Nearly every woman who has ever been expecting knows what it’s like to go see their doctor or midwife. They have probably been prompted with rules from the very start of their provider-patient relationships. Providers will instruct their patients to urinate in cups each appointment.
They’ll tell them to get undressed for exams. They’ll go through an entire appointment treating the patient like more of a test subject than a person before asking “Any questions?”
Well, yes it just so happens we have a lot of questions. Expectant mothers everywhere are wondering what happened to childbirth. Why are they being allowed or not allowed to do anything with their own bodies? At what point did mothers lose control over their childbirth experience? For the individual woman, it starts at that first appointment.
We enter the exam room relinquishing control as soon as we are told what to do and don’t even question why we are supposed to do it. We don’t even require an explanation before we succumb to the idea that the doctor knows best and we follow in line with the rest of their patients. Are we to assume that what is best for one patient truly is best for all patients?
By the time those nine months are behind us and we are in labor, we are so accustomed to this belief that the doctor will tell us how to do everything that we don’t ever think their way could be the wrong way for us. We don’t question why the policies the birthing facility puts into place exist. We don’t examine alternatives.
Why not? There are reasons for many of these policies, but they are certainly not one size fits all. Figuring out what applies to each of us individually is the best way to determine what we really should not be allowed to do during labor.
15 Food And Drink
There are pretty solid reasons why doctors don’t want moms chowing down on a hamburger when they’re at 5 centimeters and looking like active labor will soon catapult them into motherhood. No one wants a mom in labor to feel queasy or have to look back on her birth experience and remember vomiting every five minutes.
In addition, if a mom ends up needing a Cesarean section, the risk of aspirating her own vomit comes into play. Still, moms need energy during childbirth. They need food! This outdated recommendation is still pushed by most hospitals and it’s something women should be discussing in advance with their doctors. Research now supports women eating during labor.
There are good and bad choices when it comes to food selection during childbirth. The greasy hamburger might sound delicious, but it probably won’t do a laboring mom any justice. The bowels are already contracting alongside the uterus and the stomach is feeling all kinds of ill effects from the laboring process. Adding lard to the equation could equal nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Instead of the hamburger or even a full meal, select high protein snacks to graze on throughout labor. Honey sticks, oatmeal and applesauce are easy on the stomach. You want light snacks that won’t make you feel sleepy or be heavy on your stomach. Protein is important for energy.
Make sure to incorporate peanut butter or string cheese, and a little turkey or chicken brother wouldn’t hurt, either. Lots of water — taken in sips — fruit juices and electrolyte drinks are a great idea, too.
14 Getting Out Of Bed
To preface, understand that movement is more limited for women who opt to have medicated labors. If an epidural or other pain medication has been given, you will most likely need to stay bedside. Still, these women can move around with assistance. They can use squatting bars in the bed with support, as well as sit on birthing balls at the side of the bed while holding onto it.
Laboring in bed is not the way mother nature intended. It does absolutely nothing for the childbirth process. Instead, laying still and on your back quite often delays everything and makes labor take longer than it would have if you were up and walking, squatting, or dancing.
For women who opt to birth without pain medications, there is more freedom in this department. Fortunately, many hospitals are now trying to recognize that. Once upon a time women were actually placed in constraints in bed in some places while birthing.
Today, women walk the halls of the hospital or birthing center all the time to let gravity help bring that baby down. If your facility doesn’t seem in favor of this practice, it might be worth discussing with your doctor or even considering birthing somewhere else.
13 Birth Photography
Some birthing facilities and hospitals have regulations that prohibit them from allowing patients to take photographs or video record certain parts of the birthing process. Usually, this is a liability issue for the hospital or facility. Expectant parents who are hoping to record the experience as a keepsake will want to make sure ahead of time that this is allowed at the facility they plan to birth at.
Don’t hesitate to push back if you are told it isn’t allowed. Sometimes, it’s merely provider preference. That shouldn’t stand in your way.
