Hospitals are the locations that most women choose to give birth, and there are many reasons why. A ton of staff, operating rooms at the ready, and technological advances that help in case an emergency occurs. There are also women who have high-risk pregnancies and need a hospital setting to ensure safety for them and their babies.
However, hospitals aren't always up front about their policies. Moms-to-be don't always ask detailed questions, and if we don't ask, hospitals likely won't volunteer details unless they are sharing the parts they wish to brag about.
Due to documentaries like The Business of Being Born and the high C-section rate across the United States, many women are looking to birth in other places, such as birthing centers or at homes. They feel like going into a hospital takes control out of their hands, and in many instances they are right.
Though hospitals are not villians, hospital staff don't always tell mom details she might want to know, and they usually keep information to themselves to keep the upper hand. Some hospital practices aren't even evidence-based, meaning there's no evidence to support them as the best practices. Decisions may be made out of convenience or fear of litigation, not out of concern for mom's well-being.
Any mom who wants to deliver at a hospital needs to know her rights, and she also needs to know what hospitals often hide from patients. Going in informed is the best way to stay in control of the situation. It will also help mom decide if she wants to birth at a hospital or look for an alternative location.
15 No Power Plays
Mom should know going in that a hospital can't force her into a procedure she doesn't want. Yes, hospitals have policies and rules in place, and it's best if mom knows those before she decides where to give birth. However, no matter how much they bully, doctors and hospitals can't make mom do anything.
The flip side of that is that we can't make hospitals do what we want either. If a woman wants to attempt a vaginal delivery after birth(VBAC), she best find a hospital that allows them, or delivery day is going to be rough. Moms and hospitals can get stuck at an impasse, and it's best if that doesn't happen when mom is in labor.
It's important for moms to know their rights going in so they won't be bullied during labor. Having a doula to deal with hospital staff is also nice because they are educated about how to handle the bullying, and they can deal with other people while mom focuses on giving birth
14 Sign Life Away
Moms sign a lot of forms when they enter a hospital to give birth. What they may not know is that they are basically agreeing that if they die, the hospital can't be held responsible in most cases. This isn't discussed in detail with moms because most hospital workers don't want mom thinking about dying right before giving birth. Plus, there's never really a convenient time to bring up information like this.
When entering hospitals, moms still have control over how they birth, but they don't have recourse if something goes wrong and the hospital is at fault. Plus, they will likely have to fight to birth the way they want if any of their requests are unconventional.
Women who have C-sections will also sign forms that say they understand the increased risks associated with surgical birth. However, doctors and nurses usually don't go over these risks one by one. They instead just say it's about the surgery without warning moms of what extra issues they are taking on.
13 Sleep-Deprived Doctors
Being an OB is hard work, and sleep is not always on the top of the list. Because doctors take on so many patients, it's likely that an OB will go straight from a day with patients to a night full of labor and deliveries. They catch naps when they can, but it's safe to assume that many doctors are not getting a full eight uninterrupted hours when they are on call.
It's a scary thought, and that's why hospitals don't advertise the fact that they have sleepy doctors on staff. We want to think of our doctors as alert at all times, but that's not likely the case. It's also why women may not see as much of their doctors as they expected to during labor. Nurses handle most of the checking up, and doctors can stop in to see other patients or grab quick naps between births.
12 It's All About The Money
Moms will be shocked if they ever see an itemized bill from a hospital delivery. From the minute mom walks through the door, she is charged for pretty much every single thing she touches or requests. It's never safe to assume that anything in a hospital is complimentary because hospitals are businesses, and businesses aren't about giving things away for free.
Even requesting to hold a baby right after birth when a woman has a C-section can cause and extra charge on mom's bill. One woman in the news recently gave birth in her car in the parking lot, and the hospital she went to afterwards still charged her for a delivery room visit.
It's important to verify insurance benefits before going to the hospital so mom will know what to expect before the bill comes. Hospital births aren't cheap, and the way they keep track of everything mom touches or requests is part of the reason why.
