Are you wondering how to have a natural birth in a hospital? You’re certainly not alone. As a registered nurse and Lamaze-certified childbirth educator, I’ve worked with over fourteen thousand pregnant moms who have joined the Kopa Birth community seeking answers to the very same question. Women want to know how to manage labor pain, how to navigate hospital interventions, and how to involve their partner in the process. If you’re willing to take the time to learn and practice the tools presented in this Ultimate Guide, you’ll be well on your way to experiencing a calm, empowering natural childbirth. Are you ready?! Let’s jump in!
Estimated reading time: 28 minutes
Table of contents
- Can You Have a Natural Birth in a Hospital?
- What is a Natural Birth?
- The Labor and Birth Process
- Natural Birth: How to Cope With Labor Pain
- Natural Birth: How Partners Can Prepare for Labor
- Consider Hiring a Doula
- Natural Birth Guide: Medications In Labor
- Natural Birth Guide: Hospital Interventions
- Natural Birth in a Hospital: Birth Plans
- Childbirth Education Classes
Can You Have a Natural Birth in a Hospital?
Let’s start by calling out the elephant in the room. Over 98% of women in the US give birth in a hospital. Women choose hospital birth for a variety of reasons, citing reasons such as insurance options and safety concerns. But when your goal is to deliver in a way that is most natural, untouched by any unnecessary interventions, the hospital tends to get a bad rap. Is it really possible to have a natural birth in a hospital?
Yes! It’s absolutely possible to have a natural birth in a hospital! It’s been my experience that most doctors and midwives are eager to support moms in having the birth they desire, whether that be an early epidural or a natural childbirth. Still, most are not well-versed in natural birth and non-medical labor coping tools. Your doctor and nurses certainly won’t stand in the way of your birth plan…they will just expect you to take more control of the experience.
This means that YOU have to become the expert in the process of natural birth. You’ve got to arm yourself with labor coping tools that actually work so that you can manage contractions without an epidural. And you need to show up on game day with a well-prepared labor team (aka. your partner and possibly a doula) to help provide the support you’ll need. A natural hospital birth requires intentional preparation, and you can do it!
What is a Natural Birth?
Some people are confused about exactly what it means to have a natural childbirth, since the phrase can mean different things to different people. When we refer to “natural birth” here at Kopa Birth, we’re describing a birth without pain medication, like an epidural or narcotics. I think the term “unmedicated birth” is much more accurate, since there’s really nothing “unnatural” about using medication in labor. But, the phrase “natural birth” is used more commonly, so we’ll stick with it.
Want to read all about my 7 births, including 1 epidural and 6 natural hospital births? My 6 Natural Childbirth Experiences (& 1 Epidural)
What Are the Benefits of Natural Birth?
Most women understand the benefits of getting an epidural — pain relief. But there are also natural childbirth benefits for both mom and baby that make the hard work worth the effort. Some benefits include:
- More satisfying birth experiences (And yes, there’s actually evidence to support this claim!)
- Less potential for medical interventions
- Shorter pushing phase
- Less use of assisted delivery
- Easier recovery directly after birth
- Sense of accomplishment and empowerment
Is Natural Birth Painful?
Yes, natural birth is painful. (Anyone who tells you that pushing an 8 pound baby out of your body should be painless is setting you up for unrealistic expectations.) But the question most women want to know is just how painful is natural childbirth? Are we talking strong period cramps or the worst pain of your life? Well, it’s hard to say because it feels different for every woman, changes during each phase of labor, and is impacted by wildcards like the baby’s position in the pelvis and the length of labor.
Contraction pain is often described as cramping, sharp pain, intense pressure, muscle spasms like a charlie horse, or profound stretching. For many women, birth becomes the benchmark of the most challenging thing they’ve ever accomplished.
The important thing to know is that although childbirth is painful, the pain is manageable when you’re well-supported and using the right coping tools. This combination leads to a sense of mastery over the discomfort and helps moms feel in control and avoid suffering. This is because the pain you experience during childbirth is different from an unexpected injury, which signals that something is wrong with your body. Instead, labor P.A.I.N. is:
Purposeful – You’re doing all of this hard work to bring your baby into the world! Believe me, it’s worth it!
