When it comes to talking about birth there can be so much divisiveness: home VS hospital, epidural VS natural, etc. Though these polarized debates can cement an opinion for some, they are confusing as hell to many others. The truth is, most women would be very content with the best of all possible worlds.
As a wise friend once asked, Why can't we get the freshly baked bread AND the epidural?
I think it's a great idea to take what you can get from both the hospital and the hippies, and cobble together the kind of birthing support that's just right for you.
On that note, I'd like to throw out some ways home birth practices* can help in a hospital birth setting.
1. Stay home in early labor.
In first births this is especially important. There's no reason to rush off to the hospital at the very first sign of labor. Stay home until you're in active labor (this starts when contractions are 3-5 minutes apart). And do what home birthers do. Dim the lights, keep random people away, get in the bath, get in the shower, moan, groan, get on all fours, rock back and forth, eat and drink lots of water or Gatorade.
2. Think of hospital procedures and medications as "back up" as opposed to essential.
Birth may be difficult or hard or downright painful but most often it works. We are designed to do this. And in the instances where something isn't working out we have fantastic medical technology to back us up. Home births work on the assumption that, in low-risk pregnancies, all will be fine and in the case that something does come up, you can transfer to a hospital. You can get into the mind-set that hospital care is a "back up" even if you do know you'll be going there for the actual birth. This can build your confidence both in normal labor and in medical technology. Both have their place.
3. Learn some other ways to cope with pain than the epidural.
If you're giving birth at home you can't get an epidural, so you're forced to really educate yourself about other options for reliving pain in labor. Even if you know you want to get an epidural in labor, you might benefit from learning these other techniques- massage, changing positions, vocalizing, hypnosis, etc- as you may go through some portion of labor without pain medication for any number of reasons. In general, learning lots ways to cope helps build confidence.
4. Get a midwife.
In the US most babies born at home are delivered by home birth midwives. But midwives deliver in birthing centers and hospitals, too! And they are often covered by insurance. There are lots of myths about midwives circulating, but the fact is certified midwives are trained medical professionals who can prescribe tests, sonograms and medications. The only thing they are not trained to do is surgery. But we have doctors for that.
5. And/or a doula.
A doula provides continuous labor support, something not offered by hospital staff or obstetricians or even (some) midwives. This continuous support has been shown to reduce the chance of medical interventions including c-sections and even shorten the length of labor. Doulas are often used in home births as a primary source of comfort and support.
For 5 more tips about having a home-style birth at the hospital, visit Babble.