Active Birth in the Hospital

One of the inspiring images in ICAN of Atlanta's "Laboring on the Monitors" slideshow.

The vast majority of my birth class clients are women desiring a natural birth in a hospital setting. My classes are based on active birth and include a lot of resources for using your body during labor and working with gravity to help birth your baby. Sometimes I feel like active birth and hospital birth are incompatible—i.e. the woman’s need for activity runs smack dab into the hospital’s need for passivity (i.e. “lie still and be monitored”). So, I was delighted to discover this awesome series of photos from ICAN of Atlanta of VBAC mothers laboring on the monitors. It IS possible to remain active and upright, even while experiencing continuous fetal monitoring.

In my own classes, we talk about how to use a hospital bed without lying down—the idea that a hospital bed can become a tool you can use while actively birthing your baby. Here is a pdf handout on the subject:How to Use a Hospital Bed without Lying Down. In this handout, I offer these tips for using the bed as an active assistant, rather than a place to be “tied down”:

While being monitored and/or receiving IV fluids that limit mobility, try:

  • Sitting on a birth ball and leaning on bed
  • Sitting on bed
  • Sitting on bed and lean over ball (also on bed)
  • Kneeling on bed
  • Hands and knees on bed
  • Standing up and leaning on bed
  • Leaning back of bed up and resting against it on your knees
  • Bringing a beanbag chair, putting it on the bed and draping over it (can also make “nest” with pillows)
  • Partner sitting on bed and woman leaning on him/supported squats with him
  • Partner sitting behind woman on bed (with back leaned up as far as it will go)

While giving birth, try:

  • Hands and knees on bed
  • Kneeling with one leg up (on bed like a platform or “stage”)
  • Holding onto raised back of bed and squatting or kneeling
  • Squatting using squat bar

While most of the above tips can be used during monitoring, additional ideas for coping with a simultaneous need for monitoring AND activity include:

  • Kneel on bed and rotate hips
  • Sit on edge of bed and rock or rotate hips
  • Sit on ball or chair right next to bed (partner can hold monitor in place if need be)

If something truly requires being motionless, it can be helpful to have some breath awareness techniques available in your “bag of tricks.” One of my favorites is: Centering for Birth

Some time ago, a blog reader posed the question, can I really expect to have a great birth in a hospital setting? I definitely think it is possible! I also think there is a lot you can do in preparation for that great hospital birth! When planning a natural birth in the hospital, it is important to consider becoming an informed birth consumer. I always tell my clients that an excellent foundation for a simple, effective, evidence-based birth plan is to base it on Lamaze’s Six Healthy Birth Practices. My own pdf handout summarizing the practices is also available: Six Healthy Birth Practices. Don’t forget there is also a great video series of the birth practices in action! You might also want to get a copy of the book Homebirth in the Hospital. And, check out this post from Giving Birth with Confidence: Six Tips for Gentle but Effective Hospital Negotiations.

Before you go in to the hospital to birth your baby, make sure you have some ideas about this very popular question, how do I know if I’m really in labor?

And, finally, be prepared for the hospital routines you may encounter by reading my post: What to Expect When You Go to the Hospital for a Natural Childbirth.

For some other general ideas about active birth, read my post about Moving During Labor (written for a blog carnival in 2009).

Best wishes for a beautiful, healthy, active hospital birth! You can do it!

8 thoughts on “Active Birth in the Hospital

  1. Pingback: links for thought, September 2011

  2. Yes! Thank you for mentioning “Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds” on Facebook and linking back to this post. You are right! I think all of us in the birth world are on the same page, trying to use these tools to help women. Most of these tools are not rocket science (be upright, move, use water, etc.), but the hospital setting makes us forget our natural instincts. Instead, we often act like a patient (we lie down, we wait for the doctor or nurse’s permission to do anything). But prepared women have natural hospital births every day, so it IS possible. Would you like to exchange guest posts about this topic on our blogs?

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