Anticipated – Take a look down at that big ole’ belly. Yep, you’re pregnant. And that little one has to come out soon. Anticipate those contractions because each one will bring your baby one step closer to your arms.
Intermittent – You’ve taken the best childbirth class ever and know that contractions come in waves, lasting between 30-90 seconds with periods of rest in between. Now that you know what to expect, there’s nothing to fear!
Normal – You’re not sick, you’re pregnant. And your body is made to give birth!
Learn More: Contraction Pain: How Painful is Childbirth?
The Labor and Birth Process
Let’s learn more about the actual process of childbirth, because the backbone of feeling calm and prepared for a natural childbirth is understanding childbirth itself. Knowing what to expect has a magical way of erasing fear. Let’s take a look at the birth process starting with the stages of labor.
Want to see what natural childbirth actually looks like, sounds like, and feels like? Here are excerpts of my husband and I during the natural hospital birth of our baby #5. This video will help you get a feel for the reality of natural birth, starting with early labor and ending with the pushing phase. Are you read to get up close and personal with Seth and I?!! Let’s bond!
Early labor, sometimes called the latent phase, is usually the longest phase. It averages about 9-11 hours for a first-time mom. During early labor, your cervix will dilate to about six centimeters (1). Most women spend this phase at home and are able to remain fairly relaxed. Rest if you can, or keep busy with distraction activities while you pass the time. Watch a movie, chat with your mom, go for a walk, or bake some bread. You’ve got time to kill!
You may have been having Braxton Hicks contractions for some time now, but early labor brings real contractions that are working to efface and dilate your cervix. They may still be somewhat irregular, but become more regular than the scattered ones you may have been feeling for days or weeks. You may also notice a slightly bloody or pink discharge, which is called bloody show. This may also contain the mucus plug.
Contractions in early labor are shorter, further apart, and less intense than later contractions will be. Contractions may be 5 to 15 minutes apart and last about 30-60 seconds (2). By the end of early labor, they can be less than 5 minutes apart. Early labor contractions may feel like pain or pressure that starts in your back and moves around to your lower abdomen. During the contraction, your belly will tighten and feel hard to the touch. Between contractions, the uterus relaxes and your belly will feel soft again.
In active labor, your cervix dilates to about 8 centimeters — a process that takes about 4.5 hours for a first-time mom. Contractions are stronger and closer together. A general guideline is the 5-1-1 rule. If your contractions are 5 minutes apart (or less), last at least one minute, and have sustained this pattern for at least one hour, you’re probably in active labor (1). Time to head over to the hospital!
In addition to stronger, more frequent contractions, you may experience:
- Bag of water may break if it hasn’t already
- Legs may cramp
- May feel nauseated
- May have back pain during contractions
Contractions during active labor are strong and command your attention. While you may have been able to rest, talk, or distract yourself in early labor, the contractions in active labor reach an intensity that requires you to focus and use labor tools like breathing and movement to get through them.
Transition Phase of Labor
Transition is where things get really intense! As your cervix dilates from 8 to 10 centimeters, the contractions are longer, more frequent, and stronger than active labor. This is the last bit of cervical change that occurs before you’re ready to begin pushing. It is the most intense part of labor, but also the shortest, and it signals that you’re almost at the finish line. Transition typically lasts for about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
In addition to the more intense contractions, you may experience an increase in bloody show (caused by capillaries in the cervix rupturing), trembling legs, nausea and/or vomiting, or the feeling of being either very warm or chilly. Your emotions and physical sensations are intense, and you might feel exhausted, restless, irritable, or overwhelmed.
Contractions come every 1 1/2 to 2 minutes now, and can last up to 1 1/2 minutes each. Transition contractions may come with strong pressure in the lower back, perineum, and/or rectum. You may feel an urge to bear down. You will need to use the coping tools you’ve learned; it’s common to move or sway through contractions and to moan or use more rapid breathing techniques during transition.
Want to learn more about moaning, vocalizing, and making noise in labor? Check out this video below!
Pushing Phase of Labor
Once your cervix has dilated to 10 centimeters, you move into the pushing stage. In this stage, baby leaves your uterus, rotates within your pelvis, descends through your vagina, and is born (1). Pushing usually takes between 1-3 hours for a first-time mom, though it can go much faster.
