After sharing my home birth story with others, I get mixed responses … One of the most common is that women would have loved to give birth at home, but they wanted the hospital just in case. I totally respect that and understand sentiment. When listening to other’s birth stories (births in the hospital), one common theme is that their wishes weren’t entirely respected, or they felt like they were swept into the system.
One misconception with hospital births is that you’re required to accept all standard procedures. It’s common to receive an IV upon admission, have your baby swept away as soon as they arrive, or have the Hepatitis B vaccine given within the first few days. Of course, things like this could definitely make a women feel like she’s out of control of her birth experience. BUT, did you know that you aren’t required to do any of them? (Unless you want to.) These days, we have options & choices. We have a voice, and we can make hospital birth as beautiful as we want it to be. Here are a few ways to take control of your labor & birth:
- IV: With a normal pregnancy/labor, there is not a need for a routine IV. Having an IV in your arm can make it hard to get comfortable, tricky to move around (for laboring and the bathroom), and impossible to get into a bath for labor. Instead, ask for a Hep-lock. It’s like an IV, but doesn’t have anything attached past the needle. It’s there in case you end up needing fluids, etc., but not used until then. Note: if you’re planning on having an epidural, this will not be an option. You’ll be required to have an IV administered.
- Cervical checks: I’m pretty happy about the fact that I did not have a single pelvic exam or internal exam throughout my labor, or birth. During pregnancy, I did have an exam at 25 weeks when I thought my water was leaking, but that was it. During labor, internal checks can cause infection (and with any sign of a fever, you’ll receive an IV and antibiotics). Your nurse, midwife, or doctor should be able to monitor your labor by your body language. Of course, this only applies if your labor is progressing in a normal manner. If there’s any reason to think your labor has stalled or slowed, you’ll likely receive an internal exam to observe progress.
- Asking about pain: If you’re planning on having an unmedicated birth, you have the right to ask the nursing staff/midwife/doctor to refrain from asking you about your pain. When you’re asked to rate your pain, you’re being forced to acknowledge it. Much about birth is all internal, and the staff asking distracting questions could keep you from your goal.
- Continuous monitoring: You know the doppler that your care provider uses to listen to baby during your pregnancy? Well, they can use that during labor as well. Having monitors strapped to you during labor is restrictive. Also, the heart rate being echoed throughout the room can be a distraction to you. The information is useful to your provider, but doesn’t need to be displayed for you. Hearing that sweet heartbeat intermittently on the doppler is safe and motivating.
- Laying in the bed: There are so many different ways to labor. Laying on your back might feel amazing to you, but it also might be horrible! Talk with your care provider about squatting, learning over the bed, or laboring on all fours (my personal favorite). You are not required to stay in the bed unless you have an epidural.
After the baby is born, don’t forget the most important thing: that baby belongs to you! Unless there’s a reason for intervention, you should get your baby right away. Here are a few other ways to ensure your baby is respected:
- Delayed cord clamping/receiving your baby immediately: These are fairly common practices, but it’s important to ask your care provider about them. For us, it was important that Jimmy catch our baby, and I received her for immediate skin on skin bonding. Unless your baby needs special attention from the medical team, this initial bonding is so important. I’ve been hearing some amazing stories of papas and mamas getting baby immediately after cesarean births!
- Swab & Suck: One big benefit of vaginal birth is that the baby is exposed to the mama’s vaginal flora. While baby’s gut is sterile before birth, the flora from the vagina can help create wonderful cultures in their body. With a cesarean, mama can take a swab of her vagina, rub it on her nipples, and the baby will be introduced to the bacteria (and other good stuff) while breastfeeding.
- Erythromycin in eyes: Not to sound like a broken record, but unless there’s a reason to think your baby is at risk for catching chlamydia or gonorrhea, you don’t need this. It doesn’t hurt the baby (my midwife tried it in her own eyes), but it does blur their vision for up to an hour.
- Vitamin K shot: It was so hard to decide between the vitamin K shot or the oral application. In the end, we chose the shot because it’s more effective (and only one dose). If you’re uneasy about your baby getting an injection, you can opt for the oral method. This vitamin is very important to newborns though!
- Hep B vaccine: This is one thing that I am really advocating for. There is no medical need for a baby to have the Hep B vaccine unless his/her mother is at risk (or infected). Hep B is transmitted through sex and sharing needles (two things your baby is not doing). The vaccine contains a huge amount of aluminum, and can cause problems with the developing brain. More food for thought: children that were tested around 11 years old had little to know protection remaining from their newborn vaccine. The children who were vaccinated later (around 3-6) had a much stronger immunity.
- Newborn bath: As soon as baby is born, some nurses will rush in with blankets to wipe off all of the vernix and birth fluids (I don’t have a better way to say that). They do not have to do this, and if you don’t want anyone touching your baby, speak up. The vernix can be rubbed into baby’s skin for moisture, and the fluid is one more way your animal side with bond with the new baby. There’s no need for a bath after birth either. Do it when you feel ready.
There are so many more ways to make sure you’re in control of your birth. Whether you’re having a home birth, cesarean, hospital birth, epidural, unmedicated, or birth center birth, you have options! Having a rock solid birth plan (we had one for home, transfer, and emergency cesarean) is key. Hiring a doula to be your advocate is a great idea too. Lastly, head to YouTube to watch birth videos of the kind of birth you’re planning for.
My number one wish for women is that they feel empowered by their birth. Even if it’s a bit different than they planned, there’s beauty in it all.