I just finished reading “Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds” and I loved it! It’s written by medical anthropologist and doula, Cynthia Gabriel and it’s solidly helpful for women hoping for this kind of birth.
Home birth is not for everyone for a whole host of reasons, but some women feel they’d like to have something close to it in a hospital setting. And for those women there are strategies. This book is dedicated to that concept.
Here are seven really smart tips I got from the book:
1. Plan it. Absolutely have a dream birth and write it all out if you want to. While so many well-meaning friends, docs, and childbirth educators tell women to “stay open” she says there’s still a place for being very clear about what you want.”To the call for flexibility I say, ‘Let the hospital be flexible!'” Her most important advice: “Make a birth plan, and get attached to it!” She says you don’t have to hand this long document over to everyone you encounter– the headlines will suffice– but for your own process, writing it down can help you.
2. Get a great birth team together. Think about who will be with you to support you in labor. You really want to have a midwife or doctor who supports your wishes. This might mean you need to switch care providers mid-pregnancy (don’t worry, they’ll have plenty of other patients), hiring a labor support doula and taking a childbirth class “Taking charge of creating a positive birth team is a vital step in preparation for a natural birth.”
3. Learn about what happens in labor and what it feels like. Her sections on this topic are outstanding. She describes different kinds of labor but throws in amazingly accurate descriptions of what a woman looks like and acts like (for the partners) and feels like (for the moms who’ve never given birth before). She writes about particularly challenging moments: the car to the hospital, triage, mid-active labor (at around 5-6 centimeters dilation) and transition.
4. Learn lots of coping strategies. Investigate all the ways you can cope without pain medication and practice a bunch of them with a partner beforehand. Gabriel gives a list of ways to help cope (she is a very big fan of getting in the water– a tub or shower) but also describes in detail how these things play out and help at various stages.
5. Wait an hour. When a medication or a medical procedure is proposed ask, “what if we wait an hour?” How this is answered will give you a lot of information. Sometimes you say, “What if we wait an hour” and the doctor says, “Oh, OK.” Now you know this is not an emergency but a suggestion.
6. Stay home in early labor. And while you’re at it? Ignore it! Ignore it until you can’t ignore it anymore.
7. Eat, cry or move. Often if a woman reaches a plateau in labor and it seems to slow down– often eating (for energy), crying (to release stress) or moving (to enable better positioning for the opening of pelvis/descent of baby and/or reducing pain) will likely help!
Gabriel also offers so much great, easy-to-follow advice for partners I can’t sum it up in a bullet point. But I will say, if you’re hoping for a non-medical birth in a medical setting, this book has a ton of good advice and info you can use.