The main symptom of moving into the pushing stage is that you will feel an urge to push along with your contractions. Some women feel the urge to push right away when they’ve reached the point of being fully dilated, or even while still in the transition stage. Others don’t feel a strong urge to push. Giving it some time or changing to an upright position usually helps.
For some women, pushing feels like a huge relief. For others, it’s the most intense, challenging part of labor. The contractions you experience in this stage are typically milder than in the transition stage. The pain of contractions tends to decrease, and the time between contractions increases.
You will feel an urge to push during contractions as your uterine muscles push your baby downward. This need to push may feel like a strong urge to have a bowel movement, and you may feel a compelling need to grunt or hold your breath and bear down. As baby’s head crowns, the perineal skin stretches and creates a burning sensation known as “the ring of fire.” Shortly thereafter, baby is born and placed on your chest!
Delivering the Placenta
Usually 5 – 30 minutes after your baby is born, your placenta will detach from the wall of your uterus. Your doctor or midwife will ask you to give a few more gentle pushes and the placenta will come out without the difficulty required to deliver your baby. Because unlike your baby, the placenta has no bones! Phew! It will be examined to make sure it’s intact, and the nurse will massage your belly to make sure your uterus feels normal. The doctor will then stitch any perineal tears, and then it’s finally time to rest and enjoy your little one.
Natural Birth: How to Cope With Labor Pain
Don’t let the fear of childbirth pain rob you of any peace or excitement about your upcoming birth. You do not have to just lie in bed and brace against the waves of contractions. Tools like deep relaxation, breathing techniques, movement, and touch are tried-and-true, powerful allies to help you manage contraction pain with confidence. You’ll learn these things and more in your online childbirth class.
The ability to release tension and relax your muscles during (and in between) contractions is the rock-solid foundation of a positive natural birth experience. It might sound like a tall order to go limp and relaxed amidst a strong contraction, but it’s not hard to do when you’ve practiced the skill beforehand. It’s all about muscle memory. Start practicing deep relaxation now during your pregnancy, 20 minutes daily, as you listen to relaxation scripts and guided imagery, like the video below. Visualization, such as picturing each contraction as a wave, can also be a powerful tool in addition to skills like relaxation triggers.
During active labor, when you feel the contraction begin to grow, take a deep cleansing breath. This will be your cue to relax your muscles. As you exhale, release the tension in your muscles and allow your body to become limp like a rag doll. Continue this state of relaxation throughout your contraction, and when the contraction ends, take a final cleansing breath.
You may find it necessary to layer on other labor coping tools, such as breathing techniques, to help you maintain your state of relaxation as contractions grow in strength and intensity. Let’s cover those other coping tools now.
The 1970’s brought us tube socks, Pong, shag carpets, and Lamaze classes. And while they’re not regularly taught in childbirth classes these days, the old-school Lamaze breathing techniques are still a powerful tool in your labor toolbox.
It might sound funny at first to think about the importance of knowing how to breathe. After all, you do it unconsciously all the time. However, people do not naturally, intuitively breathe in a way that releases tension. In fact, the natural response to pain is often to hold your breath and brace against it, which increases muscles tension and hinders labor progress. Others respond to pain by breathing too rapidly and hyperventilating. Neither are very helpful!
Breathing techniques offer set patterns that eliminate the guess-work out of how to breathe in the face of discomfort. Done properly, they help you stay well-oxygenated and provide a powerful source of distraction during the contraction. And studies have shown that the use of patterned breathing not only reduces anxiety in labor, but even shortens the duration of labor (5).
Start with basic slow-paced breathing, as show in the video below. When that ceases to bring relief from the discomfort of the contraction, elevate your breathing to modified paced breathing. If necessary, continue to elevate your breathing to patterned paced breathing techniques in the late stages of labor.
Learn More: Labor Breathing & Why it Matters
Movement and Positions
Another powerful way to ease labor pain is to keep moving. Lying motionless in bed has a way of making the pain of contractions seem much more intense. Combat this by trying a wide variety of positions that can both ease labor pain and help promote labor progress. When we move during labor, the goal is to incorporate the 3 Rs: Relaxation, Rhythm, and Ritual. To make this more tangible, I want you to imagine that you’re doing a “slow dance” during the contraction as your chosen labor position.
