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Can Hospital Birth Be Like Home Birth?

Lately I’ve been talking a lot about home birth.  Yes, my son was born at home.  Yes, I loved the experience.  I loved working with my midwives.

But not every woman has access to home birth, and not every woman feels comfortable with the idea.  Which is completely fine!  We should have the choice where and how we want to birth, and women who don’t feel comfortable at home should not be at home.

Many of these women still desire a natural experience, however.  Which got me to thinking: can hospital birth be like home birth?

Yes.  I believe that it can.

I’ve spoken to a number of women who have had wonderful hospital births.  Their experiences weren’t entirely dependent on their exact location, but on their birth attendants, where they felt comfortable, and the general atmosphere and attitude of their chosen location.  These factors are what really make a birth experience overall positive or negative, regardless of where it takes place.

(And yes…some of the women who had some unexpected complications were still thrilled with their experience, because they felt that things turned out as well as they could, given the circumstances.)

It’s very important to understand that what makes a woman’s birth experience great is that she feels in control of her situation as much as possible.  She needs to make her own choices about where she is, who attends her, and more.  With that said, I want to offer a few suggestions that can help make a woman’s birth wonderful, no matter where she is.

1) Choose your birth attendants carefully

This is your choice to make.  Who should be there?  Do you prefer an OB or a midwife?  Do you want your mother, your sister, your best friend?  Do you want to hire a doula?  Research and think hard about your options.  Choose the people who will work the best with what you want.  This is going to look different for every woman.

2) Choose your location

It is important that you feel comfortable with where you are.  There are three major options: a hospital, a free-standing birthing center, and home.  The place where you feel the most comfortable and relaxed is right for you.  If you are worried and tense and uncertain, you’ll experience more pain and possibly a longer labor.  It doesn’t matter what your best friend or your mom chose; do what is right for you.

3) Ask for positive energy

In the birthing room, it’s important that there’s no negative energy.  And I’m not talking about New Age-y junk, really.  If the people around you are tense and nervous and talking about “If this goes wrong, or that goes wrong,” or are angry about something, things will be harder for you.  The people surrounding you should be supporting you first and foremost.  Anything else should be left outside the room to be handled another time.  You don’t need any extra stress.  Choose your attendants carefully, and warn them that they’ll have to leave if they are stressing you out (and don’t hesitate to kick them out if you need to!).  If something has to be dealt with immediately (like, someone wants to break your water and you don’t want that), have your husband, doula, or other advocate step out of the room with the staff and have that discussion privately.  Your focus should be your birth, not the other problems.

4) Choose your comforts

How do you want to handle the pain in labor?  Do you want to get an epidural?  Do you want a birthing ball, a birthing tub?  Do you want music, candles, essential oils?  Decide what you want to have available to you, so that you can ask for it as needed during labor.  Having the potential comforts that you want around will help to make your birth excellent.

5) Write a solid birth plan

A birth plan is where you share your wants and needs with those around you.  If you are planning to birth in the hospital or a birthing center, you’ll want to formally write one out.  If you’re birthing at home, it may be enough to talk through your wishes (though consider writing a “back up” plan in case of transfer we’ll talk about that later this week).  It’s important to write down who your birth attendants are, what comforts you want, what procedures you will allow and under what circumstances.  If you click the link above, you’ll see a sample template at the end of the article that you can follow.  If you make sure that you have a good birth plan and everyone around you knows what it is (including how you’d like to handle any emergencies), your birth should go more smoothly.

6) Trust the people and the situation

You can only plan so much.  And sometimes things won’t go as planned.  When it comes down to it, you have to trust the decisions that you made.  Know that you have the best people around you, and you are in the right place for you.  Don’t second-guess yourself or wonder “what if.”  (What if something goes wrong and I have to transfer?  What if the nurse tries to take my baby right away instead of handing her to me?)  Just relax and trust that things will go the best that they can.  Focus on your body, your labor, and your soon-to-arrive baby!

If you have done all of these things, it honestly doesn’t matter where you birth.  You can have a wonderful, fulfilling experience.  What matters most in birth truly is that you are happy and trusting of the choices you’ve made and the situation you’re in.  Any birth can be amazing, no matter what.

Did you have the experience you dreamed of?  Why or why not?

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