I'm with the PP: your first task is to check out the hospitals in your area -- it is entirely possible that they might have more progressive or evidence-based protocols. The situation you describe is common but by no means universal. I have birthed in two hospitals, and in neither hospital did they "whisk the baby away" for anything. In the first hospital, I knew it was their routine protocol so I made a point of vocally refusing it. In the second hospital, it was not their protocol so it was never an issue.
Even in a not-so-great hospital, you can usually get what you want if you have a combination of a good birth plan, a sympathetic care provider who understands your wishes, and a loud voice and willingness to say "no, thank you" to whatever they're trying to do.
The most important thing to do first is to know what you're dealing with in terms of routines. You might be pleasantly surprised! Take a tour and ask lots of open-ended questions. Here are some you might try:
- "Tell me about what a normal, uncomplicated birth looks like in this hospital."
- "After the baby is born, what happens? Walk me through the first hour after birth."
- "What kinds of birthing options do I have here?"
- "What should I expect when I come here in labor?"
You could ask for statistics (they should have a pretty good idea of what these numbers are for their hospital):
- "What is this hospital's C-section rate?"
- "What % of laboring women get epidurals here? Episiotomies? Pitocin augmentation?" etc.
If they're a little vague, you can ask more specific questions about certain interventions you want to avoid:
- "Do you routinely do _____ ? Do women frequently refuse this?" (If they look at you like you're crazy for suggesting the refusal of routine procedures, especially the non-evidence-based stuff like continuous EFM, IV, nothing-by-mouth orders, etc., run the other way.)
- You could also just try "How do I go about refusing _____ ? What is your process?" (If they don't have a process, or act like they've never done this before, again, run the other way. A good woman-centered birthing hospital is going to have a crystal-clear process in place for refusing pretty much any routine procedure, and they're going to be well-versed in how that works.)
- "If something goes wrong, how do I ensure that my wishes regarding _____ are followed?"
And you can ask specifics about things you want:
- "Medical evidence seems fairly clear about the benefits of ______ while in labor/ during birth/ for a newborn. Do you regularly do _____ here? [If not, why not, when the evidence supports it?]"
- "What facilities are available here for _________?" (i.e., waterbirth, hydrotherapy during labor, whatever it is)
- "Are you a designated baby-friendly hospital?" (Many hospitals are not, but most of them will know what it is and can probably help you get a 'baby-friendly' experience. If they act like they've never heard of the term, run away fast.)