As I described above, relaxation is the foundation of labor coping. When the contraction begins, take a cleansing breath and go limp. Relax every muscle that isn’t necessary to maintain your position. Since you’re standing, lean into your partner during the contraction, allowing him or her to brace your body weight. Maybe put your arms around his neck or let them hang limp at your side if it’s more comfortable. Relax your face, arms, and legs as much as possible while still maintaining your standing slow-dance position. Stay relaxed throughout the entire contraction.
Rhythm is powerful. When the contraction begins, first relax as described above. Then, sway rhythmically from side to side throughout the contraction. Your partner can help support this rhythm by gently guiding the motion of your hips. Rhythm is also set by the pattern of the breathing technique you’re using. If you’re doing slow-paced breathing, your pattern will follow an “IN 1,2,3…OUT 1,2,3” rhythm. Try breathing and moving in tandem. Continue swaying and breathing until the contraction ends.
Practice a wide variety of movements and labor positions during your pregnancy. Helpful labor positions include walking, sitting on a birth ball, squatting, side-lying, kneeling, and many more.
By definition, a ritual is a series of actions that you do in a certain order. In labor, rituals are things that we do with every contraction. For instance, you’re going to take a cleansing breathing at the beginning and end of every contraction.
But labor rituals also get more complex than just the cleansing breathing. Once you’ve established a good combo of relaxation, breathing, movement, and rhythm; you’re going to stick with that combo for several contractions. This becomes a ritual that you do for several contractions, or until it isn’t bringing you relief from the contraction any longer. And when that happens, it’s time to change up your ritual. Maybe on the next contraction you change positions, move differently, or elevate your breathing technique. Once you find your new groove, do the same pattern or ritual for several more contractions.
We’ll talk all about how your partner can prepare to be a rock-start labor support for you later on in the Ultimate Guide. For now, know that touch is just one way that a partner can help you ease labor pain.
Counterpressure – This is a powerful tool to combat the intensity of back pain in labor, if you happen to experience it. Using the heel of his hand, your partner will apply a firm, continuous pressure to your lower back throughout the duration of the contraction. Another type of counterpressure that is invaluable to some laboring women is the double hip squeeze, where the birth partner applies pressure from the outside of both hips. Cupping your bum cheeks with both hands, he’ll press inward and then upward, squeezing the ligaments of the lower back together.
Massage – Massage can help decrease pain and anxiety and contribute to a better birth experience. Deep pressure on our lower back, hips and hip flexors is often helpful during labor. Try using basic massage tools like a tennis ball wrapped in a sock to apply pressure and to give your partner’s hand muscles a break.
Effleurage – This is a massage technique that uses light pressure. Feathering, a type of effleurage, uses just the fingertips. Try effleurage on your bare stomach during a contraction by stroking your stomach upwards as you breathe in and downwards as you breathe out. Continue breathing and stroking throughout the contraction. In addition, it may feel nice to have your hair gently stroked, or your temples lightly rubbed.
Hand Tools for a Natural Birth
Here’s a quick overview of some of the most helpful tools to have for a natural hospital birth.
Birth Ball – A birth ball is a basic exercise ball, and they’re a must-have labor tool. Sit on the birth ball and sway rhythmically from side to side to encourage the baby to rotate and descend in the pelvis. Kneel on the ground and rest your chest on the birth ball to ease back pain. Or, use the birth ball to mimic a supported squat position.
Peanut Ball – A peanut ball is, you guessed it, peanut-shaped. It’s basically an elongated exercise ball. If you’re confined to bed, place the peanut ball between your knees to widen your pelvis and encourage the baby to rotate and descend.
Tennis balls – Tennis balls are versatile and great to have on hand in labor. Your partner can use firm pressure and roll the ball on your aching muscles or pressure points for a stress-relieving massage. Put it on the floor and roll your foot on it for a simple foot massage. Or, tie two tennis balls in a sock and roll them up and down along your lower back.
Learn More: 5 Natural Birth Accessories for Every Delivery
Hot and Cold
Rice Socks – Heat does wonders to relieve the tension of sore muscles in labor. I personally love to place a warm rice sock on my hip flexors. You can make a rice sock yourself, cheaply and easily, by simply filling a sock with rice and tying it off. This can be heated in the microwave for about 2 minutes and will provide relaxing heat. You can accomplish the same with a store-bought microwave wrap or a hot water bottle.