However, if the hospital has a policy that doesn’t allow videography, you will very likely have to abide by those rules. Still photography is allowed in nearly every birthing facility nowadays, but some of them may request that flash photography be limited. This is a usually a pretty welcomed request by Mom during delivery anyway.
12 Going IV-Free
Hospitals and birthing centers alike will often put saline locks in place for every patient that is delivering at their facility. This happens for a few reasons. First, it is the easiest route of administration for drugs and saline if a laboring mom needs either.
For example, a mother who is nauseated during labor and continues to throw up or experience frequent bowel movements may easily become dehydrated. This is especially true is the facility limits food and beverages like many do.
Administering fluids via an IV is easy and allows the patient to stay hydrated without having to actually digest food — a task that is quite difficult for the contracting mother that is sick to her stomach. The saline lock also makes it easy for IV medications to be delivered during labor. Trying to hold still while a nurse places an IV in your arm or hand as you have contractions is no small task.
Still, an IV during labor can be bothersome to many women. More and more, hospitals and other birthing facilities are being flexible with saline locks and allowing women to forego them.
11 Being Able To Push At Will
If you think there’s nothing harmful about waiting for the doctor to arrive before pushing, just ask a woman who has had nurses forcefully hold her legs together when the baby is descending so that she wouldn’t give birth before the doctor is ready. It opens up a whole new world of pain, and often this situation contributes to severe birth trauma for the mother.
While we have been trained to think we aren’t supposed to push until the doctor says we are at 10 centimeters and fully effaced, the body knows when this happens. Your body knows when it’s time to start birthing. If you feel the urge to push, you might say so and be told it’s not time and to wait. While modern day doctors encourage coached pushing, modern day science still doesn’t.
The fetal ejection reflex is a very real event that occurs within the body if it is relaxed and given the time to. The body will take over and push the baby out with very little effort from Mom. If the mother feels the urge to push, her body is guiding her, which is what nature intended.
Still, doctors and nurses will often tell patients to wait. Coached pushing is more likely to lead to perineal tears and swelling of the cervix which could present the need for vacuum or forceps-assisted deliveries.
10 Refusing To Be Induced
Most women spend their pregnancies hoping they won’t need any kind of intervention at the end. Induction is one of those interventions. Still, elective inductions without a medical reason for inducing aren’t uncommon. Though this trend is on the rise, many women are realizing that inducing without medical cause can be dangerous and often leads to other unnecessary interventions, like C-section.
These women are more apt to want to refuse the need for induction. Sometimes, labor might slow or contractions may be inconsistent. In these situations, the doctor might suggest that Pitocin be used to speed things along. This drug is linked to an increased risk of other interventions, though, and is also known to make labor more stressful on both the mom and baby.
Women are often told they’ll need to induce if they don’t go into labor on their own by a certain point in time, too. This is absolutely not true. While there is an increased risk of negative side effects when women stay with child beyond 42 weeks, the risk is very minute. In contrast, the risk of negative side effects stemming from induction are greater.
Many Moms are treated as though they won’t have a choice in the matter and that induction is imminent if they don’t cross the finish line on their own. Guess what? It’s not true. It never was. No one can force you to induce your baby.
9 Opt Out Of Continuous Fetal Monitoring
Another common hospital protocol, continuous fetal monitoring sounds like a good thing. You get to hear the baby’s heartbeat throughout labor and the increased sense of security knowing the baby is handling the contractions okay is nice.
On the flip side, continuous fetal monitoring is often abused by medical staff who make mountains out of molehills when it comes to minor blips on the machine. In addition, it often keeps moms-to-be bedridden, which slows labor and frequently makes it more painful.
Doctors often insist that continuous fetal monitoring be employed throughout labor, and there is absolutely no research that backs this intervention being necessary at all. In fact, many moms-to-be are leaning in favor of lower technological procedures during their pregnancies since the research on ultrasounds and Doppler technologies is so scant.
What does exist points to potential problems, like cavitation and perhaps even neurodevelopmental disorders, like autism. Can you opt out of continuous fetal monitoring? Absolutely, but you’ll likely still be told you can’t ahead of time, too.
8 Refuse Cervical Checks
From the beginning of a pregnancy, women are coaxed into believing that cervical checks are necessary. They might have an exam at the start of their journey to motherhood to assure that the cervix is closed or to make sure the uterus feels as though it’s the appropriate size.
After that, there’s no need for cervical checks throughout pregnancy. There isn’t even a need for them at the end. The urge to know if the body is making progress toward labor is far more a mental one than medical. The truth is, dilation means nothing before active labor and contractions have begun. Women can sit at 4 centimeters for a month while others go into labor not being dilated at all.
When it comes time for labor, women might believe they are supposed to get their cervix checked routinely throughout the experience. Not so fast, mommas. This is indeed an intervention that can lead to infection, as well as premature rupturing of the membranes.
Cervical checks are not necessary throughout labor. In fact, they aren’t needed at all if you have a provider who is trained to know when a woman is fully dilated by her tone of voice, the aroma the woman’s body is releasing, the purple line, or fundal height. You can absolutely refuse cervical checks, but don’t expect a doctor to tell you that.
7 Push In Different Positions
The image of childbirth is pretty non-traditional for most women. We hear the word labor and imagine a woman in a hospital bed birthing on her backside with her legs up in stirrups. Why is that non-traditional? Because, until epidurals became the go to for childbirth roughly 100 years ago, the hospital birth wasn’t even traditional.
This isn’t exactly how it goes for all women, though. Lots of ladies deliver on their sides. Some are squatting. Some are on their hands and knees. Some even catch their own baby while standing and pushing. Yes, you can push in a variety of positions and no one can stop you.
This is something you’ll want to inform your doctor of in advance, though, because they need to be duly prepared to support you in alternative positions. Changing positions throughout labor is ideal for mothers who are seeking a birth experience that flows with less intervention and less pain.
Pushing on our backs is actually more painful, and it makes back labor more likely. Get up! Move around! Don’t succumb to staff who say you aren’t allowed. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
6 Take A Shower
Things sure can get interesting in the shower. Women who are in labor and thus, feeling great discomfort, can use the pressure of water spraying on their back, sides and stomach to help dull the pain of the contractions. In short, standing, squatting or sitting in the shower can greatly reduce the pain women feel during labor.
Why then are providers so quick to say no to this intervention that comes with virtually no negative side effects? It’s pretty simple. They’re worried you’re going to be all the way in the bathroom in the shower easing your pain when it comes time to push. What would happen then? You’d have to deliver somewhere other than the hospital bed or make the short trip back to the bed before birth.
Under the slim chance that a birth would occur in the bathroom every now and then, they don’t allow it for anyone.
Except, they can’t actually control where you go and there are no laws against taking a damn shower. Seriously, doctors can be pretty picky about this step in the plan and it’s so silly and unfortunate for moms who are just looking for alternative forms of pain relief. Sometimes, they even try to restrict moms after birth from showering for several hours — even when they didn’t have any medication. What gives!?
5 Say No To Cesareans
First and foremost, there are legitimate needs for C-sections. In some cases, they save lives and they are very necessary. There would indeed be babies and even mothers who died without this important surgical development in the medical field. However, the rate of C-sections in the United States is skyrocketing while the medical conditions warranting the need for them are not.
In other words, doctors are performing too many C-sections without medical cause to.
A well-informed mom goes into labor knowing what those medical causes are that warrant the need for a Cesarean and what doesn’t. For instance, a baby that is losing oxygen or a mom that is hemorrhaging necessitates an emergency Cesarean. A big baby, a mom who has been in labor for over 24 hours, or even a breech baby — does not immediately warrant the need for surgery.
Medical staff have often been guilty of urging Moms to consent to C-sections and using scare tactics to get them to succumb to the pressure. Some have gone as far as telling women their bodies aren’t capable of birthing babies of a certain size or telling them their baby will die if they don’t opt for surgery. Then they deliver healthy babies with no complications at all.
