Book Review: Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds

Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds

by Cynthia Gabriel

 

This is the essential book for families desiring a natural birth in the hospital. It informs readers of everything I wish I had to time to review with my doula clients. It does not scare or shame parents about their birth environment choice, instead gently and honestly reveals what you can expect when you arrive at the hospital and how to prepare yourself & your birth team to maximize your chances of a natural birth. Gabriel manages to cover the normal birth preparation topics such as stages of labor, pain coping techniques, & birth stories clearly and yet differently than any other author before her. Additionally she includes in-depth examples of what birth teams can say to tired, frustrated mothers during birth & what to say to hospital staff encouraging interventions. This review will cover a few of the books’ highlights.



Finding out how your care provider really feels about natural childbirth & if they will support you

Gabriel suggests these 5 questions to learn about your providers’ attitudes about natural birth. She goes on to unpack possible answers and points out red flags that may not be obvious to parents who aren’t birth nerds.

  • Can you tell me what kind of birth you chose for yourself (or what kind your wife chose), and what did you learn from it?
  • Can you tell me about the most recent natural birth you attended?
  • In your opinion, what helps omen achieve natural birth? What can a woman do to prepare?
  • In your professional opinion, what are the main reasons that women who want natural births do not have them?
  • What do you think birth pain means to women? What is the value of birth pain?

 

Inductions, Large Babies, & How women describe labor pain in natural childbirth

Interventions, drugs or the unplanned, unwanted cesarean birth is the fear that lurks in the back the mind of most women desiring a natural birth but who are the in hospital. As a doula myself I witness three of the most common reasons that natural births transition to medicated or surgical births: inductions, ‘large babies’, and pain.

A woman being induced and hoping for a natural birth has a long, difficult road ahead of her. A natural birth is still possible with the right baby, the right body, and the right birth team. “Almost 40 percent of American have inductions. Yet about a third of all inductions do not work.” I hadn’t realized inductions numbers are that high or that they are so often unsuccessful. It makes sense to me though, birth is a dance between the mother and the baby, it’s impossible for the dance to begin unless both partners are ready.

I wish I could openly roll my eyes when an OB tells a woman, “Your baby may be too big to come through your birth canal. Look at how tall your husband is! And you know we let you go until almost 42 weeks, babies really grow in those last few days.” Or I wish I was in a position to say, “Deformed pelvic bones were much more common is the 1700s, when our foremothers suffered from vitamin deficiencies. Most North American girls today get enough calcium and vitamin D to prevent rickets, the most common cause of pelvic bone deformity, so it is now extremely rare to find a pelvis that not able to birth a baby.”

Gabriel points out that most of the time the ‘large baby’ excuse is used to convince a family to agree to a surgical birth the problem is the position of the baby. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen many OB’s work with women on the position of the baby, this is where having a good doula and following the authors’ advice of ‘Eat, Cry, and Move’ can come in handy.

Pain is often a huge factor when births shift towards medication. The author sites her own research in the United States & Russia about pain intensity levels, the percent of women who experience them, and possible reasons and connected factors. According to Gabriel 85-96 percent of women report that labor “pain is intense and requires effort (usually, a focus on breathing and relaxing) to get through. Most would agree that labor has been their most painful physical experience. Many compare it to running a marathon.” The good news is only 1-5 percent (the number jumps appreciably if labor is induced) described labor as, “Excruciating, unbearable pain.” The important message here is: labor is hard, AND you can do it, here is the proof.

 

Eat, Cry & Move

Labor is not a straight line from first contraction to birth. While each and every contraction is indeed helping to prepare your body, it is possible for your cervix to open and close and open again. Contractions may increase or decrease in frequency and duration. Labor may ‘plateau’, the author recommends to Eat, Cry, & Move if this should happen because each of those activities helps to change physical, emotional and baby caused plateaus. ‘Cry’ is short hand for emotional release; which could be laughing or screaming if that is what feels right.

I appreciate that Gabriel suggests eating. While most hospitals don’t allow women to eat once active labor has begun it is unfortunate because I have seen eating give a woman the energy she needs to get through a difficult stage of labor.

 

Distinguishing Emergencies from Non-Emergencies

A primary difficultly of birthing in the hospital is keeping your calm. “Much of today’s medicine is about evaluating risk, so even normal labors are continuously assessed as potentially hazardous.” The language, attitude, and experience of hospital staff is that danger could always be just around the corner. Part of this is because the hospital is not designed for natural birth, the staff are not trained for a natural birth, design and training is focused around responding when something goes awry, this is why you’ve chosen the hospital.

