10 Ways to Make Your Hospital Birth Experience More Natural

by Charise Rohm Nulsen

Carnival of Natural Mothering: Natural Birth ChoicesThis article is a part of the Carnival of Natural Mothering hosted by GrowingSlower, Every Breath I Take, I Thought I Knew Mama, African Babies Don’t Cry, and Adventures of Captain Destructo. This month’s topic is Natural Birth Choices. Be sure to check out all of the participants’ posts through the links at the bottom of this page.

Throughout my daily life, I prioritize making choices that help our family live a green and natural lifestyle. Is everything we do completely eco-friendly and natural? No, but we really do try our very best. It was important to me to have as natural of a birth experience as possible when my daughter was born 16 months ago. You can read her VBAC birth story here, but here are ten choices that I made to create the most natural birth experience possible for us even though we were in a hospital setting:

10 Ways to Make Your Hospital Birth Experience More Natural

1. Hire a doula.
No matter how wonderful and supportive your partner is, there is nothing like having the additional support and knowledge of a doula. I feel very blessed to have had Jennifer of Family Strong Birth Services by my side.

2. Say no to the epidural.
I think most women beg for it at some point during labor, but I was so thankful to have made it through without it and to have been able to move around as I needed to.

3. Labor at home for as long as possible.
The longer you can labor at home, the more likely you are to avoid medical interventions.

4. Set the mood in the hospital room.
Have your phone or iPod set with a music playlist that creates the mood that you are looking for. Have your doula and partner pin inspiring pictures and words to the walls around you. Bring healthy snacks and drinks from home to keep up your strength. Say no to the hospital gown and wear something that makes you feel like you rather than just a hospital patient.

5. Make sure that everyone who you come in contact with has access to your birth plan.
At our hospital, the birth plan was scanned into the computer system in advance, so everyone was aware of our preferences.

6. Register to have a midwife attend your delivery.
Most hospitals now give you the option of having a Certified Nurse Midwife attend your birth rather than an OB-GYN. Typically, midwives are more naturally minded and supportive of natural birth choices. Although I had been seeing a practice of midwives before my daughter’s birth, I had never met either of the midwives that attended our birth. I felt so lucky to have them as they were so supportive of VBAC and of all of our natural birth choices – even when they went against hospital policy.

7. Don’t be afraid to voice your needs.
If your choices go against hospital policy, that is okay. You are not at the mercy of the hospital. You are in charge of your own birth experience. You may have to sign paperwork before or after if your choices differ from the hospital’s, but that’s okay. Do what you need to do to make yourself feel at ease.

8. Don’t forget all of the natural choices you have once the baby arrives.
You can breastfeed, co-sleep, delay cord clamping, bathe your baby yourself and/or choose not to have the baby vaccinated, circumcised, bathed immediately, taken away from you, etc. These things are all part of your and your baby’s birth experience, and they are optional – not required.

9. You can leave the hospital when you’re ready.
If all is well with your health and your baby’s health, you do not have to stay in the hospital a certain amount of time. Actually, many insurance plans will send a visiting nurse to your home if you leave early, which was a very nice experience for me.

10. It’s all about your mind set.
There is not one way to give birth. There is not one way to have a natural birth. You have to choose what is right for you. What is most natural for you is not the same for someone else. Trust your instincts, know your options, and stand by your choices!

What natural birth choices did you make or hope to make in the future?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bianca October 1, 2013 at 11:08 am

I chose to birth at a freestanding birth center, and am going to do the same for #2 due in March. It’s not for everyone, but I felt like I was going to be too distracted by ‘managing’ the birthing team at a hospital to make sure they didn’t do something I didn’t want them to or someone try to convince me otherwise. My midwives were always respectful and although they may have offered services that I didn’t take, they didn’t push it.
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2 Andrea October 1, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I hated our hospital experience, but one of my favorite memories of being there is the soft and relaxing music we had playing all throughout labor and recovery. We kept the lights dim, and everyone who came in comment how calm the mood was. :)
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3 Christine @ African Babies Don't Cry October 1, 2013 at 1:13 pm

This is an excellent list Charise! Thank you! :)
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4 Gillian @ The Haas Machine October 1, 2013 at 2:38 pm

This is great! I don’t think that most women realize that they have all of these choices, especially when they give birth in a hospital setting. Thanks for bringing them up!
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5 Kelly October 1, 2013 at 5:07 pm

I’m 40 weeks today, and hoping for a natural med free birth. This list is helpful. Thank you!
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6 Jennifer Hoffman October 1, 2013 at 9:24 pm

What a great list, Charise! I want to hear more about Number 9!? How long did you stay? In hindsight, I really really really wish I would have left sooner (and we were only there for 32 hours post birth – one night). But, that one night did a real number on my at-the-time 3-year-old daughter, and I feel so sad about the feelings she must have been having to be home without us (my mom stayed with her.) I had no idea I could even ask to leave earlier. I thought I busted out of there as soon as I could have. I’ve considered home birth if(hopefully when!) we have a 3rd, just so that our entire family can be together right from the start.

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7 Melissa Ryan October 2, 2013 at 8:30 am

I agree with every single point on your list. I had a hospital birth with my first child and will again this time. I had a great experience even if I didn’t get my full natural delivery like I wanted. I look forward to doing it all again. One thing I would add is to really research your choices of hospitals and try to find one with a low csection rate and one that has a more natural mindset. You know assuming you have options. I think that is what helped me have such a great experience with the hospital. They have birthing tubs, a full staff of midwives, and are very natural birth friendly. Great post.
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8 Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook October 2, 2013 at 11:11 am

This is great advice! I had a midwife-attended hospital birth, and we had to do a lot of resisting hospital policies. I kind of wish we’d stood up for ourselves more on #9. We were ready to go home about 12 hours after the birth, but they had all kinds of hoops for us to jump through and delays because it was a holiday, and then they “made” us stay because our baby was developing jaundice due to my Type O blood. We hadn’t known how likely this was and weren’t informed about jaundice treatment. What we should have done was go home, spend a night in our own bed, then return to the hospital next day (which is when they actually started the treatment, anyway) PREPARED to be with our baby for his 24 hours in the NICU and 24 hours in a regular room. Being a new mom who has been discharged as a patient yourself–so they won’t give you any food, ibuprofen, blankets, etc.–and not even having a change of clothes or anything to read, is a miserable experience!
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9 Krystyna Bowman October 4, 2013 at 1:12 am

Thank you for an action list! These are so helpful to new mamas who can’t even think beyond the “Oh my gosh! This baby is coming out of me one way or another!!” I also appreciate the mention of choices that can be made after birth that honor a natural approach to living and parenting…all those things can serve to bond and start healing if your birth didn’t go as you envisioned.

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10 Jena October 12, 2013 at 10:11 pm

I live in a remote community in BC. Our town has one OB, who only works with high-risk cases, and we have no certified midwives (yet), so most of us use our GPs. I’m not comfortable planning an unassisted home birth, so it’s the hospital for me. They were great when I had my first daughter, and I’m sure they will be again. When I checked in three years ago, the nurse asked if I wanted to talk to the anesthesiologist about an epidural; I asked her not to even mention the word again. They didn’t. I labored mostly on a ball. My doula was fantastic. No IV. Food or drink when I wanted–my doula had brought me a smoothie. I delivered in a standing/squatting position about 5 hours of active labor. Wish all hospitals’ L&D wards were as wonderful as mine.

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11 ExpectingEaster October 13, 2013 at 1:18 am

I was induced, but refused the epidural. Yes, it was excruciating, but I was in control, and no one, not even my husband, had to make decisions for me. It is a far greater liberty to endure pain willingly than to take a chance of being forced under the knife “for your own good”.

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12 Amy October 13, 2013 at 9:11 am

We had a VBAC with our second child and although we didn’t do a lot of the things on this list I think we tried to make *some* natural choices. I pushed for no induction until I hit 42 weeks, and then the options we considered were non-medicated induction methods such as the Foley catheter, membrane sweeps and membrane rupturing. I used the shower, the birthing ball and lots of walking to manage the pain early on, and when things got too intense I chose medications but not an epidural. After our daughter’s birth we roomed in with her, bathed her ourselves, nursed and had lots of skin on skin contact. We asked for any procedures (hearing test, heel pricks, etc.) to be done in the room with us and we left the hospital within 24 hours to recover at home. If I ever have another child I think we’d like to add delayed cord clamping to our list of things to try, and I’d like to practice some hypo-birthing techniques and hire a doula.

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13 Amanda November 3, 2013 at 3:42 pm

I like this list. I would very much like to have a natural hospital birth for my first and fortunately my OB supports this decision.
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