Natural birth in hospitals is rising to be one of the top searches on Google. Why? Because people want to know if it can be done.
I, myself, searched for the same thing when I was pregnant with my daughter. I wanted to know the best tips for natural birth from other moms!
What exercises should I be doing? What do I want in my birth plan? I loved reading positive birth stories and watching videos to see how women birthed peacefully. Water births really intrigued me and I knew positive affirmations were a must. But… how could I get the birth I wanted at the hospital?
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Natural Birth in a Hospital: A Young Mom’s Guide
I sometimes lovingly call myself a hippie-crunchy lady because of my growing obsession with natural living. I’m a cloth diapering, baby wearing, snot sucking, sugar-free kind of mama.
Our birth experience couldn’t be any different!
We started our prenatal care at a wonderful birthing center in the middle of Amish country. I loved the midwives there and really enjoyed their holistic approaches to prenatal care. We later had an insurance change and it became obvious that (for financial reasons) we needed to deliver at the hospital instead.
I was so bummed. I was worried that I would have to fight my way through my pregnancy and then again during delivery to have the natural experience that I wanted. Thankfully, that didn’t end up being the case! I will say that if you aren’t sure of what you want, then you will be pushed into medicinally minded care. I had to stand my ground a few times throughout my pregnancy but during delivery, my choices were respected. I hope this post will help you to have the same experience!
Labor and Delivery: Our Story
I started feeling contractions around 3 AM on Delivery Day. I mostly felt crampy, kind of like my stomach was bothering me. I could sleep but every 20 minutes or so I would wake up again feeling a light cramping sensation. I told hubby to go to work because I knew I could be in early labor for a while. I had a routine OB/GYN appointment scheduled for that morning at 10:30 AM. I went in and told them that I had been contracting since early morning. At that point, I was dilated to about 2CM. My midwife said that I could have our baby that day or, because I was a first-timer, it could be a couple days. Contractions were about 10ish minutes apart then and were still mild, feeling like period cramps.
I went home and straightened up the house a little bit, resting during contractions. I did my hair, then had a snack. By this point, contractions were every 7 minutes so my husband decided to come home from work to be with me. We relaxed on the couch together while I gently labored. I knew that I wanted to get into the tub at the hospital but I didn’t want to go in too early because I was told it could slow labor. We left the house when my contractions were 4-5 minutes apart.
The Baby Is Coming NOW!
When we arrived to the hospital (20 minutes away), my contractions had sped up to being roughly 1 minute apart. At 4:30PM, I was 10CM dilated and I didn’t realize it but I was pushing. Contractions were overwhelming but not scary at all. The word pain doesn’t really properly describe the sensation. Contractions for me felt like immense pressure. My body did just what it needed to and started pushing without me having to even think about it.
40 minutes later, our baby girl was in our arms and I felt wonderful! We enjoyed her first hour of life skin to skin with me…which she found to be the perfect opportunity to poop on me. What beautiful memories we have of our first delivery!
How To Have A Natural Hospital Birth
I am in no way a medical professional; the advice on this blog is to be viewed as opinion only and NOT to be used in place of a medical professional. Please – consult your medical provider for any and all health needs or questions.
How Do You Deal With Labor Pains Without Medication?
Prepare Your Mind For Natural Birth
If you don’t decide that you want a natural birth no matter what, then you won’t have a natural birth. In the end, it doesn’t matter if you deliver in your car, at home, in water, at a birthing center or at a hospital- if you aren’t in it mentally, then you won’t have an enjoyable natural birth.
When you think about labor, mentally decide that it won’t be a big deal. Remember that you were created to do this! Things can go crazy (and against plan) but even still, your mindset can make or break your enjoyment of the experience.
1. Think Better About Natural Birth
Negative thinking changes the physical chemistry of our brains. The more you have a negative thought, the more you will be able to have more negative thoughts. But, guess what? The same goes for positive thoughts! The Science of Apes has the best article I have ever read on The Science of Happiness. Steven Parton lays out the importance of thinking positively and the effects of negative thinking in a relatable and simple way.
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2 abbreviated) Scripture memorization and filling your mind with positive affirmations are two great ways to ulitilize positive thinking.
Here are some of my favorites to get you started:
Isaiah 40:28-31, Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not be faint. (ESV)
Psalm 23:1-3, The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. (NLT)
My baby is the perfect size for my body.
My body knows how to birth my baby. Relax and release.
My body and baby are safe and strong.
2. Think Better About Pain
One of my midwives once explained to me why women have such a hard time sticking to their wishes of having a natural birth. She told me that when we’re in the pain, we can’t see out of it and therefore panic. “Most moms just tap out and start calling out for the epidural. If natural birth is your thing, then you shouldn’t even think of epidural as an option.” (Paraphrased) “You can’t die from pain alone. You can die from complications that are accompanied by pain but you cannot die from just pain. Women deliver all the time without any pain medication and they make it out alive”, is what she told me.
Replace ‘I’ll try to birth without pain medication’ to ‘I will birth without pain medication’.
HypnoBirthing is an excellent program to help you have better thoughts about birth. It utilizes breathing, visualizations and positive affirmations to cope with the pain and fear of childbirth. You can read more about HypnoBirthing in my article, “What Is A Doula? And Other FAQ’s Of Natural Birth“.
Know your why and make sure that your spouse (or birth coach) is on board. Natural birth is a choice, be sure that you are choosing it. Don’t muscle your way into it because that’s what you think you should do.
3. Educate Yourself About Natural Birth
For me, knowledge of what was to come really did ease my mind. Start watching peaceful natural labors to see how uneventful (for lack of better words) and good labor can be. Fill your mind with positive thoughts about your labor and baby.
Watch empowering videos of women giving birth. Take note of their serenity.
Not sure that childbirth classes are necessary? Check out this post now.
Using Essential Oils During Labor
Unfortunately, I never had the chance to diffuse essential oils before my daughter was born. (Hint: read my birth story above) I can attest to the power of essential oils during the fourth trimester (postpartum) and when applied topically. Essential oils helped balance my emotions during the newborn phase. I found instant mood support with essential oil use!
Always use caution and talk to a trusted medical professional before using essential oils. I have more information about using essential oils for pain relief during pregnancy in my post, “8 Tips to Relieve Pain in Pregnancy.”
Diffuse peppermint for increased focus and boosted energy.
Diffuse lavender to help promote relaxation.
Apply lavender (diluted with a carrier oil) on the skin to assist in healing.
Apply clary sage for more efficient and productive contractions.
You can read more about the oils listed above (how to use them and where to buy them affordably) on this post.
Diffuse uplifting oils for energy and emotional wellness. My favorites are:
Joy Young Living (YL) Blend: a floral, feminine blend to uplift mood. Joy is inspiring and cultivates feelings of warmth and togetherness. It also smells simply AMAZING!
Stress Away YL Blend: relaxes mind, body, and environment. It has a warm vanilla citrusy scent. This blend features lavender, cedarwood, and copaiba for pain relief and feelings of wellbeing.
Valor YL Blend: gives courage and energy. I diffused Valor constantly when my daughter was born and I believe it is the reason I coped so well with the newborn phase. Valor has a strong earthy floral scent
Prepare Physically As Much As You Can
People often refer to childbirth as a marathon, which I do agree with, but I think of it more as a triathlon. Pregnancy is long and grueling, then once you’re good and tired, you get to endure through labor and delivery. My biggest question during pregnancy was how was I supposed to get ready for delivery when I couldn’t even get around? I couldn’t walk a full mile yet blogger after blogger said to walk 2-3 miles a day to prepare physically. What?!
Due to my physical limitations, I had to learn other ways to prepare my body for birth. Eating balanced meals, frequent chiropractic adjustments, gentle low-impact exercise, and a special tea made the difference for me!
Drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Red raspberry leaves (RRL) are a powerful herb for women’s health. RRL improves PMS symptoms, strengthens uterine walls, decreases labor time and reduces the need for medical interventions. (Source)
How? The fragarine compound in RRL has been found to tone and tighten muscles in the pelvic area, specifically your uterus. RRL helps your body to have more productive contractions and can decrease bleeding after birth. (Studies A and B)
As you read in my birth story above, I had a very short labor (20 minutes of active pushing) and I believe that my intake of RRL tea helped tremendously. I used Mommypotamus’s recipe for a prenatal herbal tea that features red raspberry leaves.
Studies have shown that eating 6 dates per day for the last 4 weeks of pregnancy (starting at 36 weeks) can:
reduce the need for medical induction
decrease afterbirth bleeding
soften the cervix
can possibly shorten labor
My midwife was amazed at my rapid progress through early labor when I was checked at my routine prenatal appointment the morning of delivery.
Try to get movement in daily. Find what feels best for you. Exercise, especially towards the end of pregnancy, becomes challenging and tiring. Some forms of exercise might feel downright impossible! I had trouble walking because of debilitating SPD but I did at least some intentional movement every day. Here are some gentle exercise ideas that work really well for pregnant mamas:
MommaStrong: daily gentle low-impact exercise designed for moms. MommaStrong has been the most life-changing exercise that I have ever found. I love it because it is sustainable- even while pregnant, and even with a newborn! I wrote more about MommaStrong in my post, “8 Tips to Relieve Pain in Pregnancy.”
Favorite Free Videos For Prenatal Movement
For stretching: this video is my favorite. I did this video almost daily during my pregnancy!
Exercising and stretching with an exercise ball: I used this video alongside the stretching video referenced previously. If I was experiencing more hip pain on a particular day, then I would do exercise with the ball.
Walking is a very gentle exercise that is easy for most pregnant women. The best thing about walking is that it is one of the best ways to naturally prep your body for labor.
Here are some reasons that you should be walking to prepare your body for labor.
It is a total body exercise. Walking is great for your heart and overall body muscle toning.
Walking lowers the risk of pre-eclampsia. Basically, walking helps maintain a steady weight, maintaining a healthy weight lowers cholesterol, leading to lower blood pressure and ultimately lowering your risk. (Source)
It will release endorphins – nature’s feel-good chemical. Walking can help balance mood and release stress.
Walking tones the hip muscles and allows for better flexibility which can lead to a faster and easier labor!
Walking will reduce the chances of developing morning sickness, fatigue, cramps, constipation, varicose veins and being sleeplessness especially at nights. Exercising on a regular basis induces sleep and walking every day will help burn off excess energy, therefore promoting sound sleep.
Pregnancy, labor and delivery is like a triathlon because it is a back-to-back sequence of 3 different types of physical exertion. I imagine that you wouldn’t find an athlete that is training for a triathlon eating like some pregnant women do. (You can’t see me but I am shaking my head.) If you’re wanting to prepare for a natural birth, then eat in a way that nourishes your body.
Fuel your body appropriately for the occasion. Your body is working hard to make a baby so give it the food it needs to thrive. Get your healthy on, girl!
Your body needs carbohydrates, fats, and protein in EVERY meal or snack.
Leftover chicken nuggets, 3 grapes and the crust off of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from your child’s plate is NOT a balanced meal.
A single serve Greek yogurt is NOT a sustaining snack. You need more protein!
Eating an apple for a snack seems healthy but it is NOT enough to be a snack on its own.
Let me say it louder for the people in the back- EVERY MEAL OR SNACK NEEDS PROTEIN!
My Favorite Pregnancy Meals and Snacks
Apple with two cheese sticks
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on sprouted bread with a glass of milk
Trim Healthy Mama (THM) is an eating plan that is focused on balance. It is primarily shared on the basis of weight loss but it is an excellent way of eating for pregnant and nursing mamas.
God gave us so many things to eat! The two sisters who wrote the plan realized that most diets are doing it wrong by cutting out this and that. God gave us food to enjoy it and He celebrates fine dining. Grains, fats, meat- He gave all of it to us to delight in.
Trim Healthy Mama has changed thousands of women’s lives through a sustainable way of eating for the whole family- including mine. I have found food freedom through THM! My blood sugar is finally under control and I understand why I should eat healthier things. I am more in tune with what my body needs because of the THM way of eating.
Basics of Trim Healthy Mama
For weight loss: separate fats and carbs in each meal/snack. Anchor your meal with protein!
Avoid sugar, what good is it doing you anyways? Enjoy sweet treats that are sweetened with stevia.
Avoid white (processed) foods, white bread and flour only spike your blood sugar then leave you with a sugar crash later.
How Can I Make Sure That I Have a Natural Birth?