11 Modify Possible
Most modifications a woman asks for during labor are possible, but don't expect hospitals to make that fact known. Moms can use birthing balls or try different positions to birth, and even gentle C-sections are an option. A gentle C-section involves keeping the baby with mom after delivery and offering early nursing, as well as letting mom watch the birth and pulling the baby out slower.
Small changes can have a profound effect on mom's experience, but hospitals still don't offer moms anything outside of the norm. Some women are too scared to ask for what they want, so they let the hospital call the shots and sometimes miss out on the birth experience they wanted for them and their babies.
There is no harm in asking for birth modifications or for hospitals to veer off of their usual script. The important part is asking. Some hospitals go out of their way for patients, but most won't offer to change a thing if mom doesn't push.
10 Skipped Reading The Birth Plan
Women are encouraged to write a birth plan that will cover their wishes for birth and after the baby enters the world. This helps moms get their thoughts on paper, and it makes very clear what they want in each situation. Most moms even list the plan if an emergency occurs and she has to have a C-section.
The problem is that many on the hospital staff don't read them. Mom's doctor might, but she will likely be dealing with the nurses at the hospital more than her own doctor during labor, so ideally everyone involved will read it.
There are some nurses and hospital staff who will put in the effort, but many find the idea of planning birth ludicrous. Because of this, they will come into a woman's birth unprepared to help her meet her requests, and this can mess up the entire situation from the start.
9 Intermittent Fetal Monitoring Is A Win
Many hospitals require constant fetal heart rate monitoring, meaning mom is hooked up to a machine throughout her entire labor that monitors the baby's heart rate. This keeps her from being able to move freely, and it also hasn't been proven to have any major benefits for mom and the baby.
Intermittent fetal heart rate monitoring, where the baby is monitored but not all the time, is also effective, and it helps mom move around. Moving can decrease the amount of time she is in labor. Intermittent fetal heart rate monitoring is also less likely to lead to an unnecessary intervention.
Nurses and doctors also do not stare at the read out from the monitor the whole time mom is in labor. Though mom is tethered to this machine the whole time, read outs are only looked at sporadically. It's constant immobility for mom, but the baby doesn't benefit.
8 IVs Are Not Innocuous
Receiving an IV is standard in most hospitals. Mom will be hooked up to one, and she will have fluids running through her system while she is in labor. This technique is so common that many people think it's harmless, but that's not true.
IV fluids can mess up mom's hormone levels. The hormones coursing through her body to keep labor moving become diluted with all the extra fluid in mom's veins, and that is why contractions sometimes slow down after the IV is inserted. For years this slow down was blamed on the epidural, but now researchers say the IV fluids are to blame.
Plus, having an IV keeps mom close to her bed unless she wants to roll the IV pole around the room. However, many hospitals demand mom take an IV unless she demands otherwise. She can ask to have the line placed but no fluids put in it and see if she and the hospital can reach a compromise.
7 Movement Is The Best
Women who are able to move during birth labor faster and usually have less pain. Birthing on the back does not work with actual gravity and may be one of the worst ways to labor. However, hospitals are set up in a way that puts women on their backs to birth, and they aren't working very hard to change that, despite the facts.
There are hospitals that allow women to move freely while labor progresses, but due to hospital policies relating to fetal heart rate monitors and IVs, many won't let women go any further than a couple of feet from their beds. Moms need to be able to change positions, sit on the floor, and use a birthing ball, but this isn't possible in many cases due to hospital rules.
Moving during labor could make it shorter and easier for moms, but many U.S. hospitals aren't on board with it.
6 C-section Rates Aren't Safe
In the United States, C-section rates are at an all time high, coming in at over 30 percent. That's a number that shows that C-sections are being performed to often and likely for unnecessary reasons. Surgical births carry high risks, and hospitals aren't doing much to bring the number down and ensure women and babies have a safer way to birth.
