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Can Hospital Birth Be Like Home Birth?

By KateTietje |

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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About KateTietje



Kate Tietje is a food blogger who focuses on natural food and cooking. In addition to Modern Alternative Mama, she has contributed her writing to the Parenting and Pregnancy channels on Babble.

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0 thoughts on “Can Hospital Birth Be Like Home Birth?

  1. Taylor says:

    Thank you! There are so many levels of bullying in the online community and I have felt the sting of harsh words from passionate home-birthing advocates regarding my decision to birth in a hospital despite being low-risk. I researched and fully considered all the options and ultimately a hospital is where I’m most comfortable and makes the most financial sense. I have had one positive, natural birth experience in a hospital and I am confident that by taking the steps above and knowing my rights and options, I can do it again.

  2. melissa says:

    I would love to have options where I am now. I had four children with midwives in a small birthing center, with my huasband and mom/doula with me for support. But I have since moved to a different province, and discovered that not only are there no birthing centers besides the large hospital 45 minutes away, there are also no midwives allowed to practice within our county, which I would have to drive over an hour to get out of. As I look at the possibility of giving birth in a sterile, interventionist hospital, packing up and moving back to my old province for three weeks around the expected time of birth sounds more and more appealing!

  3. Jen says:

    Good article and I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, but with one caveat. I think some women expect to be able to have a natural/normal birth in a hospital, but underestimate the ways in which the odds can be stacked against them. For example, during prenatal care, so many OBs will nominally support a woman’s desire to have an unmedicated birth, but not actually do anything to facilitate that. They might start pushing elective inductions at 39 weeks. They might use Pitocin routinely in most births. They might require continuous fetal monitoring — it’s practically impossible to deal with labor pains when you’re strapped down on the bed.
    My number one recommendation would be to choose a hospital based midwife. If you are birthing in a hospital with an OB and you’re hoping for a normal birth, you need to choose that doctor and that hospital very, very carefully. Really educate yourself and find out what the policies are. Do they permit waterbirths? IMO, waterbirthing is hands down the best natural pain relief, but so few hospitals allow them. Do they require continuous fetal monitoring? Do they allow or encourage doulas? You can get a tremendous amount of information just by asking your OB one question: “what do you think of doulas?” An OB who is truly supportive of natural birthing will be supportive of doulas.
    I do think it’s possible to have a good hospital birth, but the fact of the matter is that most hospitals and most OBs have a system of policies and practices in place that makes it really difficult to achieve that normal birth. In most cases, if you buy the hospital ticket, you take the hospital ride.

  4. Sarah says:

    I love my doctor and I’m very glad to have her. Even though things are limited for my choices she still listens to me and understands and makes me feel very comfortable that she respects the decisions I have made. Yes, she asked me about being induced at 39 weeks, but I jumped at the opportunity. My first pregnancy ended with a stillbirth because the ER docs didn’t listen to me throwing me into the high-risk category. The idea of being 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant ever again terrifies me and getting through this pregnancy is all that matters. My choices now are very different from what they were before I was ever pregnant and while my idea of having a nice calm, natural home birth will probably never happen I’m okay with that as long as this little girl comes home in a car seat.

  5. Mandy says:

    As a labor and delivery nurse, I feel very strongly about women having choices for their birth experiences. In a hospital setting, the OB, MD, or certified nurse midwife writes orders for the labor/delivery/postpartum process, but the nurses have a lot of flexibility within those orders.

    If you are interested in a delivery with as little intervention as possible in a hospital, I would encourage you to request a nurse who is comfortable with low intervention and intermittent monitoring. Nurses have personalities just like the rest of us, and some are more suited to a low-stress, non-medicated, natural experience, while others enjoy higher risk micromanagement of labor.

    Another thing that is not widely communicated to laboring women in hospitals is that a patient can refuse anything. If you don’t want pitocin, you can say no. If you don’t want your water broken, you can say no. If you want to stay in the tub longer than your nurse recommends, you can! You’ll want to communicate these wishes as early as possible in your labor process, so your medical care team can plan alternatives to make your delivery as safe as possible. Although hospitals often have a bad rap for overdoing things, there are very few providers who don’t simply want you to have the best experience possible.

    Lastly, trusting your maternal instincts and having your perfect birth are important, but having a healthy baby is always the more important consideration. Be willing to be flexible!

  6. Rachel C says:

    i did not have the birthing experience i wanted. i live in southern mississippi and was told that i could not have a home birth because they’re illegal here. but in my 6th or 7th month i was just barely showing and not gaining very much weight so my ob-gyn said a hospital birth would be best for my babys safety. i wasn’t even allowed a water birth. i think i’ll go to a different hospital next time.

  7. sediim says:

    @ jen – that’s purely anecdotal. while many women have dealt with obs or hospitals like the ones you’re describing, many women also have absolutely wonderful, natural births in hospitals. it’s done more often than you apparently think. and many of the women who are “strapped to the bed” do it willingly, either because they WANTED an epidural or because the continuous fetal monitoring was medically indicated. there’s no evidence that every hospital or ob “treats” their clients in this manner. and while my story is purely anecdotal as well, i had an absolutely fabulous natural delivery with my almost 10 pound son. and i was fully supported by a fantastic group of obs and nurses!!

  8. Angela says:

    I’m an Assistant to a homebirth Midwife, a CPM. She, and a bunch of others I deal with now and in the past would echo what Jen said. Statistically, doctors and hospitals just do some things, which snowball to other things. I have had a typical experience of most homebirthers, they have a lousy or miserable hospital birth, and go on to h ave a wonderful or at least much better homebirth. You cannot truely compare the two unless you have had both. I know of no one who has gone from home birthing to wilfully hospital birthing. . .that alone says lots!

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