Honestly, the mindset behind this question is all wrong. Ultimately what will happen during birth, will happen. Yes, have a plan and take the proper steps to have a natural birth. But no, all the preparation in the world can’t change emergency situations or unexpected medical necessities.
Rule #1 of natural birth is to be open and flexible. There are countless birth affirmations referring to relaxing and releasing your body. Relax and release your birth plan as well. Stand up for what you desire for your birth, but have open hands to receive necessary medical intervention.
Labor At Home As Long As You Can
As you read in our birth story above, some (my husband included) could even say that we stayed at home too long but that is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to enjoy the comfort of home while I labored. The benefits of staying home, for me, were obvious!
I am comfortable at home. I can wear, or not wear, whatever I want.
Movement isn’t limited. I could eat and drink, whenever and whatever, I wanted.
I could focus and feel safe subconsciously. There are studies that women have better, more efficient labors when they can switch over mentally to their primal instincts. Dimly lit, quiet, uninterrupted and serene environments are optimal for laboring mothers.
Interventions and pain medication aren’t even possible at home. If you don’t want medical interventions, stay home!
As my triage nurse looked over my birth plan, she laughed. “Well, you didn’t even give us the opportunity to have to do any of this.” (Paraphrased) We got to the hospital so late in the game that there wasn’t time for epidural, pitocin, breaking waters manually, etc.
Get to Know Your Hospital’s Policies
Fortunately, natural birth is becoming more readily accepted in hospitals. Even still, I was concerned that I was going to have to fight to have my birth naturally. Fortunetely, our hospital is a Baby Friendly Destination. All that means is that our hospital follows the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. Our hospital has all babies room in with their mothers, all staff offer breastfeeding help and encourage skin to skin contact with your newborn. Go on a tour and find out how your hospital does things.
1. Be sure to ask what they provide for new mothers.
Will they give you diapers for baby? A perineal spray bottle? Tucks pads? Nursing pads?
Can you take home extra diapers? Any free lactation services while you’re in hospital?
Our hospital even offers free massage for new mamas. Heaven on earth!
2. What can you bring with you?
Can you use an essential oil diffuser?
Can you wear personal clothes during labor?
Do you need to bring your own labor ball?
What about music? Handheld speakers?
3. Ask about the hospital’s policies on specifics in your birth plan.
If you want to decline immunizations, will you have to sign a refusal form?
Do they require induction after a specific amount of hours of labor? What about if you’re “overdue”?
If you want to avoid cesarean, what is their c-section rate? What qualifies for an emergency c-section?
Birth It Up!, Mommy Labor Nurse’s course, states that writing a birth plan isn’t totally necessary… with one reason. Your medical provider should already know your birth wishes because you have talked about your birth plan beforehand.
The course walks you through making educated birth choices ahead of time – and how to talk about your birth plan with your healthcare provider.
Write an in-depth birth plan to help you process and think through what is important for you. I used Earth Mama’s birth plan template for this step.
Bring your detailed birth plan to a prenatal appointment and talk through it with your OB/GYN or midwife. Make sure that you are on the same page and that you are supported!
As much as they want to hold your hand and dote on you during labor, your nurses simply don’t have time to read a huge birth plan.
Create a bullet point, super simple birth plan for labor day to give to nurses.
Write what you want, what you do not want, and important medical information (mother’s name and date of birth, birth coach or partner’s name).
Hire A Doula
A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible. (Source)
Doulas give amazing support to laboring mothers, as well as birth partners. They advocate for you and your family’s wishes during childbirth.
Doulas can help you work through birth related fears, birth location options, the best birthing class to attend, and more.
If you’re unsure of how you will be able to achieve a natural birth in a hospital, hire a doula! She will help you achieve the best birth possible, no matter what that looks like for you.
The Last Thing You Need to Know About Natural Birth In A Hospital
You may still be asking yourself, why do people choose natural birth? Is natural birth better? I think the answers to these questions are different for each person. Possibly even for each birth!
I chose natural birth because I wanted to experience the fullness of birth without medication. After researching, we chose to not receive any medication or medical intervention (unless truly necessary) for our birth.
I think the benefits of natural birth far outweigh medicated births. In the end, you need to make that decision for your family and I totally respect that!