Ice Packs – Cold can act as a distraction when used during a contraction. You can apply cool pressure with a variety of easy-to-acquire items. Soft, flexible ice packs are a good choice, as are frozen water bottles that can be rolled on your back for a cold massage. The hospital usually has ice packs if you just ask.
Natural Birth: How Partners Can Prepare for Labor
Giving birth is hard work, and you need all hands on deck to bring your baby into the world! A connected, supportive birth partner is an invaluable part of getting through labor. Studies show that women who have one-on-one support throughout labor have better birth experiences, need fewer interventions, and even have shorter labors.
Many partners are eager to play a role in the birth experience, but simply don’t know what to do to be helpful. Fortunately, there’s lots they can do to prepare.
- Your partner can start by talking to with you about her plans and goals for labor and childbirth, so you’re both on the same page.
- Then, take a childbirth class together. A class will specifically instruct your partner to know what to expect in labor and learn support skills — things like touch, pressure, breathing, rhythm and ritual — to help you stay calm and relaxed during contractions.
- Finally, practice those skills together in the weeks and months leading up to the birth. Make a few date nights out of it!
By the time the big day rolls around, you’ll both be prepared to put these skills to use and share one of the most powerful experiences of your lives together.
Consider Hiring a Doula
If your birth partner feels overwhelmed at the idea of providing support alone, definitely consider hiring a doula. If, however, your partner feels totally prepared to support you…I would still recommend at least considering a doula. Why? Because these trained birth workers have been through numerous births, learned tips and tricks that even the most experienced parent may not, and are often familiar with the facility and staff where you will deliver. And births accompanied by a doula are:
- More likely to have a vaginal birth that starts without intervention
- Less likely to use pain medication in labor
- More satisfied with their births
- Have shorter labors
- Less likely to have a cesarean
Even if your partner is an absolute rock star, a doula adds a second set of hands and even offers support for your partner.
Natural Birth Guide: Medications In Labor
Birth doesn’t always go exactly as planned. Maybe baby is in a less-than-favorable position in the pelvis and won’t descend. Or maybe you’re experiencing a long, painful labor. In order to reach our ultimate goal of a safe, positive birth experience, there are times when medication is the very best decision. You want to be empowered to make informed decisions during birth, so let’s discuss the medications that may choose to use during labor.
An epidural blocks feeling to the lower body. Medication is delivered into the epidural space in the spine and blocks pain signals from traveling to the brain.
The benefit of an epidural, of course, is a decrease in the pain associated with labor and delivery. Sometimes we just get to a point in labor where our fatigue and muscle tension are too much. At times like this, an epidural is a magical blessing! And unlike other medications, we’re still able to be awake and alert to enjoy the birth of our baby.
While most women don’t experience major complications, they are a possibility. Risks and drawbacks of epidural medication include:
- Loss of freedom and mobility. You will be confined to bed with restricted eating and drinking because an epidural comes along with IV fluids, a bladder catheter, and monitoring of blood pressure, contractions, and baby’s heart rate.
- Low blood pressure. This may also cause slowing of baby’s heart rate.
- Back ache and/or head ache.
- Pushing difficulty due to decreased sensations.
- Longer labor, which is related to the pushing difficulty (3).
- Increased interventions, again related to the longer labor and less effective pushing.
To learn more about epidurals: Natural Childbirth vs Epidural: Side Effects & Risks
Narcotic analgesics are medications that help reduce the sensation of pain. The most common narcotics used in labor and delivery are Morphine, Stadol, Fentanyl, Nubain, and Demerol.
As with all medications, the benefit is pain relief. Narcotics do not cause a complete lack of feeling like an epidural, so they don’t interfere with pushing the way an epidural can.
