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Unmedicated Hospital Birth: Using Your Voice

  • Published 11 January 2024
  • Updated 29 January 2024
Unmedicated Hospital Birth: Using Your Voice

Many people want the experience of a natural or unmedicated birth, but also feel more comfortable giving birth in a hospital. While having an unmedicated birth in a hospital is certainly possible, it requires some additional planning and preparation. One thing you will likely need to do is to use your voice to advocate for yourself during your birth.

Know your rights

Some hospitals and care providers may have policies that are not favorable for an unmedicated birth. These policies are not legal requirements. You have the right to make decisions about your medical care and birth, in spite of hospital or physician practice policies that say you “must” do something. So, it’s important to know what your rights are in refusing certain medical interventions, as well as what care the hospital is required to provide you, regardless of whether you comply with their policies. The Birth Rights Bar Association and National Advocates for Pregnant Women have published Birth Rights, a wonderful resource for learning more about your rights during labor and birth.

Arm yourself with knowledge

Learn as much as you can about birth, the stages of labor, and common medical interventions. Take a childbirth class specifically geared toward unmedicated birth, not just the class offered by the hospital. Read books about unmedicated hospital birth, such as Natural Hospital Birth or Birth Undisturbed. The more you know about what a healthy, safe, unmedicated birth looks like, the more confidently you will be able to advocate for yourself during labor.

Use your BRAIN

When you are in labor, it’s likely that medical interventions will be suggested or recommended. Some of these interventions may be obvious, such as giving you medication to augment or induce labor, or administering pain medications. However, even fairly non-invasive things are also medical interventions, such as continuous fetal monitoring, placing an IV port, and performing cervical checks. Any time a medical intervention is suggested and you are unsure whether you want to consent, you can use the acronym BRAIN to help you decide.

  • Benefits: Ask your provider about the benefits of the suggested intervention. Is it going to improve some aspect of your labor? Is it in response to an existing medical concern? Is it something they suggest to everyone or is it specific to your situation?
  • Risks: Ask your provider what the risks of the suggested intervention are. Could it cause harm to you or your baby? Could it introduce infection? Is it associated with a higher rate of Cesarean birth?
  • Alternatives: Ask whether there are any alternatives to the suggested intervention.
  • Intuition: What you think and how you feel matters. So ask yourself what your intuition is telling you. Do you have a gut feeling about this particular medical intervention?
  • Nothing: Ask the provider what happens if you do nothing, at least for a little while. Often just buying yourself and your body some time can make the medical intervention unnecessary.
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