Nurturing the calm and reassuring atmosphere women laboring naturally need is not the strength of your hospital team. You must be prepared to maintain your relaxation and trust the process while staff around you has some fear in their bodies.

No one said birthing is easy! In a true emergency you will know, otherwise assume the tasks of the staff are not connected to an emergency.

Finally I’ll leave you with one of the most poignant parts of Natural Hospital Birth, Gabriel discusses her experience of relaxation during childbirth:

“The only way I know to get though labor pain is to surrender to it. Achieving surrender is the hardest part. When you feel overwhelmed by contractions you have not yet surrendered. Your are in pre-surrender. A miracle happens in the instant that you yield. Labor stops feeling so hard. You stop feeling overwhelmed. As soon as you accept that labor is overwhelming, it ceases to be so. Relaxing during painful contractions changes the feelings of those contractions. This is just one of life’s paradoxes”.

Side Lying Comfort

As pregnancy goes on most woman experience difficult sleeping due to either acid reflux or hip and shoulder pain while sleeping on their sides. It’s important to get good sleep during pregnancy because fatigue can put you at risk for complications.

 

Acid reflux, or GERD (Gastroesophogial Reflux Disease) is common during pregnancy because of a slowing of the muscles that control swallowing. Often the acid reflux is worst at night, after dinner,when you are trying to find an agreeable position. A supported reclined position can be a comfortable position to sleep in. One of the most critical aspects of finding a safe and comfortable position is ensuring the angle of your body. A 45 degree angle is ideal because it ensures the weight of the baby is not on your Vena Cava reducing blood flow to the baby and placenta.

Generally if your position is causing the baby stress your body will wake yourself up. Many women are viscerally aware when the uterus is pressing on their vein so use your awareness and trust your intuition when getting settled.

Many women find the best compromise for them is a combination face down/side laying position with a small pillow under their belly similar but not exactly like the picture at the right.

 

Sleeping on your left side is the recommended safest position during the second and third trimesters because it allows the most blood flow and nutrients to get to the placenta and the baby. However, this position puts a lot of pressure on your shoulder and hip and can result in painful aches. This results in a lot of restless nights changing positions and moving pillows. Regular massage will help to relieve some aches and can relax you into peaceful sleep.

I invested in an OakWorks Side Laying Positioning System for maximum comfort during prenatal massage. Most of the massage is done in the side laying position but there is a torso pillow that takes the pressure off of your shoulders and hips while supporting your head and keeping your top leg just above hip height. There is also a little wedge pillow to support your belly. Depending on your needs during the massage we may move you to the supported reclined position to work on your neck or give a gentle belly massage.

 

A number of clients wish they had pillows this comfortable for every night sleeping. I am considering buying a second set to rent to clients for the final months of their pregnancy. Please let me know if this is something you might be interested in.

Postpartum Support

 Postpartum 40 Days Packages 

The roots of caring for mothers during their immediate post partum period are long and deep. Latin Americans, Ugandans, Koreans, Native Americans, Lebanese, Chinese, Burmese, Greeks and many other cultures around the world have documented traditions of giving special care to new mothers. This tradition is known as la qurentinia, man yue jiu, thie dwin and by many other names, but the essence remains the same: caring for mothers while their bodies heal so they can better care & bond with their children. Rest indoors, homemade soups, others tending to chores & errands and supportive visits by women familiar with the challenges and sacredness of this time are common to each of these traditions. Women with family members able to carry on this tradition for them are blessed, however modern realities often make it impossible for Grandmothers, Aunties, & other loved ones to give new mothers the care they need. Many expecting parents request that money for a Postpartum Doula in lieu of a shower gift. Consider giving yourself and your baby the gift of care.