Not all women experience all, or even any, of these side effects, but possible complications include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Lower heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure
- Temporary slowing of labor progress
- Baby may have lower heart rate, lower Apgar scores, and respiratory depression at birth
Learn more about narcotic pain relief: Pain Meds During Labor Other Than Epidural
Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas)
Nitrous oxide is used to relieve pain and anxiety. While you may be familiar with nitrous oxide being used at the dentist, you may not know that it can also be used in labor. This is more common outside the US, and is used in places like Canada, Sweden, Australia, Finland, and the UK. However, you can find nitrous oxide at some birth centers and hospitals in the US, and it is becoming increasingly more common.
Nitrous oxide is widely considered to be safe for mom and baby. It does not interfere with oxytocin, so it doesn’t disrupt the normal progress of labor. There is no requirement for mom to stay in bed, as an epidural requires. It is simple to administer and can be easily stopped at any time, with its effects disappearing within five minutes.
The main downside of nitrous oxide is that it isn’t available everywhere. Otherwise, the main complications associated with the use of nitrous oxide are:
- A sense of disconnection
Learn more about the use of nitrous oxide for childbirth: Pros and Cons of Nitrous Oxide in Labor
Natural Birth Guide: Hospital Interventions
Labor doesn’t always go as planned, and sometimes interventions are necessary to help us have a safe birth. Still, some interventions are just standard hospital routine and may or may not be necessary. Now’s the time to learn the ins and outs of hospital-based interventions so that you can make confident, informed choices during birth. This knowledge, combined with care in the hands of a natural-birth-friendly doctor or midwife that you trust, will help ensure that you feel in control during your labor.
If labor hasn’t started on its own, and a caregiver believes that delivery needs to happen soon, he or she may offer to induce labor. This means stimulating the uterus to start contractions. Below are some reasons why doctors typically offer labor induction:
- Two weeks or more past due date
- Tests determine that baby isn’t thriving in the uterus
- Signs the placenta isn’t functioning well
- Illness that threatens mom or baby
- Premature rupture of membranes or infection of membranes (4)
A fetal monitor detects contractions and baby’s heart rate. Specifically, it tracks how baby’s heart rate responds to contractions. There is a readout in the labor room, and often also in the nurses’ station.
Intermittent fetal monitoring means that you’ll have fetal monitors on your belly for a short period of time, and then they’re removed. This is often ideal because it enables mom to move freely during labor. Continuous monitoring means that fetal monitors are strapped on your belly (or placed internally) throughout your entire labor. This type of monitor limits your mobility and can make it more difficult to try a variety of positions in labor.
Though there’s not a lot of evidence to support its effectiveness, rupture of membranes is sometimes done to help start or accelerate labor. If labor hasn’t started or has stalled, a caregiver may offer to use a small hook to rupture the membranes, or bag of waters, in the hope that it will speed things up.
When baby isn’t moving down the birth canal as quickly as your healthcare provider feels he or she needs to, they may offer an assisted delivery in order to avoid a cesarean delivery. There are two main tools that are used in assisted deliveries:
- Forceps, which are like specially designed tongs that help guide the baby’s head out during a contraction.
- Vacuum extractor, which is like a suction cup that goes on the top of baby’s head, allowing the doctor to help pull during a contraction.
A cesarean birth, also called a cesarean section or c-section, is a surgical procedure. Baby is delivered through incisions in your abdomen and uterus instead of through your vagina. Cesarean deliveries may be planned weeks or months in advance, or may be unplanned due to challenges that arises during labor. You may hear of emergency cesareans, and they do happen, but they are rare. In most cases, you have time to discuss your options.
Natural Birth in a Hospital: Birth Plans
When you enter the hospital in labor, can you really expect nurses or an on-call doctor who you’ve never met before to know your preferences for labor, birth, and baby care? Since no one can read minds, the answer is an obvious no. In steps The Birth Plan! A Birth Plan, also known as a Birth Preference, is a powerful tool to help unify mom and her medical labor support team.
