I have not personally given birth just yet at this point in my life, but I plan to someday, and when I do I want to be sure that I am well informed. I have spent the better part of the last decade planning and dreaming about becoming a licensed midwife, so I do a lot of reading in my spare time on childbirth and pregnancy. I want to share with you a list of “typical, routine procedures encountered in hospital births”, modified by Molly Remer in the article “The Hospital ‘Birth Plan” in Pathways Magazine, Issue 24, from content in Woman-Centered Pregnancy and Birth.
Do you know what takes place during a “routine” hospital birth? While you’re in labor even, are you really sure what’s going on? Are you filled in on everything that is happening? Do you WANT to know? You DO have the right to informed consent, and to refuse any unnecessary procedures or interventions. I mean, afterall, this is directly affecting YOU and YOUR BABY! To do this properly, however, you need the knowledge first.
As stated above, here is a list of “typical, routine procedures encountered in hospital births:
~To have at least some separation from the person who brought you to the hospital due to filling out admission paperwork, parking the car, providing a urine sample, being examined in triage, etc.
~To be told to remove all your clothing and put on a hospital gown.
~To have staff talk OVER you, rather than TO you, and to have many different people walk into the room whenever they want without your permission and without even introducing themselves.
Midwives will get to really KNOW you throughout your pregnancy. They will be with you for your prenatal exams, during labor, and post-natal exams; and speak to you on a personal level.
~To have your cervix examined by a nurse upon admission and approximately every hour there-after. If you allow it, you may have multiple vaginal exams per hour by more than one person.
~To have an IV or a saline lock inserted into your arm.
~To be denied food and drink until the birth.
Why do people say that you can’t eat during labor? While women are in labor, the food they consume is not digested the way it would be typically. According to an article in Pathways Magazine, issue 24 “Eating in Labor: Trust the Mother’s Gut Instinct” by Gloria Lemay, “The hormones of birth slow digestion to a crawl. However, the food in the stomach provides energy, via sugars, to the birthing woman and baby. The reason that some women vomit when nearing the pushing stage is that the body automatically calibrates how much sugar is needed and, at transition, the levels drop dramatically in order to protect the baby’s brain from a lactic acid buildup while the baby’s head is being compressed and pushed through the pelvis.” How AMAZING is our BODY?!!! So, if you’re hungry..eat! Your body will take care of you and your baby
~To be asked to give a urine sample and perhaps a blood sample.
~To have an ID bracelet attached to your wrist.
~To have to sign a consent form that states your doctor will be responsible for making the decisions about your care -rather than YOU.
~To have a fetal heart rate monitor attached around your belly – two round discs on straps that will often stay with you continuously until you give birth.
~To have your water manually broken at about 4 centimeters. Afterward, they might go a step further and screw an electrode into your baby’s scalp to measure the heartbeat and place a tube in your uterus to measure your contractions.
~To be offered pain medications repeatedly, even if you have stated you do not want them.
~To be offered Pitocin at some point during your labor “to speed things up”.
~To be told you must remain in your bed through most of your labor, especially when pushing.
Natural childbirth methods use the hospital bed as a TOOL, not for lying down.
Hold on a sec…wait…why can’t I lie on my back?? We are shown movie after movie, tv show after tv show, your aunt did it, your sister did it, etc etc etc…it MUST be okay. Actually… “All current research shows [this] position to be dangerous to the laboring woman and to her unborn child. The largest blood vessel runs in the back of the uterus. If you think of your baby’s weight as a bowling ball, you can easily imagine what happens to this large blood vessel when you lie on your back. And when this circulation is interfered with, your baby’s OXYGEN and NUTRIENT SUPPLY is impeded” (Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon). Plus, if you honestly think about it..it makes WAY more sense to be in squat position, or sitting up, or ANYTHING BUT ON YOUR BACK…why???? GRAVITY! Help yourself out a little, right?
~To either have your legs put in stirrups or held at a 90 degree angle at the hips.
~To be told when to push, and perhaps even told you are not pushing correctly.
Hey, guess what? You know how your body knows how to breathe? or sneeze? or pee? Well…your body knows when to push too!! You know best when you need to push…(unless there is a very good reason the midwife/doctor is telling you not to push, like the baby is coming FAST in a car, and you’re still a few miles from the hospital…probably shouldn’t be pushing then, haha)
~To be given an episiotomy if someone else determines that your perineum will not stretch.
~To have the cord clamped and cut before it finishes pulsating.
It’s important to allow the cord to FINISH pulsating, because it carries all kinds of oxygen and nutrients to the baby, and he/she needs every drop of it!
~To have your baby suctioned repeatedly.
~To be given a shot of Pitocin to make your uterus contract and deliver the placenta.
~To not be asked if you want to see the placenta.
~To hold your baby on your chest for a few minutes, before it is taken away to be dried, weighed, warmed by a machine and checked over.
~To have antibiotic eye ointment put into your baby’s eyes without first being asked permission.
~To have your baby receive a vitamin K vaccine without first being asked permission.
~To have your baby receive the Hep B vaccine without first being asked permission.
It is important to note that much of this treatment is different from what you deserve, and that you have the right to refuse any of the above procedures and recommendations. At a minimum, what you deserve are what Lamaze calls the Six Healthy Birth Practices:
1. Let labor being on its own.
2. Walk, move around and change positions throughout labor.
3. Bring a loved one, friend or doula for CONTINUOUS support.
4. Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary.
5. Avoid giving birth on the back and follow the BODY’S urges to push.
6. Keep mother and baby together; it’s best for the mother, baby and breastfeeding.
I hope this article gives you the information you need to make an informed decision about how you want to deliver your child (now or in the future…). If you read this and still want to do all of those things, including delivering on your back, that’s your decision, YOUR decision…not someone telling you you have to, or that that is the only way.
It is NOT the only way.