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Natural Birth in a Hospital: A Guide to Getting the Birth You Want

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Inside: Are you planning a natural birth in a hospital, but you’re secretly wondering if it’s even possible? I’m here to tell you that YES, it is possible because I’ve done it. Here’s everything I did to prepare, both mentally and physically, along with my own natural, hospital birth story.

Natural birth in a hospital is becoming one of the top searches on Google. Why? Because women want to know if it can be done.

After life (a.k.a.: money and insurance) made my dream of having a natural birth at home or in a birthing center financially unfeasible, I started searching for the same thing.

Surely my dream didn’t have to die completely, right? I could still have the natural birth I wanted in a hospital…right?

The more I searched, the more I found natural birth tips from other moms. I learned what exercises I could do to prepare for labor, and how to write the best birth plan for my new scenario.

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 I still kept coming back to the nagging thought, “How could I possibly get the birth I wanted at the hospital?

Related: The Pros and Cons of Birthing Centers – And Why I Ultimately Chose a Hospital Birth

mom trying to have natural birth in hospital, sitting on birthing ball with husband and nurse, doctors examining charts

Natural Birth in a Hospital Wasn’t My First Choice

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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. And I was more than a little worried that I would have to fight my way through my pregnancy and then again during delivery to have the natural birth 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 positive experience with having a natural birth in a hospital that I did.

labor and delivery nurse helping mom through natural birth by rubbing back

My Natural Birth in a Hospital Story (I Did It!)

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.

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 felt like immense pressure.

My body did just what it needed to and started pushing without me having to even think about it.

Forty 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!

9 Tips for Having a Natural Birth in a Hospital

So you’ve read my birth story. You know from the mouth of an actual mom who has done it that it’s possible to have a natural birth in a hospital.

But I did A LOT of work beforehand – both mentally and physically – to make it happen.

Here’s everything I did to prepare for my natural hospital birth.

1. Write a birth plan.

Birth It Up!, Mommy Labor Nurse’s course, states that writing a birth plan isn’t totally necessary but only because your medical provider should already know your birth wishes because you have talked about your birth plan beforehand.

I disagree because for whatever reason, your provider may not be the one delivering your baby. Life happens – you get to the hospital late or early, or your provider has another birth at the same time.

Whatever the reason, a birth plan is essential for a natural birth in a hospital. Bring copies for nurses and other staff (but see the note at the end of this section)!

Writing an in-depth birth plan can help you process and think through what is important for you during your birth. I personally used Earth Mama’s birth plan template for this step.

Even though your provider may not deliver your baby, you should still 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 feel supported!

Finally, as much as they want to hold your hand and dote on you during labor, your nurses simply do NOT have time to read a huge birth plan. You need to take your in-depth birth plan and create a super simple, bullet point birth plan for labor day to give to nurses, including what you want and what you do not want.

2. 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. Fortunately, 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, especially asking about the following:

  • What do they provide for new mothers?
  • What can you bring in with you? What can you wear/do during labor?
  • Can the hospital accommodate your specific birth plan?

Don’t be afraid to ask so many questions, people look at you sideways. In order to prepare, you need information, and the only way to get that information is to ask questions.

If you know moms who birthed at that hospital, be sure to ask them about their experiences, too. Sometimes what hospital say and what they do are two very different things.

3. 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, which can be SO incredibly important if you’re aiming for a natural birth in a hospital.

As I mentioned earlier, it can be easy to waver and choose some kind of intervention in a hospital setting where medical interventions are the norm. A doula can help you stick to your birth plan and firmly remind doctors that no, you do not want pain medication or an epidural.

They 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.

4. Change the way you think about natural birth in general.

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.

If you’re a Christian, you might be thinking this whole affirmation thing is whacked. Well, not according to the Bible.

Romans 12:2 says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Scripture memorization and filling your mind with positive affirmations are two great ways to ulitilize positive thinking.

You can use affirmations to literally change the way you think. Here are a few to get you started:

  • My baby is the perfect size for my body.
  • My body knows how to birth my baby. I can relax and release.
  • My body and baby are safe and strong.

Related: How to Mentally Prepare for Labor When You’re Planning a Natural Birth

5. Change how you think 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 our way out of it, and therefore panic.

Here’s a paraphrased version of what she told me:

“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. 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.”

Again, changing your thoughts is key. Instead of saying to yourself, “I’ll try to birth without pain medication”, say instead “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.

Finally, 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 natural birth because that’s what you think you should do.

6. 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.

Read successful birth stories. Join natural birth Facebook groups!

Here are a few free videos that can be helpful.

Even after watching all of these free videos, I still found that a natural childbirth class was a phenomenal investment. Birth It Up! is the one I took and highly recommend.

Check out the affordable natural birth course I adore HERE. Worth every penny!

7. Labor at home as long as possible.

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! Here are a few of them…

  • You’re more comfortable at home. You can wear, or not wear, whatever you want.
  • Your movement isn’t limited.
  • You can eat and drink, whenever and whatever, you want.
  • You can 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 long as possible.

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.”

We got to the hospital so late in the game that there wasn’t time for epidural, pitocin, breaking waters manually, etc.

8. Use essential oils during labor.

Unfortunately, I never had the chance to diffuse essential oils before my daughter was born. You read my birth story above, right?

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!

Diffused peppermint and lavender, along with topically applied lavender and clary sage, were the most helpful oils for me personally.

Always use caution and talk to a trusted medical professional before using essential oils.

9. Prepare physically for labor 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!

You can learn more about natural ways to prepare your body for labor HERE.

But How Can I Be Sure That I Will Have a Successful 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.

Stand up for what you desire for your birth, but have open hands to receive necessary medical intervention.

That’s one reason to have a natural birth in a hospital, right? Because intervention is there if you need it.

There are countless birth affirmations referring to relaxing and releasing your body. My top recommendation is to relax and release your birth plan as well.

close up of mom's hand holding newborn baby's hand in hospital bed after successful natural birth

Remember That Natural Birth Isn’t the Ultimate Goal: Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby Is

You may still be asking yourself, why the heck do women choose natural birth? Is natural birth really 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, but in the end, you need to make that decision for you.

Natural birth isn’t superior, so please don’t feel less than or weak if you decide to go with an epidural. This is merely one choice among many for pregnant mamas.

Ultimately, a birth where both mom and baby end up safe, healthy and happy is the best birth. And that, my friend is what I’m wishing for you!

Related: 17 Healthy Snacks for Your Hospital Bag (from labor and recovery)

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