The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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OPTION 4: OB-attended natural birth in a hospital
“I wanted to go natural, but I ruled out home birth pretty quickly, since I’m just not that big a risk taker. I looked into a birthing center, but I was nervous about having to leave after 24 hours, and I also have a medical condition that required an M.D. to oversee my birth. So I found an OB practice that was supportive of natural birth.” —Debra, a stay-at-home mother of three in Lewisburg, PA.
“When you’re that close to pain relief, as I was, it is hard, if not impossible, to abstain. Even though I planned on natural birth, I wound up asking for an epidural both times.” —Amy, an entrepreneur and mother of two in New York
Who chooses it > Women who want a natural birth without precluding the possibility of medical interventions and anesthetics.
What you get > The opportunity to try for a natural birth while being cared for by an obstetrician in the hospital.
What you give up > Your doctor will usually be required to follow hospital protocols, which means intervening if labor goes on too long. Plus, there will always be some corner of your brain that knows the pain-killing drugs are there—all you have to do is ask for them. (Also see Midwife-Attended Natural Birth in a Hospital.)
What you need to know > Find a doctor who is completely supportive or your birth plan, and grill him or her about induction, episiotomy and C-section rates. If you are uncomfortable with the answers this doctor gives, find a different one, even if you’re halfway through your pregnancy. And don’t forget that in a hospital, you will spend many more hours with nurses than with your doctor, so find out all the protocols and have your doctor call in specific instructions to override them if possible. For example, your doctor will have to let the nursing staff know if you’re allowed to eat during labor or have intermittent fetal monitoring.