Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Natural Birth in a Hospital

Several people have asked if having a birth plan in a hospital is even worth the trouble.  I would like to answer this with a yes and a no.

Most doctors roll their eyes when you bring in a birth plan.  You become "one of those people".  They will usually look at your birth plan and tell you all the ways that it is impossible, but will encourage you to "try" anyways.  Now, I'm not saying that every doctor will do this, but the vast majority will.

The things I learned when I had my daughter at a hospital (8 years ago) was that in addition to a birth plan, you have to have knowledge of what you want and how to get there.  For instance, if you want a natural birth, you need to start (sooner than 9 months pregnant) practicing whatever technique you wish to employ to attain your natural birth goal.

But, the first thing is the birth plan.  Write one.  Take your time.  There are tons of sample birth plans online.  Read as many as you can and then alter them to make them fit your goals (the link above has an interactive birth plan that can help you).  Even if your doctor doesn't give your birth plan a lot of weight, it will help clarify what you do or do not want/expect during your own birth/labor.

Visit the hospital and view their labor and delivery rooms.  Be sure to ask them if all the rooms are just like what you are being shown or if this is the "sample" room.  I made this mistake and when I went on a tour of the hospital that my daughter was born at, the room looked big and perfect for what I'd need.  When I actually got induced and got stuck in a room, it was about 1/3 the size of the room I was shown and had hardly any room to move around.  It was miserable.  So, clarify the actual size of the birth rooms.  Remember, when you are giving natural birth you are going to want room to walk around, use a birthing ball, etc.

Talk to whomever is going to be your support during birth.  Make sure you are both on the same page.  It does no one any good if your support does not understand what you are wanting during labor/delivery.  Believe me when I say that by the time you hit transition, you are not going to be as aware of your surroundings to be making many decisions.  There are some great books for birth partners to read to help them understand the process a woman's body is going through:
  1. Husband-coached Childbirth by Dr. Robert Bradley
  2. Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon-Rosegg
  3. Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England and Rob Horowitz 
  4. Having a Baby Naturally by Peggy O'Mara  
It is so important to spend time reading up on pregnancy and labor.  Get to know your body.  Pay attention to all of the little changes that are happening.  So many women go through their entire pregnancies without much thought about the changes that their bodies are going through.  They are not aware of the stages of labor and are completely caught "off guard".  You do not have to have a painful labor, but you have to prepare.  The only way to really prepare is to read, read, read, and ask tons of questions.  Pregnancy is not a spectator sport!  ;)

Get to know your doctor.  Ask as many questions as you can.  Find out what his/her c-section rate is.  Find out when they decide to move on to a c-section.  Do they deliver breech babies?  Will you be allowed to use a bathtub for part of your labor or a shower?  Will you be able to push in whatever position feels best for you?  Write your questions down and ask them all.  As you are going through the answers to your questions, start writing your birth plan remembering that the doctor is supposed to be there to guide you along in your birth, not to take full control of it (unless something goes wrong).

Find out what birth method suits you the most (Lamaze, Bradley, Hypnobirthing, Hypnobabies, etc) and start practicing it as soon as possible.  You cannot "master" these just within 6-8 weeks.  Take the courses and spend more time rehearsing.  As you get closer and closer to labor, you'll be utilizing the techniques you learned more often, but don't just go to the class and then forget about it until you go into labor.  Practice makes improvement and the more you practice, the more prepared you will feel.

A natural birth is possible in the hospital, but you have to do your research.  You have to prepare.  Make sure you have people around you who will support your ultimate goal, even if the hospital staff does not.

I do want to add that when you go to check in at the hospital, you should read the admission consent forms thoroughly.  Most of them will give "blanket" consent for everything the hospital staff deems appropriate--no matter what your birth plan says.  So, read that consent form before signing it and make sure that you are not signing off on ignoring your birth plan.  Most hospitals will allow "pre-registration" and send you the paperwork in advance of admission.

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