There are lots of options to consider when writing a birth plan, but remember that it’s important to be brief and keep your preferences limited to just one page. So, what are those most important things that you should include? Well, it’s up to you, but consider the following:
- Options for pain management
- Fetal monitoring
- Rupturing of membranes vs letting water break on its own
- IV fluids
- Access to tools such as birth ball, peanut ball, tub, and squat bar
- Options for perineal support, including a warm compress or Arnica oil
- Positions for pushing
- Umbilical cord, including who will cut it and how long it will pulse
- Newborn care, including skin to skin contact directly after birth
Childbirth Education Classes
If you’ve made it all the way to the end of this Ultimate Guide, congratulations! It’s clear that you’re serious about experiencing a natural birth, and you’re willing to put in time and effort to achieve that goal. The next step in your preparation is to enroll in a high quality childbirth class. But how do you find the best class for you? According to Lamaze International – the gold-standard in childbirth education – your course should meet the following minimum requirements:
- Presented by a certified childbirth educator
- Incorporates evidence-based information
- Includes a minimum of 12 hours of instruction
- Focuses on principles to achieve a safe and healthy birth, including movement, labor support, and labor interventions
Next, you need to decide if you want to enroll in an online childbirth class or a local, in-person childbirth class.
Local Childbirth Classes
Local childbirth classes offer a sense of community and camaraderie. It can be fun to share the experience of pregnancy with a group of like-minded moms who share a common goal of natural childbirth. A local class also gives you the chance to engage and ask questions, and to receive hands-on help from an instructor.
Finding a good local childbirth class can be challenging. To help you out, we’ve compiled lists of the best natural childbirth classes in many major US cities: Local Birth Resources
Online Childbirth Classes
Online childbirth classes provide a convenient, flexible option to prepare for birth in the comfort of your own home. Video-based courses enable you to master the skills of breathing techniques, comfort positions, and relaxation by providing the option to view the content over and over again. Online courses can be just as comprehensive and engaging as local classes, while giving you access to the highest quality childbirth educators in the birth field. And through Facebook groups and online forums, moms can engage with their instructor and other class participants.
FREE Online Classes
Are you budget pinched? Free online classes may be an option for you. Free classes can be used to help you fill in any gaps in your birth prep. Or, they may help you sample a course before you invest in the full course.
A good place to start is here with the 7 Best Free Online Natural Birthing Classes. Or enroll to view Class #1 of the KOPA PREPARED® Online Childbirth Course for free!
PAID Online Classes
You’ll get a more comprehensive education from a traditional, paid online childbirth class. They tend to offer longer content and may include a course manual, downloads, and access to a private Facebook group where you can ask questions and connect with other moms.
Start your search with the 6 Best Childbirth Classes Online (& Which is Right for You).
Whichever type of class you choose, studies show that childbirth education leads to better health outcomes for mom and baby, as well as increased confidence and satisfaction with her birth (5, 6). As you invest time in learning about the birth process and practicing labor coping tools, you and your partner are well on your way to having an empowering natural birth in a hospital. Good luck to you!
Kopa Birth’s online birthing classes allow you to prepare for a natural hospital birth from the comfort of your own home, 24/7. Enroll today in our free online childbirth class and start preparing for your natural birth!
Here are some other natural hospital birth articles we know you’ll love!
- 8 Natural Delivery Tips for a Natural Childbirth
- Natural Childbirth vs Epidural: Side Effects and Risks
- “The breathing techniques got me through labor.”
- How to Have a Natural Birth in a Hospital: The Ultimate Guide
- 5 Natural Birth Accessories for Every Delivery
- Simkin, P. (2010). Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn, 4th edition. Meadowbrook Press.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2010). Your Pregnancy and Childbirth Month to Month, 5th edition.
- Ladewig, P.A., London, M.L., Davidson, M.R. (2006). Contemporary Maternal-Newborn Nursing Care, 6th edition. Pearson Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle River, NJ.
- Glade, B.C., Schuler, J. (2011). Your Pregnancy Week by Week, 7th edition. First Da Capo Press
- Cicek, S., & Basar, F. (2017). The effects of breathing techniques training on the duration of labor and anxiety levels of pregnant women. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 29, 213–219. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2017.10.006
- Ricchi, A., La Corte, S., Molinazzi, M. T., Messina, M. P., Banchelli, F., & Neri, I. (2020). Study of childbirth education classes and evaluation of their effectiveness. La Clinica terapeutica, 170(1), e78–e86. https://doi.org/10.7417/CT.2020.2193
- Stoll, K. H., & Hall, W. (2012). Childbirth education and obstetric interventions among low-risk canadian women: is there a connection?. The Journal of perinatal education, 21(4), 229–237. https://doi.org/10.1891/1058-1243.21.4.229