How to Have a Natural Hospital Birth

You CAN have the birth you want in a hospital. There are lots of decisions to be made during pregnancy. What are you going to eat for breakfast? What will you name him? What are you going to eat for second breakfast? What is the best car seat? What breast pump do I buy? (Answer: Medela)

Probably one of the most important decisions is deciding what kind of birth you want. It’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking about the “big day.” It’s normal to be apprehensive. Here are a few tips from a labor and delivery nurse (and natural birth survivor) to help you be successful in the birth experience that you want…in the hospital.

1. Learn everything you can about pregnancy and delivery.

Knowledge is power and knowledge of what labor is and how your body works is essential to having a successful natural birth. Also, each method gives great tools (with lots of practice) to cope with the pain of labor. People often ask what method is best. It has been my experience that the method used is purely preferential; it’s having a solid plan and a practiced approach that makes natural birth successful.

Another very important factor in having a successful natural birth is allowing your body to go into labor. Unless determined medically necessary, induction of labor before 40 weeks is not ideal for you or your baby. There are evidence-based studies showing that elective induction of labor increases risk to mother and baby. When labor starts and progresses on it’s own (physiologic birth), the likelihood of a successful, natural birth increases. Let nature do its thing!

2. Make a hospital birth plan and make it known.

Lastly, let’s talk about birth plans. Most labor and delivery staff inwardly, and outwardly, roll their eyes at a birth plan, BUT I think that a reasonably written plan of a patient’s expectations is great! If the medical team taking care of you and your baby is unaware of your desires, standard care assumed and applied. For example, at most hospitals, if you do not clearly make it known that you want to delay a newborn bath or delay cord clamping, these things will be automatically done according to standard practice and policy.

When a plan is WRITTEN down, there is way less chance of things being overlooked and your plan disregarded. So, what should a good birth plan look like? Here are a few topics you may want to cover: Drugs. Do you want drugs or not? Write out your pain management expectations and plan. Remember this is YOUR choice and should be YOUR decision. Not your mother’s. Not your doctor’s. Be realistic. Labor hurts. Be prepared. Here’s an extensive birth plan questionnaire.

3. Make a plan specifically for managing pain.

First and foremost, it is imperative to know that labor hurts. A. Lot. Obviously this is not new information, but it is important to understand. No matter what kind of birth you have, there will be pain, and some kind of pain management is necessary. If you are choosing a natural, drug-free birth, then preparation is the key to success. There are many options out there when it comes to birth preparation and classes. The most common methods seen in the hospital setting are Bradley, Lamaze, Alexander, and Hypo-birthing. The common themes between them are knowledge and preparation.{{cta(‘4dcee170-3b9d-4a51-8edf-304b5c8a0c49′,’justifycenter’)}}

The more active you are in labor the quicker and less painful it will be. Walking, bathing, using a birthing ball, and assuming a hands and knees positions are all great activities to do while in labor. Be sure to write down your wishes to be active (when possible) in your plan.

4. Make a post delivery plan.

Post delivery. Breast or bottle-feeding? Hands down, breast is best, so this should be the choice, if at all possible. Placing the baby skin to skin immediately after birth will help the initial breastfeeding period to be successful. Adding this expectation to your birth plan is crucial to your breastfeeding journey.Post_Birth_Plan_Image.jpg

Something that goes unplanned during this immediate post delivery time is the visitor situation. Grammies and papas will be going bonkers to get in there to see their little, perfect, angel baby. Remember the first nursing experience is important – and most often kind of awkward. If you are NOT comfortable with a room full of well-meaning onlookers, it is okay. Prepare your family and friends for your wishes of privacy during this time. Write it in your plan for the nurses to help enforce.

5. Prepare for the unknown.

When you finish your birth plan, understand that all your wishes may not be observed. Your obstetrician/midwife and labor nurse are not your enemies. They want you to be successful in your goals. However, there are times where medical intervention is necessary for you and/or your infant. For instance, you can’t breastfeed a baby who isn’t breathing well. The labor team may have to intervene to ensure the safety of both you and your baby. Be willing to bend your expectations to fit the circumstances. Now you’ve heard my spiel. Labor hurts. Get a plan to manage it. Write a reasonable birth plan. Breastfeed. You can do it. You can have the birth you want in a hospital. You can. Really.


About Meagan Whitman, RN, BSN:Meagan.jpg

I’ve been a nurse for 9 years and most of my experience is in obstetrics/newborn care. I am fanatical about breastfeeding. I love helping to empower women in their childbearing journeys. I’ve been married to my murse (man nurse) husband for 4 years and we have a spunky toddler. 


A few educational links to help you prepare: