Natural childbirth is something that I knew I wanted from the moment I first became pregnant. I’m not sure if it was the challenge, the curiosity, or just how nice the word “natural” sounds when you pair it with anything…but I knew it was my preferred path right from the start of my first pregnancy.
I was remarkably naive during my first pregnancy in that I assumed natural childbirth is something that everyone was in favor of. NOT. TRUE.
My first pregnancy resulted in a “required” induction, followed by an epidural (after about 30 hours on Pitocin), followed by the rupturing of my membranes (breaking my water) to speed things along, followed by an “emergency” C-section because I wasn’t progressing fast enough. It was absolute and total hell.
When I became pregnant with baby #2, I knew I wanted to do things differently. I wanted my natural childbirth (now a VBAC, making things even more complicated), but I was super nervous about having a home birth. I did some research, made a plan, and was able to successfully give birth to my second daughter via a 100% unmedicated vagina birth in a hospital.
The big thing to note here is that having a natural childbirth in a hospital wasn’t something that just “happened”. It wasn’t something medical professionals were encouraging me to do. It wasn’t something I lucked into.
If your goal is to have an unmedicated birth in a hospital setting, then these 5 steps will help advocate for, and hopefully achieve the natural childbirth that you’re hoping to have.
How to Have a Natural Birth in a Hospital
Please read about how I’m not a doctor or medical professional here.
1. Research hospitals in your area as soon as possible
If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area where you have access to multiple hospitals, start researching your options as early on in your pregnancy as possible.
Don’t be afraid to contact the hospital directly and ask for statistics.
A hospital is probably a good choice if:
- There is a birthing center on site
- The offer classes on VBACs, breastfeeding, or natural birth
- It’s affiliated with a learning institution (most—but not all—of which are often more open to natural birth, VBACs, etc.)
A red flag when choosing a hospital might be:
- A high number of C-sections performed
- They don’t know (or won’t share) any stats on VBACs or C-sections
- They flat out don’t support VBACs
Why the big focus on VBACs in your questionwhen you’re just trying to have a natural birth? Having a VBAC was once highly discouraged amongst the OBGYN community. As more research becomes available, most doctors and medical centers that are up-to-date with current information will be supportive of something like a VBAC. If they are supportive of VBACs, there’s a better chance that they may also be supportive of something like a natural, unmedicated birth.
2. Pick the right team
Right birthing partner.
Right doctor or midwife. (These 5 questions to ask your OBGYN if you want to have a VBAC are great for those hoping to have a natural birth.)
Right doula, if you’re going that route.
Just make sure every single person on your team is 100% supportive of your plan for natural childbirth.
3. Get in the right mindset
Having a natural birth can get super complicated these days.
A lot of people will throw their opinions at you. A lot of those opinions will be laced with judgement and negativity. Ignore it.
You’ll talk to those who “really wanted a natural birth until they got into labor and then it was all epidural.” Ignore it.
You’ll talk to those who believe “you have absolutely no control over anything that happens when giving birth”. Ignore it.
While you can’t control everything and a lot of times medical situations do arise that prevent natural childbirth from occurring, to say that you have “absolutely no control” is, quite frankly, absolute bullshit in most cases.
If you want a natural birth, make sure you:
- Watch documentaries (The Business of Being Born is a great starting point)
- Join support groups specifically for those who support natural birth
- Take birthing classes that are pro-natural childbirth
4. Ask to have “no epidural!” put as a note in your file
While you can absolutely write out and submit a birth plan to the medical team, there’s a decent chance that no one will actually read or follow it. Birth plans are usually long, and Labor and Delivery staff members are usually busy.
Make sure your birthing partner and doula (if you’re using one) know your plan inside and out so that you have someone who will truly advocate for you when you can’t.
When it comes to hospital staff, be direct and clear. “No Epidural.” “VBAC.” etc.
I did this prior to coming into the hospital in labor, and, as a result, the hospital staff ignored each and every one of my desperate pleas for an epidural when I was in the heart of laboring. Hated them whole-heartedly in the moment; so glad that they ignored me when I popped that baby out and realized that I did it.
5. Don’t go to the hospital too soon
Walking into a hospital immediately increases your chances for medical intervention because, well, that’s pretty much what hospitals specialize in when it comes to childbirth.
You may be offered Pitocin to speed things along. You may be offered an epidural. You may be pressured into a C-section that you don’t actually need. This phenomena is so common in hospital births that the phrase “Cascade of Intervention” has actually been coined to describe it.
The longer you can labor at home on your own, the better your chances of having a natural birth are.
Plus, laboring naturally at home is lightyears more comfortable than laboring in a hospital, where you’re often required to be attached to monitors that limit your mobility.
Once you find a medical professional who is supportive of natural birth, talk to her or him about when you absolutely need to go into the hospital. You should get specific numbers to watch out for (e.g. regular contractions 60 seconds apart for 1 hour that you can barely breathe through).
Bottom Line: It’s totally, 100% possible to have a natural hospital birth, and don’t let anyone convince you that it’s not. While medical situations do arise, and natural childbirth isn’t always possible, setting at a goal of natural childbirth, and taking steps to up your chances of meeting that goal, is not ridiculous. You can do this.