5 Helpful Hints From A Birth Doula

Wondering what your options for birth in a hospital really are? Ami Burns, CD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE shares five secrets so you can make informed decisions about labor and birth.

Pregnant woman at the hospital

Whether you're planning a natural childbirth or think you'll want pain medication as quickly as possible, it's important to know your options for labor and birth. Definitely take a hospital tour — you'll see what the labor and delivery room looks like, and the leader — usually a nurse — can give you a quick overview about what to expect. That said, there are "secrets" that may or may not be told — so here are the top five I've learned in my 13 years as a doula:

You don’t need an IV just because you’re in labor

IVs are pretty standard, but if needles freak you out, or you don’t want to have to walk around with an IV, guess what? You don’t always need one. Talk to your doctor or midwife at a prenatal appointment about this option — unless you need Pitocin, an epidural or extra fluids, you can forgo the IV. If you need antibiotics or other medications during labor, you can ask to have the catheter placed so it’s easy to hook up an IV when needed, then take it out in between doses.

Are routine IVs necessary in labor? >>

You may be able to “eat” more than ice chips

Every hospital has different protocols when it comes to eating or drinking in labor. Some doctors and midwives who practice in the same hospital have different guidelines! You may be offered jello, popsicles, crackers or even a light sandwich, especially if you’re laboring naturally. If you need to be induced or have an epidural, you may be restricted to ice chips or clear liquids like water or apple juice.

You may need to ask where all the cool labor tools are kept

Your hospital may have birth balls available in each delivery room or they may be kept in a broom closet. The same goes for warm blankets, heat or cold packs, squat bars and mirrors. Be sure to ask where everything "lives" if you're not told when you're admitted to labor and delivery.

You might not get the epidural immediately

Even if your hospital has anesthesiologists available 24/7, they could be helping other moms in labor or administering anesthesia for a C-section. Another good option is narcotic medication instead of, or before an epidural. A nurse can administer narcotics by injection or IV with less waiting time for pain relief.

More about how to manage labor pain during childbirth and delivery >>

Your extra support person may not be allowed in the operating room during a Cesarean

If you end up needing a C-section, you may only be allowed to have one person accompany you in the OR for the birth. This is something you can find out from your doctor or midwife in advance, or even negotiate if an unexpected C-section arises if it's really important to you to have your doula or additional support person there with you and your partner.

Read more

Choosing a birth place — 10 questions to ask
The truth about birth plans
Pick the perfect doula

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