Is Natural Birth in the Hospital Really Possible?

birth_photoI read a book recently specifically directed to women who want a natural birth, but for whatever reason, don’t want (or can’t have) a home birth.

There is this fallacy out there that to have a natural birth you must be outside of the hospital.

I hate this, and not just because my first birth (and first natural birth) was in a wonderful hospital. I dislike this idea because all by itself it discourages women from even trying to have the birth they want because they are birthing in the hospital.

Truth: You can have a great birth anywhere. Yes, even in many hospitals.

Lauren Rauseo recently wrote a book on just this subject: Natural Birth for the Mainstream Mama. Easy to read and both humorous and practical, it is a great guide to getting the birth you want in the place you want to have it.

Here are some more tips from the author herself:

Sarah: Welcome to Mothering and congratulations on your book! First, I would love for you to tell us why you decided to undertake something this big. Did you see a need and decide to fill it?

Lauren: When I was pregnant with my first baby in 2009, I wanted to have a natural birth in the hospital. In preparation, I read many books and articles about natural birth, but most of them were targeted to women having a home birth. It seemed that I would be up against many obstacles having a natural birth in the hospital. Ultimately, I had a wonderful hospital birth, even with some unforeseen circumstances. After I had my baby, friends and acquaintances started reaching out to me for advice about having a natural birth in the hospital, and I talked to each of them on the phone for hours. I thought to myself: I should just write all of this down to make it easier next time someone asks me! And that’s how the idea for the book began.

Sarah: Tell me, why did you choose hospital birth and why do you feel it is a perfectly valid choice for women, even those planning a natural birth?

Lauren: For some women, especially having their first baby, the hospital provides a safety net in the unlikely event that there is an emergency. Even though birth centers and homes can be safe places to give birth in most scenarios, some families just feel more comfortable being at the hospital. For me, I would have considered a birth center had there been one closer to my house. But once I found a wonderful midwife practice at a nearby hospital, I was so happy that I no longer minded giving birth at the hospital. Having a supportive care provider is the most important factor in having your birth plan respected, no matter where you give birth.

Sarah: I know you have three babies, all born in the hospital. Could you give us a quick rundown of how those births went?

Lauren: My first ended up coming early at 34 weeks. For this reason, I was glad to be planning a hospital birth, because even if I hadn’t, I would have ended up there when my water broke so early. I was at the hospital for 2 days before my contractions really began. I was “allowed” to stay pregnant for so long even though my water had broken because the baby would be a preemie and it was better that he stay in longer. Once labor began on its own, he was born 6 hours later. I was afraid I wasn’t really in labor at first and we didn’t call my doula to come until I was ready to push. Rookie mistake!

With my second, my body held out until 37 weeks (officially full-term!) before my water broke. And again, my labor didn’t start right away. I stayed at home trying everything I could to naturally bring on contractions. After 36 unsuccessful hours, I went to the hospital to be induced. So depending on your definition, you might say this birth wasn’t completely natural since I had an intervention (Pitocin). But because my voice was heard and respected, it was an empowering experience for me. And I didn’t use pain medication despite the induction, which was very difficult and made me very proud of myself, and grateful for my husband and doula who made it possible. My husband caught our daughter.

They say third time’s a charm, and for me, it was. I stayed pregnant for 38 weeks and 2 days (a record for me!), and then of course, my water broke. This time, thankfully, contractions started on their own right away. I labored at home for about 9 hours. When I got to the hospital, I was 6 cm dilated. I’d never experienced a car ride while in labor before and it was one of the worst parts about the whole thing! The hospital had installed a birthing tub only a few weeks earlier, and my baby was the fourth to be born in it, just one hour after we arrived. I caught her myself, which was amazing. The whole thing went exactly how I’d imagined it: full term baby, no interventions, and water birth.

Sarah: Beautiful stories. I love how you were able to have great, informed, natural births even against what many would consider great odds. It speaks to how capable you were in writing this book and speaking from a place of personal knowledge.

I love quick lists- so tell the people- what are the three most important things a woman can do to ensure a positive and natural hospital birth experience?


1) First and foremost, choose a care provider who is truly supportive of natural birth and a hospital without policies that hinder it. If I were giving only one tip, this would be it. With a care provider who knows your intention and respects your wishes, you can trust that you won’t be offered or forced into interventions that aren’t necessary.

2) Second, assemble a supportive birth team. This will most likely include your partner (who needs to be completely on board with natural birth) and a birth doula. In the hospital setting, your midwife or doctor will only pop in your room from time to time if everything is going smoothly. The rest of your birth team will be there for the long haul. Choose people you are super comfortable with so that their presence doesn’t inhibit your labor.

3) And number 3, make a commitment to see your plan through. Having natural birth at the hospital is hard because all the interventions you are trying to avoid are right there. And in the midst of labor, an epidural can be tempting, even to someone who has spent 9 months planning not to have one. Do whatever is necessary to retrain your brain to know that you CAN do it.

Sarah: I know that everybody loves to check things out on the internet. What are your favorite resources online for women interested in natural hospital birth?

Lauren: I’m a huge Googler so I don’t have just a couple sites in mind. When something comes up that I want to learn about, I research it until I start reading the same information over and over again. For instance, with my last baby, she was breech for a few weeks during my pregnancy. I knew this would ruin my plans for a natural birth at the hospital, so I became an expert on ways to turn a baby.DSC_2583

Many women planning a natural hospital birth don’t have friends who are doing the same, so I recommend that they find a like-minded community online by following natural birth bloggers (such as yourself!) through social media. It’s a great way to get small bursts of inspiration and put you in the right frame of mind.

Sarah: Last but not least, how can we find your book?!

Lauren: It’s available on Amazon in paperback and e-book.

I hope you enjoy it! You can also follow me on Facebook.


Photo credits: Right: Twist PhotographyTop: Stumberg Photography

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