Birth today in the U.S. is often treated as a risky, over-medically-managed event. In reality, birth is neither a disease nor an injury. For the majority of women, birth is a safe, healthy and very normal bodily process. If you’re seeking a more natural, low intervention birth, but aren’t quite comfortable with home birth or don’t have access to a birthing center, there are effective ways to keep birth in a hospital natural, safe and healthy. It will take some effort, planning and perseverance on your part, but the potential payoff is huge!
Inform – Whether you’re planning for your first, second or fifth birth, becoming informed key. What does a healthy birth look like? What are the risks to typical medical birth interventions? How can I give my baby the best start? Learn specific tactics to simplify the birth process and help alleviate fears and manage pain by watching short videos that describe six healthy birth practices: Let labor begin on its own; Walk, move around and change positions throughout labor; Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary; Avoid giving birth on your back and follow your body’s urges to push; Keep mother and baby together – It’s best for mother, baby and breastfeeding.
Investigate – Interview your care provider before you become pregnant or in the early days of pregnancy. Take a hospital tour early in your pregnancy. Research your hospital’s intervention and cesarean rates and research customer feedback. Find a mother-friendly care provider in your area (learn what makes a mother-friendly provider). And remember that it’s never too late to change your care provider or place of birth if you are unhappy.
Educate – Take a childbirth education class from a certified childbirth educator. Sometimes, hospital-based education courses are not taught by certified educators and instead simply prepare you for birth by teaching hospital procedures and guidelines. Seek a certified educator to learn evidence-based education on the healthy and normal process
of birth. (I hear that Lamaze offers excellent childbirth education classes, wink, wink!)
Plan for Support – While labor and delivery nurses can be helpful during birth, they must attend to several mothers during their shift. Further, with the high rate of cesarean section and epidural use in the U.S., many nurses are not accustomed to assisting women through natural birth. Designate a person (or more) to support and advocate for you during labor and birth. This can be your partner or spouse, a dear friend or mother, or consider hiring a birth doula. Whoever you choose, make sure that they know your wishes for birth and are able to provide continuous, positive emotional and physical support.
Remember that birth is a natural, normal process that your body instinctively knows how to do. Become an informed and empowered mom-to-be, surround yourself with positive influences and have confidence in your body’s ability – the rest will fall into place.
Cara Terreri is the site administrator for Lamaze International’s Giving Birth with Confidence—an online community and blog written for and by real women (and men) with a variety of trustworthy, timely and appealing stories, articles and tips related to pregnancy, birth and parenting. The goal is to help women achieve healthy pregnancies and safe, satisfying births by offering a meeting ground to obtain information and support from other women, Lamaze-Certified Childbirth Educators and other knowledgeable experts.