“Childbirth is more admirable than conquest, more amazing than self-defense, and as courageous as either one.” – Gloria Steinem

Planning an empowering hospital birth

Have an empowering hospital birth

Whether by choice or necessity, the majority of pregnant people in Canada welcome their babies in hospitals.

(In Quebec, many would love to birth at home or in one of the province’s birthing centres, where midwives provide the care. But demand FAR exceeds supply. If you think you might like to work with a midwife, call all the birthing centres in your vicinity and get on their waiting lists pronto!)

Even if a hospital birth wasn’t your first choice, know that it is absolutely possible to have an amazing, empowering, even nonmedicated birth there.

Choose a hospital.

Much as I always imagined how cool it would be to just walk out of the house and jauntily saunter the three blocks down the street to the hospital while in labour (assuming you live that close to a hospital, and that one would actually jauntily saunter while in labour), DON’T just go with the hospital closest to home. Do your research. Be mindful in considering where you want to bring your baby into the world. See How to choose a birth hospital.

THEN choose a doctor with privileges at that hospital.

Your doctor probably won’t be the one who catches your baby. Unless he or she happens to be at the hospital the day you go into labour.

But prenatal care is vital in setting the stage for a satisfying birth experience. As author Cynthia Gabriel points out in her excellent book Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds (which I highly recommend reading if you want a natural birth), even though you may not see your doctor during labour, “their opinions about birth shape the mother’s experience, through the way they handle prenatal care and through their decisions to intervene in nature’s plan.”

If you’re hoping for an intervention-free birth, particularly important is your doctor’s opinion of how and when labour should start. Does he or she prefer to induce at 39 weeks, regardless of your age, or your health or baby’s? Or is your doctor comfortable with your choosing to wait until labour begins on its own, with extra monitoring of you and baby, even if you’re approaching 42 weeks?

Follow this rule of thumb: In general, if you’re hoping for less intervention and more flexibility, find a family doctor instead of an OB. If you end up being considered higher-risk, you’ll be referred to an OB.

So…how do you get all this information about hospitals and doctors?

Reach out to professionals who work with pregnant women, such as doulas, prenatal yoga teachers, and bodyworkers. Ask what they think about the hospitals or doctors you’re considering. Call the hospitals. Check out online parenting forums in your city to see what people are saying. Talk to friends who were happy with their prenatal care and birth and whose birth visions were similar to yours.

And if you end up unhappy with either your hospital or doctor before you give birth, change to a different one! Yes, this can be a pain. And it might involve lots of phone calls. But it’s worth the effort.

Hire a doula.

Even if you’ve done your research and selected a hospital and doctor you’re happy with, birthing in hospital often involves lots of unknowns. And shift changes (nurses, doctors, medical students, and so on).

For impartiality and continuity of care, for both you and your partner (if you have one), consider hiring a birth doula.

A doula works for YOU, not for the hospital. She supports your values, desires, and choices throughout pregnancy, birth, and early postpartum. Even if those values, desires, and choices change or evolve throughout your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.

Attend a prenatal class that’s not affiliated with your hospital.

Or, go to the class your hospital offers AND another, independent class.

Some hospital-based classes are comprehensive. Others offer little more than a virtual tour of the labour & delivery ward and a few words about the interventions offered there. Again, get into research mode, and choose a hands-on class that’s aligned with your values and vision of your birth.

Visit your hospital’s labour & delivery ward. In person.

Most hospitals offer tours of their labour & delivery wards. However, some of those hospitals have replaced the in-person tour with a virtual one, where you sit in a room elsewhere in the hospital and watch a video or view PowerPoint slides with pictures of the L&D ward. Better than nothing for sure, but if you can arrange for an actual visit and maybe even see one of the labour rooms, you’ll have an easier time adjusting to the change in environment when you arrive there in active labour.

Prepare to redecorate your hospital room.

I’ll admit, there’s only so much you can do with that small, fluorescent-lighted, overly beige space full of medical equipment. But you can still change the vibe.

Load up your hospital bag with props to make your hospital room as homey as possible. Some ideas: As many pillows as you can carry, a couple of fleecy blankets, comfy clothing from home to labour in (tip: you don’t need to wear the standard-issue hospital gown!), warm slippers, music, scents, inspiring or uplifting pictures. Soft toilet paper, because the hospital version tends to be scratchier. Fake tealight candles (available at Dollarama!). Warm, cozy clothing layers, pillows, and blankets for your partner, if applicable, as labour rooms tend to be on the cold side.

Make a pleasure list.

Hmm, sound intriguing? I’ll be writing about this in a future post. 🙂

Want more tips on how to have the birth of your dreams in hospital? Or need help choosing a hospital? Contact me for a free consult!

Photo by Alex Hockett on Unsplash 

About the author: I’m Heather Marr, a certified birth doula in Montreal, mom of two, and eternal wanderluster. When it comes to pregnancy, birth, and new parenthood, it’s about the journey AND the destination. I’ll support you every step of the way.

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