Great Hospital Birth, CiC’s Healthy Birth Choices Workshop

Thank you to Shara Frederick, our guest writer this week on the CiC blog. As a doula, childbirth educator, active CiC volunteer, and member of CiC’s Program Committee, Shara is an incredible member of the CiC and NYC birth community.To learn more visit

Two weeks ago, at the Sol Goldman Y in NYC, CiC’s Healthy Birth Choices Workshop was filled with expectant parents curious about “Having a Great Hospital Birth”. In a city filled with complicated birth stories, it was wonderful to have three moms and two dads share their positive birth experiences with the audience. We also had the support of Mark Levin , MD the Coordinator of Community Medicine at Beth Israel Residency in Urban Family Practice.

Integral to every story we heard was the importance of the relationship between the family and their providers. The first speaker, Laurie planned on not using any interventions. Laurie saw an OB prenatally knowing that this OB would not be catching her. When Laurie was admitted to the hospital, the residents of the Labor and Delivery floor were in charge of her care. These residents were not familiar with pregnant patients choosing not to use pain medication or refusing the routine interventions offered to her. Despite not having the support of the residents, Laurie birthed her healthy baby. After hearing Laurie’s story, Dr. Levin, who trains residents, expressed his hopes that her experience with the residents is unique and isolated; he pointed out that residents reflect the OB’s they are trained by and that Laurie’s story could have unfolded differently had there been a different set of residents on-call.

Melissa had a very different experience at a hospital. When Melissa first went into labor, she waited at home with her husband, who was in contact with her midwife. When Melissa decided to go to the hospital, their midwife met them and examined her. She told them she had not progressed enough to admit them into the birth center. So Melissa and Ivan spent the next few hours walking. Melissa trusted her team and she followed their advice. A few hours later she was admitted to the birth-center. With her midwife close by, she labored until she birthed her daughter. Compared to Laurie’s story, Melissa’s practitioner provided reassurance and guidance as well as tools to help her through her labor.

Our third speaker, Leah, had planned to have a homebirth. After 62 hours of labor and many conversations with her midwife, husband, doula, and self she decided to transfer to a hospital. Although Leah had no connection to the hospital the staff was very sensitive to her needs and her situation. During Leah’s transfer her homebirth midwife stayed with her. Although her homebirth midwife could not remain in charge of her clinical care she did remain in the hospital for guidance, advocacy and support until Leah delivered.

These three stories illustrate the varied roles care providers plays in a woman’s labor. The first step in having a great hospital birth is choosing a  care provider who supports your philosophy for giving birth. In the end, everybody hopes for a healthy mom and a healthy baby, but what else can your provider offer you?

The other theme present  in every story was the need for support. It wasn’t only the support of the partners that helped these moms cope with labor and navigate the hospital, but also it was the extra support provided by a doula. Studies have shown over and over again that the presence of another woman lowers rates of intervention, lowers rates of  c-section and increases the mom’s over-all satisfaction. As the couples told their stories, you could also hear how a doula helped the partners work with mom. In Leah’s case a doula stayed with her while Zeek napped, in Laurie’s case a doula helped her stay in her body and in her labor while her husband talked to the hospital staff. Her doula was also instrumental in helping her extend her labor at home.

In all of these stories the partner played a huge role in helping mom utlize her comfort tools to cope with labor. All of the speakers had taken childbirth education classes, which taught the partners what to expect and how to physically and emotionally help mom through her labor.

So is there a secret to share about having a great hospital birth? Well the truth is every labor is unique and we can’t control how it will unfold. But you can be flexible, and build a great support team for yourself. Tour your hospital so you can picture where you are giving birth. Check out if you will be able to use water as a coping tool. Ask about routine procedures, and decide what you are and are not comfortable with. Speak to your provider, and see what role they will play in your labor. Think about how you can adjust a hospital setting into a setting that provides privacy and comfort. Take a childbirth education class and talk to other moms about what worked for them in labor.
Have a great birth!


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