When seeking to maximize your comfort and minimize interventions during your hospital or birth center birth, there are some simple things you can do to be your own best advocate. Be sure to also share these tips with your partner and/or birth support team, as they will be able to help speak up on your behalf while you are in la-la-laborland.
1. Request your nurse. While this isn't always a possibility, you can ask upon check in for a nurse who is comfortable supporting a mom who is laboring without pain medication (if that is your preference). Similarly, if you end up with a nurse who is not the best fit, you can ask (politely) to be assigned a different nurse.
2. Get out of bed. Laboring in a bed, on your back, is a very uncomfortable position to experience contractions. But upon entering the hospital, you are asked to get into bed to be monitored, insert an IV port, and other general hospital procedures. You do not, however, have to do any of this while lying down in bed! You can let your nurse know that you would like to sit up in bed, stand, sit on a birth ball, or kneel -- positions that are all compatible with hospital admittance procedures.
3. Get monitored and then get off. Most hospitals require a standard 15 minutes per hour monitoring on an electronic fetal monitor. If you're not familiar with this device, it is made up of two elastic bands that are wrapped around your belly -- one to monitor your contractions and one to monitor your baby's heartbeat. Take note of the time you began monitoring so you can politely remind the nurse (who may be tied up with other responsibilities) when it's time to come off. And keep in mind that you can be monitored in positions other than lying on your back in bed. Most nurses are willing to work with you to find a position that is more comfortable for you to be monitored -- but you need to be vocal and ask for it.
4. Protect your hospital room environment. Turn down the lights, keep the door closed, adjust the thermostat, close the curtains (or keep them open!), ask for more pillows (they're usually in a cabinet), ask for an ice pack or heating pad (some hospitals carry disposables), turn down the volume on the monitor. There are so many things you can do to make your hospital room more comfortable, private, and peaceful. This is the perfect job to task someone on your birth team -- partner, doula, friend/family member.
5. Ask questions about procedures, and ask for time to think when you have to make a decision. Sometimes, nurses, midwives, and doctors get so caught up in the routine of their job, they forget to take the time to explain what is happening. If you have a question about anything related to you or your baby's care, ask! And if you are faced with making a decision (unless it's an emergency), it's ok to ask for more information and for more time to think it over.