Gauging a Hospital's Support of Unmedicated Birth


My "Unmedicated Vaginal Birth" stat is self-reported. I reported what hospitals answered when I asked:

How often do you see unmedicated childbirth?

  • Very Common
  • Common
  • Not Common
  • Rare


Every hospital offers a different experience to their mothers. Some hospitals are geared toward high-risk patients, others offer a luxury experience, or extensive support for unmedicated birth. There isn't a right or a wrong hospital, but once you have an idea of what kind of birth you want, it is helpful to know how well-aligned your hospital's philosophy is with your birthing preferences.

I have struggled with how to convey a hospital's support for natural birth. If you call any hospital, they will say they support natural childbirth. But "support" means different things at different hospitals.

For example, imagine Hospital A sees many low-risk moms who delivery without medication, and whose medical personnel are trained in actively supporting unmedicated childbirth. A mom at this hospital may have one or more nurses physically supporting her and actively coaching her through her birth. They may offer suggestions on coping techniques. They are comfortable with the way a baby looks on the monitor when mom is laboring naturally. They are comfortable with mom pushing in many different positions and encourage and accommodate mom to move to positions that help her feel comfortable.

Contrast this with Hospital B, that sees fewer unmedicated births, and whose medical personnel are trained primarily to support medicated birth. They will say they support natural birth - and they do! They allow mom to labor as she wishes as long as the baby and mom look good medically and they generally follow the pattern they are comfortable with. 

Hospital A's support of unmedicated birth is totally different that Hospital B's support of unmedicated birth. I would say Hospital A supports unmedicated childbirth, and Hospital B allows it.

Neither Hospital A nor Hospital B is necessarily better than the other: Which one you should choose depends, in part, on your preferences.

After thinking through several options, including voicing my own opinion (a deadly sin for any doula), and asking the community to vote (high possibility for sampling error and tedious), I decided to simply ask the hospital how often they see unmedicated childbirth and report what they say.

For the most part, hospitals' reporting has aligned with my personal experience. But I am just one person. If you are a doula or a birth worker or a mom and you see an Unmedicated Birth stat that doesn't align with your experience, I'd love to hear from you. I want this information to accurately reflect both the hospital's vision of themselves, and the actual experience of moms in labor.