Mama Care

Food Preparation

Sitz Bath Preparation

Belly Binding

Lactation Education

Baby Wearing Education

Emotional Support

Essential Oil Education & Support for Wellness

Home Care

Dishes

Laundry

Bathroom Cleaning

Tidying

Grocery Shopping, Meal Planning & Errands

Family Care

Baby Massage Education

In Home Massage Therapy for Mom & Partner

The Cared for Family

150 Hours of Care- $4,000

This package is ideal for the family where the partner travels frequently or works long hours. Ensure your new mother has every need met even if you cannot always be there to meet it. Your family will be my sole focus during this special postpartum periods, leave the logistics of life to me for a few weeks while you bond with your baby. Connect with your body & your recovery process through weekly massage. Get the sleep you need, I will care for your baby in your home a few nights. The perfect gift from grandparents who are not able to be near the family during this time or for families expecting multiples! This package includes:

 

2 Prenatal Visits

40 days of Daily Telephone & Text Support

30 days of Mama, Home & Family Care 3hr/day

1 Massage Therapy Session/week

5 overnight stays

 

The Cared for Mama

Approx 80 Hours of Care- $2,500

The Cared for Mama package is great for families where the Mama must return to work soon after birth. Maximize your quality time with your new little one by letting me take care of dishes, dinner, & errands. Speed your healing through weekly massage & being nurtured daily! Also, a dreamy package for women who had a cesarean birth & need that extra helping hand. This package includes:

 

2 Prenatal Visits

40 days of Daily Telephone & Text Support

20 days of Mama, Home & Family Care 3hr/day

1 Massage Therapy Session/week

2 overnight stays

 

The Cared for Baby

40 Hours of Care- $1,000

 Is your baby due at the same time as that big deadline? Can your family not come to support you until a few weeks after birth? The Cared for Baby package is perfect for you! Receive 20 days of postpartum doula support with home visits half of those days. Help to ease your transition into parenthood by having someone you can always call with concerns or questions. This package includes:

 

1 Prenatal Visit

20 days of Daily Telephone & Text Support

10 days of Mama & Home Care 3hr/day

 

 

Policies

All services must be used 60 days from the first day of use. Exceptions will be made on a case by case basis. I may be open to trade not to exceed 50% of the total package cost. I will only take 1 Post Partum Family at a time, and limit my Birth Doula clients to 2 during your expected 40 days.

 

 Overnight Doula Support 

I am available for overnight doula support. I have experience working with  families who breastfeed, bottle feed & do a combination. I also have experience supporting families with premature babies, twins, and postpartum depression & anxiety. I typically arrive at 9pm and depart around 7am, I can feed, change, and soothe your baby while your family gets some much needed sleep.

 Breastfeeding Support 

If you are having trouble breastfeeding and you or your care provider are concerned about weight gain or breast feeding I am available to visit you in your home for one on one breastfeeding support. I have training in using Supplemental Nursing Systems.

 

 Housework, Childcare & Errands 

The time after birth is a huge transition for families. If you find yourself needing more support than your loved ones can provide consider hiring me to take care of light house work including laundry, dishes, cooking, childcare, errands or whatever projects need doing. I have years of experience working with children ages 1-8.

 

 Meals 

I am available to cook meals in your home. I can come one day and make a few meals for the week  or I can come by in the afternoon to prepare a meal for the evening.

 

Birth Doula

 

Birth Doula Services


I wholeheartedly recommend Saralynn to anyone looking for a doula. Having her there to support us, allowed us to be assured and more relaxed during such a wondrous and life-changing experience.

Julie M.


I have attended over 80 births as a doula and midwive’s assistant at hospital, home, and birth centers.

 My practice is guided by two core principles, that all families deserve evidence based care and that every birth is sacred.

I have great relationships with nurses and providers at Cottage Hospital, Community Memorial Hospital, and the Santa Barbara Birth Center. I offer placenta encapsulation, breastfeeding education, and postpartum support to my birth doula families. Depending on my availability I am sometimes able to extend these services to other families.

Check my Availability for your Due Date

Call, email or text today to set up your birth doula consultation

Complete Birth Services Package

Complimentary Consultation

Two 3 hour Prenatal Appointments

90 minute Prenatal Massage

24 hour support from week 38 until you deliver

Continuous Labor Support

1 Postpartum Visit

$12500 (sliding scale available)


Fee Structure

I work on an upward sliding scale. I collect a $600 deposit when we sign the contract. I collect $650 by week 36. The remainder of my fee is optional; it can be paid at our final postpartum visit. It is based on your family’s satisfaction with my services and financial resources.  


Download my Contract

Doula Policies

As a doula I……

 Do 
  • Provide physical comfort, emotional support, and information to mothers & their partners emotionally before, during, and after birth
  • Provide information and identify when you make choices not on your birth plan
  • Facilitate conversations between you and your medical providers
 Do Not
  • Provide any medical monitoring or clinical tasks
  • Make decisions for you
  • Speak for you or on your behalf to medical providers
  • Provide primary childcare to other children at your birth