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Hospital gowns on birthing women. A harmless way to keep your nice clothes from getting stained, or the first step down the road of intervention? I love what Maria Pokluda has to say on this subject. As one of the busiest doulas in DFW and co-creator of Birth Boot Camp DOULA, Maria has seen countless women give birth in hospital gowns...or other things (or nothing!)

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Ah, the lowly hospital gown. It isn't much to look at and for moms planning to breastfeed, it isn't all that functional once the baby arrives. However, donning the gown is often one of the very first rituals of giving birth in a hospital. Most women don't even think twice about shedding whatever maternity clothes they arrived in and changing into a gown that the hospital has provided for the occasion of their labor. However, does the gown represent a good thing or a bad thing for a laboring woman?

For some, the hospital gown represents the perfect accessory in which to handle the various bodily fluids that may be present during labor and birth. It is taken off when the delivery is done, it disappears and mom and dad never have to deal with any laundry issues that might occur….just like Las Vegas, whatever happens to the gown in the hospital, stays in the hospital.

For others though, the hospital gown represents something else entirely….it is the first intervention in labor. By removing her own clothing, a laboring mom becomes a patient with a uniform that separates her from the "civilian" population of the un-hospitalized. This uniform has the effect of transforming her into a patient and not an active participant in the process of birthing her child. Thus for this mom, the gown represents a loss of her sense of self and maybe even the loss of her voice during labor.

So *is* the hospital gown a must for giving birth? Absolutely not. If you are the mom that loves the gown, embrace it in all its backless glory. If you find the gown to be unfashionable, uncomfortable, immodest or otherwise annoying, don't wear it. The hospital will not be offended if you remain in your own clothes or even rotate through a series of costume changes as labor progresses. (I mean labor lasts longer than the Super Bowl Halftime show and those acts usually have several outfit changes).

Many women wear sports bras, nursing tanks and even bathing suits if they are planning to labor in the tub or shower. There are also companies that sell labor wear such as cute gowns or dresses designed to accommodate possibly needed medical equipment. Skipping the gown does not mean letting it all hang out...though that is always an option too, of course.

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Making the choice to put on the gown or not is the first of many choices a woman will make in labor and, as far as those choices may go, this one is pretty non-controversial. Simply tell the nurse you have brought your own clothes or that you prefer to wear what you currently have on. Obviously at some point your care provider may have to access certain areas generally found under one's clothing, but these items can be removed easily when the time comes and a skirt is just as easily pushed up as a gown.

Bottom line, when you are in labor, wear what makes you feel like the strong, competent and beautiful mom you are. Wear clothes that enhance your experience of labor. The choice of what to may turn out to be the most frivolous of the choices you make that day, but you may find laboring in your clothes to be the first step toward a more empowering labor.

Maria Pokluda is a doula serving families in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She got involved in birth through her own experience of researching infertility and then pregnancy and birth. She now has four children as well as a patient husband. Maria is the co-creator and trainer of Birth Boot Camp DOULA and owns greatexpectationsbirth.com.

Photo credit: jonlarge / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: HoboMama / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA