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How to Have an Empowering Birth Experience at a Hospital

01.15.2021 — Lori Bregman

I’ve been a doula for 20 years now, and no matter how many times I get to witness a birth, it’s an honor to witness such a miracle take place. Over the years and around 1,000 births later, as you can imagine, I’ve seen it all! I’ve seen the most beautiful births, but I’ve also seen the things that aren’t so pretty. And by those things I mean the instances in which my clients were treated without respect and made to feel disempowered.

Let me clear: I’m not saying doctors are bad. In fact, I almost always work with doctors and in hospitals and feel very blessed to work with care providers that are invested in their clients’ wellbeing, earning their trust, and respect the process of birth. But sadly, there are others out there with their own agenda that would rather control and do what they want instead of honoring the mama’s wishes.

Ladies, you will remember your birth for the rest of your life. My hope in writing this is that you know your options and feel supported, heard, and empowered. I want you to have the best shot of a beautiful outcome wherever and however you choose to birth your baby or how your baby chooses to come into this world. 

Birth intentions

When I first start working with someone I always ask them if they’ve thought about how they’d like to birth. The reason I ask this early on is because you’ll want your care provider and place of birth to be supportive of your intentions. I use the word “intentions: because it offers more room for flexibility and change, whereas “plans” are more set in stone and can cause rigidity and one to be over-controlling. This creates a foundation for research where you can learn more through books, classes, etc. 

Research Care Providers and hospitals

A great place to start is by asking like-minded friends or family members that have had positive birthing experiences. Ask them all the questions! I encourage you to find out who they used as a care provider, where they gave birth, what they liked, and what they didn’t like. The internet is literally at your fingertips and research is easier than ever before. Read Yelp reviews, learn about their C-section and induction rates, and chat with a doula for a second opinion. If you like what you see and hear, then it’s worth the consultation, and if not, then move on. If you do move forward with a consultation, always come prepared with a list of questions, and don’t be shy about touring the hospital

But remember, talk is cheap, and it’s always best to go with your instinct based on how you feel when meeting with a care provider. If you don’t share the same beliefs, it’s probably not the best fit. You should feel heard, respected, and never pressured to consider something you never wanted to.  

Remember, You CAN Change Things

As I mentioned before, I’ve seen a lot of things. One of the most striking examples being a doctor asking a patient why she would “ruin” her body giving birth naturally for her second child, after opting for a C-section with her first-born twins. “The hospital doesn’t really like to do VBACs which means I have to be on call,” I recall them saying. Needless to say, my client left upset and feeling deflated. BUT, the good news is that you can change things and she made the decision to switch care providers for someone who aligned with her beliefs. By the way, the birth turned out beautifully and everyone was happy. This is your decision to make!

You should feel heard, respected, and never pressured to consider something you never wanted to.”

Create a Finalized Birth Plan

A birth plan is different than your birth intentions.  It’s a way to educate yourself on the choices you have at the hospital, and most hospitals these days are open to birth plans. In fact, they often ask if you have one when you get there. It’s a clear and concise way on how you’d like your birth to be handled and how you’d like both you and your baby to be treated. For an example birth plan, see here.

Follow the BRAIN Method

If your due date arrives, and you’re at the hospital having a bunch of suggestions being thrown your way I want you to remember the BRAIN method. 

B– What are the Benefits?

R-What are the risks? 

A-What are the alternatives? 

I-What does my intuition say?

N– What if we did nothing?

After asking and checking in with yourself ask if you can have a few minutes alone to talk about it with your partner and/or doula and then let them know your decision. 

Be Flexible

Birth is karmic and you can do everything in your power to set up for success, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. Have a list of backup birth plans written out in case you need induction or C-section and want to feel more covered. 

Get Your Partner Involved

Learn, research, take classes together, and share what you’ve learned with each other. Tell them your wishes, fears, and birth intentions. Go over and create the birth plan together. Let them be your rock, and get on the same page before this new chapter of your lives begins.

Informed Consent

By definition, informed consent is permission granted in the knowledge of the possible consequences, typically given by a patient to a doctor for treatment with full knowledge of the possible risks and benefits. Your care provider can always suggest something but you always have informed consent and can refuse. Remember to use the BRAIN method, feel things out, and discuss with your partner before making any important decisions.

If you’re really looking for extra help, hire a doula either in-person or virtually. What can I say–we doulas are amazing! We’re your advocates, cheerleaders, and are here to support and educate you throughout your pregnancy, during your birth, and afterward. All in all, your birthing experience should be beautiful, peaceful, and all yours. 

Lori Bregman