Photograph by doula Emily Frigo
Natural childbirth is a path through labor in which women give birth without epidurals, drugs, or other interventions. It’s not always easy to find a practitioner or a hospital that’s 100 percent supportive of natural childbirth—women may need to dig a little deeper to find the resources they need. But the newly opened Natural Beginnings Birth Center at Atrium Medical Center in Middletown could make things a little easier.
[THE FOLLOWING PHOTOS DOCUMENT A SERIES OF NATURAL BIRTHS IN CINCINNATI]
Natural Beginnings, the first hospital-based comprehensive natural birth center in greater Cincinnati, has been in the works since early 2015 and provides expecting mothers services to cope with labor without traditional interventions. Methods such as movement, positioning and hydrotherapy, birthing balls, massage therapy, and aromatherapy are all offered.
“We have seen quite a few people in the past years, including our own staff, travel to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton for the natural birth center experience,” says Rhonda Washington, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist at Atrium Medical Center. “We looked around and saw the service was lacking in the greater Cincinnati area. It felt like we could expand our services to include natural childbirth, water birth, additional options for people to have.”
Betty Love, associate chief nursing officer at Atrium Medical Center, agrees. “We’re looking to provide a home birth experience in the hospital setting,” she says. “If something would happen the hospital is nearby. Our goal is to provide in-home-like birthing options.” Because every mom and baby are different, it’s important to note that even when a woman plans for a natural childbirth it doesn’t always mean interventions won’t be necessary or requested down the line. And that’s OK. As Washington notes, “The important thing is to have a healthy mom and a healthy baby.”
Stacey Ewen of Fairfield had three natural childbirths, though she labored for a long time during the birth of her third child and considered an epidural. Luckily, the nurse assigned to her was also a doula—a woman trained to help laboring women during childbirth. “The power of her telling me, ‘You’re doing a great job,’ ” was instrumental in Ewen’s natural birth the third time. “She also validated my feelings when I began to wonder if the pain was normal.”
When an expectant mother decides she would like to have a natural childbirth, “there is no one starting point,” says Sharon Said, co-owner of the Cincinnati Family Enrichment Center and a childbirth educator for the past 31 years. “It’s important to be upfront with your health care provider about your desire for a natural birth early on.” If you get the sense that your care provider does not support your wishes, you’ll have time to look elsewhere. “I tell people, in a nutshell, they have to be at a great office and they should strongly consider a doula,” says Said. “The doula is a medically orientated advocate able to devote her full attention to the mother. I think it’s an essential ingredient to having the kind of birth a mom would like to have.”
Many soon-to-be mothers also turn to holistic medicine like chiropractic care, acupressure, or acupuncture, especially if their baby is past due or has not yet moved into the birthing position, two scenarios that may prevent a woman from having a natural birth. Barefoot RnR, an integrative wellness center in Madeira, offers a popular Easing Into Labor package. “The efficacy rate of the natural things is incredibly high and the risks are low compared to the rate with induction,” she notes.
Natural birthing classes are also an important element to having a successful natural birth. “It takes a lot of commitment to prepare for a natural birth,” says Said, who teaches hypnosis for birthing to her students. “A good class is essential and should be based on evidence-based research.”
Ultimately, surrounding yourself with people who believe in you is essential to having the kind of birth you want. “Women need to think carefully about who they’re bringing [into the birthing room] with them,” says Said. “Those few hours you’re in labor—everything comes down to that.”