Two days ago I attended a birth in a hospital. The mother was committed to going without pain medication, as she had been given an epidural in her previous and first birth due to abnormally and dangerously high blood pressure. She chose to birth in a hospital this time because she was transferred from a freestanding birth center previously and felt if there was a chance of being transferred this time, she may as well birth at a hospital. She achieved her goal of birth without pain medication, despite being induced with Pitocin, having an IV, and nearly continuous electronic fetal monitoring.
Some of the highlights of her labor experience were:
Staying active, either by walking, rocking, or using the birth ball
Utilizing a soothing, hot shower for pain relief
Assuming positions to ease the pain sensations as well as optimize fetal positioning
Massage and double hip squeeze
Emotional support and encouragement from her husband and myself
Believing in her ability to birth without pain medication — even when labor became intense
Exercising her voice, by vocalizing with contractions and by communicating with her support and medical team
Having the Pitocin turned completely off once her own oxytocin took over
Many natural birth advocates will tell you how hard it is to labor in a hospital, particularly with any sort of intervention. Especially with Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin. How then, did this mother accomplish her goal of minimizing interventions, not allowing these to spiral into an experience she was unhappy with?
Choosing a provider wisely. A compassionate and open-minded OB/GYN was chosen and communicated with.
Choosing the right support people. For this mom, her husband and a doula were key for her experience.
Asserting the need for informed consent and the right to deny or accept certain interventions.
Belief in the body’s ability to birth without a pain medication.
Being brave enough to ask for additional help and encouragement, especially during transition.
Instinctually following body cues to move, vocalize, grunt, rock, squat, and more.
As a doula, I do not judge where a woman chooses to give birth. While it can be harder to birth naturally, without intervention, or pain medication free in a hospital, it is not impossible. I have witnessed many women give birth the way they wanted to in a hospital. Finding the right provider is essential; selecting the proper support people invaluable.
Wherever you choose to give birth, believe in your ability to birth the way nature intended. Communicate honestly and firmly with your provider. Make informed choices about any sort of intervention, whether it is during pregnancy, labor, birth, postpartum and whether your birth place is a hospital, a free standing birth center, or at home. Trust your instincts!