This happens all the time. Don’t give up your right to say no to a C-section if medical reasons for one are not present. You are the one that gives the permission here, not the doctor.
4 Yell And Swear
Have you had a baby before? During that process, did you ever catch a glimpse of another mother walking the halls? Did you hear her when she was giving birth? It happens. Hospitals are built with some serious insulation and sound proofing, but sometimes, you will hear the shrieks from a neighbor’s room. Hopefully, if you do, it happens after you’ve delivered and not beforehand.
Setting aside the uncomfortable moment a laboring mother might feel to hear another mom pushing, doctors sometimes expect the delivery room to be fairly quiet and calm. Well, they aren’t allowed to tape your mouth shut, so say whatever the heck you want as loud as you need to if it makes you feel better.
Science has actually linked both yelling and expletives to being helpful in releasing pain and tension. In an effort to stay aligned with evidence-based care, curse like a sailor all you want.
3 Refuse Artificial Rupturing Of The Membranes
AROM — short for artificial rupturing of the membranes — is often employed by doctors to jumpstart an induction. Sometimes, it is also opted for during labor to try to kick things into high gear and speed up the laboring process.
Let’s think about that for a minute. Why should we try to speed up labor? Can we really make the baby come out faster just by breaking the waters? What does this accomplish? It makes contractions harder and more forceful because that cushion of fluid is gone. Those stronger contractions push the baby out faster in some circumstances.
Doctors are often in favor of a speedier delivery that lets them make it home for dinner that night. Frequently, doctors will come in and break the waters on purpose without even asking for consent or informing the mother first. They will perform a cervical exam and do it at the same time. Thus, it should be outlined ahead of time that AROM is not to be performed.
The waters almost always break on their own during labor from the force of contractions and the baby descending. For those that don’t — 1 in 80,000 — they are born en caul. Thus, there is no need either way to break the bag of waters. Feel free to refuse this intervention even when they tell you they have to do it.
2 Wait It Out
Often, women are surprised during labor when their doctor comes to them and recommends induction measures or a C-section merely because she isn’t progressing as quickly as they say she should be. Who wrote the book on how long labor is allowed to take anyway?
Labor takes as long as it needs to. Some women experience prodromal labor for weeks. Women can stay in active labor for days before finally birthing their babies. There are a variety of reasons that labor may take time. If a woman is stressed, she is producing cortisol which can impede the processing and reabsorption of oxytocin thereby slowing things down.
On the other hand, if a woman’s body is misaligned the baby might not be able to get into an optimal position to pass through the birth canal. It doesn’t mean natural birth won’t be possible, but it could take longer for the baby to turn during labor.
Try to remember that hospitals are businesses and at the end of the day, they do have their bottom line in mind. The faster they turn over each hospital bed, the better their profits. You are certainly allowed to turn down interventions and keep waiting during labor. They cannot force you to do anything else.
1 Late Epidurals
Frequently, hospital staff pushes certain interventions. Epidurals are one of them. For women in labor, 60 percent or more get the epidural for pain relief. While these drugs and the spinal administration of such have risks of their own, it is also important to know when the best time is to opt for an epidural.
Getting one too early can lead to negative consequences, such as the drug wearing off altogether or the need for Pitocin because epidurals often slow down contractions.
For this reason, it has been long recommended that women be at least 4 or 5 centimeters dilated before they opt for the medication. This would mean they are in active labor. Thus, it would be less likely that the epidural would stall things, though that does still happen. Doctors and other medical staff often encourage women to get epidurals even sooner than this, though.
Sometimes, they’ll even tell laboring mothers there won’t be time later or that the anesthesiologist won’t be around. So, if they’re going to get that epidural, they need to do it now.
This too isn’t true. If you’re hoping to stick it out and go natural as long as you can or you just want to make sure that epidural doesn’t interfere with your body’s natural contractions, feel free to wait it out. The overall message to take away here is they aren’t allowed to not allow you. You aren’t property and neither is your baby. The only way a doctor has control over your body is if you relinquish it to them.