How to Have Low-Intervention Labor and Birth at a Hospital

Evidence-based guidelines for healthier outcomes in labor and birth advise limiting the use of medical interventions, unless needed for medical/health reasons. The majority of all pregnancies are low risk, which means that a low-intervention (also known as “natural” and/or “unmedicated”) birth is a reasonable and healthy choice. Hospital labor and birth routines, however, can increase your risk for interventions, even when they aren’t necessary. The following proven strategies can help increase your chance of having a low-intervention birth. 

Strategies for Having a Low-Intervention Hospital Birth

1. Choose your hospital and care provider carefully. Studies have found that your choice of hospital can impact your chance of having a c-section, whether or not it’s medically necessary. Similarly, the care provider you choose also has a significant influence over the course of your labor and birth. Do your research on the hospital (which is often dictated by your practice/OB/midwife) and your provider (OB/midwife/doctor). Find out how often they work with people seeking a low-intervention birth, as well as their rates of induction and c-section.  

2. Talk with your care provider early and often about your plans. Once you’ve chosen a care provider (or if you have already), be sure to share your preferences for birth early on in your pregnancy and continue to talk about it throughout your prenatal appointments. If at any time, your provider seems to be unsupportive, see #3. 

3. Switch your care provider if necessary. No one enjoys going through the process of finding a new doctor/midwife, but if it means the difference between having someone who will truly support you in your efforts and who practices according to best medical evidence, the time and effort is worth it. Learn more about finding a new provider during pregnancy. 

4. Hire a doula. A doula is a labor and birth support professional who provides you with information during the prenatal period to help you plan for the birth you want and become a better self advocate; and continuous physical and emotional support during your birth to help you better cope with labor and navigate the hospital experience. Having a doula during birth has been shown to reduce the chance of having multiple interventions. 

5. Get your partner on board. Support from a loved one goes a long way. When you and your partner or loved one are on the same page for your labor and birth plans, you’ll benefit from increased confidence and help help advocating for your needs and preferences during labor and birth. 

6. Take a good childbirth class. When you take a quality childbirth class, like those offered by Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators, you learn about everything mentioned in this post — and more! You’ll get the information and hands-on skills you need to better your chance of having the birth you want. 

7. Learn and practice using your B.R.A.I.N. Make an informed decision at any point in your labor and life by filtering it through the steps in this acronym: Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Intuition, Need more information/No/Nothing yet.

8. Prepare for the unexpected. As with anything, and especially labor and birth, it helps to expect the unexpected and know that you may need to adjust your plans. Things change when things change. If this happens to you, lean on your support team for comfort and reassurance.  Even when you prepare according to the best advice,  nature may have other plans. 

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