Some C-sections are necessary, and they can be life-saving procedures. However, modern interventions that don't allow labor to take its natural course may be the reason for the increase in C-sections. Birth inductions, constant heart rate monitoring, and other practices that aren't needed start women on the road to C-sections many times, and hospitals do not warn them about this.
Women need to know their hospital's C-section rate before deciding where to deliver, and they need to talk to hospital personnel about what they do to avoid C-sections when possible.
5 Infection Central
Hospitals are gross. There's really no way around it. People who are carrying germs and suffering from sickness go to hospitals, and while it's great that we have them for this kind of care, they are not the best places for newborns with no immunity.
Luckily, labor and delivery areas are on their own floors in hospitals, but children are still brought into an environment that is surrounded by sickness. While it's important to stay at the hospital until mom is physically ready to leave, it's also a good idea to get out when possible to avoid picking up an illness or infection.
Pregnancy is not an illness, and that's why many find it weird that hospitals attempt to treat and control pregnancies, as well as allow women to have babies in the same place that other people are staying who have infectious diseases. Hospitals don't advertise any of this on the brochure.
4 Pitocin: Hospital Drug Of Choice
When doctors want to induce, they usually pull out the big guns. While some start with sweeping the membranes or trying to break the water, many go straight to Pitocin, a drug used to try to force mom's body into labor when it isn't going on its own.
Hospitals will even give women who are already in labor Pitocin to move things along faster, but they don't often warn of the side effects. Pitocin makes contractions much harder and may put the baby in distress. A mom experiencing Pitocin contractions is likely going to ask for an epidural because of the increased pain, and once she takes the epidural it will be impossible for her to move around or change positions.
The body will labor when it's ready, but hospitals don't always like to wait if a woman isn't laboring as fast as they would like. They choose Pitocin without considering the effects it has on a woman and her baby.
3 Time Is Of The Essence
Hospitals are businesses with clients, and clients only get so much time to do what they need to do before being asked to leave. That's not the only reason hospitals put mom on the clock the minute she walks through the door, but it does play into it.
Women are given so much time to labor through each stage, and when they don't dilate or show signs of pushing by a certain time, hospitals get antsy. Moms are given Pitocin or taken in for C-sections instead of just letting them wait it out.
New recommendations show that letting moms labor longer and not forcing them to beat the clock is advisable, but it's yet to be seen if hospitals will actually take this advice. It could stop the increase in C-sections and interventions, but it would require patience from hospitals and their staff, as well as a completely new outlook on how birth should be.
2 The Baby's Not That Big
A common reason for inducing is a sonogram that shows the baby is measuring too large. These sonograms can be performed in hospitals or doctors' offices, but they are notorious for being inaccurate. In fact, they can be two to three pounds off.
Problems arise when a doctor and hospital agree that fear of a big baby is a reason to induce. It's not since many of these babies are born weighing less than eight pounds. If mom's body isn't ready to labor, forcing it to because of the possibility of a big baby won't help.
Many women who are induced for this reason end up with C-sections because they weren't ready to labor. Their bodies don't respond to Pitocin, and their contractions won't regulate. The big baby is usually blamed for the stall in labor, so a surgical birth is performed, only to find a normal-sized kid. It's an infuriating process.
1 Eat All The Food
Most hospitals prohibit women from eating during labor over an antiquated belief. This belief comes from the idea that if a woman has eaten and then needs to be taken in for an emergency C-section, she might cough up the food on her stomach and aspirate if it goes into her lungs.
Now that hospitals use spinals or epidurals during C-sections, this is very unlikely. There wasn't a very high risk of it in the first place. Researchers are also taking notice, now saying that women should have light snacks during labor, because labor is work! A woman who is trying to push a baby out of her body for hours with an empty stomach is going to tire out quickly.
However, hospitals don't advertise for moms to eat. In fact, most still have policies in place to keep women hungry during labor. Again, hospital aren't always great at using evidence-based practices.