coaches. Let them participate at their own ability and comfort level. Less than 10% of nurses’ time is actually spent with the laboring mom, so don’t depend on nurses to be your coach. Having a doula has shown to decrease the length of labor, decrease the rate of C-sections and epidurals, increase the families overall satisfaction with the birth and a slew of other great benefits.
Tips for the Big Day – Achieving a “Natural” Birth:
- Labor starts on its own. (It’s not medically induced with meds.) There are natural ways which can be used to help kick-start labor, including sexual intercourse, nipple stimulation, castor oil inductions, walking, etc. Talk to your doctor or midwife.
- Stay home as long as possible! I can not stress this enough. If everything is fine and you/baby have a clean bill of health and your waters are intact, hang out at home. Typically, labor is not a quick process, lasting an average of almost 8 hours for first-time moms.
- You should be encouraged (and allowed) to move however you want. Walking upright in the first stage of labor, the dilation stage, has been shown to reduce the length of labor. This sometimes can take a bit of negotiation due to hospital requirements for fetal monitoring (see previous point about staying home). I often ask for a portable monitoring unit, help mom to move even with all the monitor cords, or work with the nurse to have intermittent monitoring to allow mom time to labor on the toilet or elsewhere.
- Avoid the use of routine medical interventions, which are only to be used when there’s a true medical need. (This includes augmentation with Pitocin, breaking the waters manually, etc.)
- It is essential to have continuous support, both emotional and physical throughout your entire labor. (See previous point about considering a doula.)
- Pushing shouldn’t be done while you’re flat on your back. (Think about it. This routine procedure doesn’t make sense. It goes against the laws of physics – you know, that thing called gravity.) They found the pushing stage to be shorter, and a reduction in assisted deliveries (forceps/vacuums) and a reduction in episiotomies in upright positions.
- Momma and baby should be kept together after birth. No routine separation immediately after birth. This helps to establish not only breastfeeding, but a strong emotional bond.
Kelly Whitehead is a birth doula, a birth advocate and a high-risk scientist mom who wrote High-Risk Pregnancy – Why Me? Understanding and Managing a Potential Preterm Pregnancy (www.hrpwhyme.com) to help others during a tough pregnancy. Her passion is to help families through pregnancy and birth. (Live in the Northern New Jersey area and interested in contacting her about being your doula? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.)