Alternative Child Birthing Methods

Mother with baby

If you’re looking to learn more about alternative child birthing methods, you’re not alone. While most people still deliver in a hospital, home births have been on the rise in recent years and medical providers have been adapting to the increased interest in alternative childbirth.

The pioneering Alternative Birthing Center (ABC) at West Suburban Medical Center has been a longstanding leader in the Chicagoland area for women interested in alternative child birthing methods. Following are some of these innovative birthing options.

Water Labor and Birth

Mother with babyOne of the most popular features of West Suburban Medical Center’s ABC is the availability of hydrotherapy for labor and delivery. In our private ABC suites, we have full-size hydrotherapy tubs where the laboring mother can sit or lay while immersed in warm water.

The ABC care team will check in with the laboring mother to make sure there are no safety risks to the mother or baby. The American College of Nurse-Midwives’ position statement on hydrotherapy for labor and birthing asserts that many women find the below benefits.

  • Hydrotherapy during the labor stage can be an effective, relaxing and natural pain management tool that is an alternative to pharmacological pain intervention.
  • When hydrotherapy is in a setting like West Suburban Medical Center’s ABC where evidence-based clinical guidelines are followed, there is no increase in risk for mothers and newborns.
  • Immersion in water during labor may help the cervix dilate faster and help resolve labor dystocia (abnormally slow labor).
  • Women with successful water labors reported more satisfaction with their childbirth experience.

Additionally, medical studies show no evidence indicating increased risk for water inhalation or infection during water births

Despite the many benefits of hydrotherapy both for labor and birth, less than 10 percent of U.S. hospitals offer the option for laboring mothers and less than 6 percent of births in the U.S. incorporate hydrotherapy in the labor and/or birth. In the Chicagoland area, there are only a handful of hospitals with the option. It’s important to keep in mind that some facilities with hydrotherapy only allow women to labor in the tub, but not to deliver. West Suburban’s ABC supports both water labor and delivery.


Hypnobirthing is a highly popular alternative way to manage labor and childbirth, with celebrity fans reported to include Kate Middleton, Angelina Jolie, and Gisele Bundchen. But the good news is that this alternative childbirth technique is accessible for anyone.

So how does hypnobirthing work? If you’re picturing a man in a top hat swinging a pocket watch in front of you as you grow drowsy, you couldn’t be further off! You don’t need another person to “hypnotize you”, and you don’t lose any control or awareness.

Hypnobirthing uses self-induced or partner-supported “hypnosis” as a way to alter conscious awareness during labor. The method incorporates deep breathing exercises with meditation and visualization to focus away from labor pain.

Although more research is still needed, some studies have shown that women who practice hypnobirthing during pregnancy and employ it as a tactic during labor were more than 25 percent less likely to end up using other interventional methods of pain relief during labor and many reported higher levels of satisfaction of their labor experience.

If you’re interested in learning more, call 708-763-6518 to register for our Pain Management Tools Class which covers hypnotherapy for labor and childbirth, among other pain control methods.

A Unique Environment: A Home-like Hospital

Mother with babyYou know what they say—there’s no place like a home-like hospital. Well, something like that. At West Suburban Medical Center’s ABC, we believe that your environment is an important part of the alternative childbirth experience. At our ABC parents don’t have to sacrifice the safety of modern medicine in order to have an alternative, home-like birth experience.

Our ABC rooms have a variety of choices, including a queen-size bed for family bonding, tubs for hydrotherapy, a refrigerator and microwave, and a welcoming environment that encourages family support for laboring mothers.

While we’ve been recognized by the March of Dimes for important work to eliminate elective C-Sections and inductions that are not medically needed, many women find peace of mind knowing that alongside the home-like environment, emergency resources including a surgical suite for emergency C-sections, are close at hand

We believe that parents and babies should be encouraged to engage in the same health-boosting intimacy that you would have at home. Unlike some hospitals, we support immediate skin-to-skin contact, even after C-section (as long as it’s medically possible), as well as rooming-in, to help promote bonding with your baby.

The Special Care of Certified Nurse-Midwives and Doulas

West Suburban Medical Center’s ABC has one of the largest midwifery programs in the Chicagoland area, with certified nurse-midwives accredited by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. Our midwives are strong advocates for helping families pursue natural and alternative childbirth methods in a safe hospital setting.

For many women, doulas are also an important part of an alternative child birthing approach. Often, a doula will work in partnership with the mother and the certified-nurse midwife. A doula isn’t a medical provider, but a specially-trained companion who attends the labor and delivery, providing support to the mother. Doulas can help laboring mothers in many ways, including:

  • Massage,
  • Counter pressure,
  • Soothing touch,
  • Guided positioning,
  • Emotional support, and
  • Facilitating provider communication.

Alternative Pain Relief

We’ve covered hydrotherapy, hypnotherapy, and doula support, all of which have been shown in studies to help with pain relief for laboring mothers. In addition to these, West Suburban Medical Center’s ABC has a number of other options for alternative pain relief.

Many women find that the environment at our ABC helps with pain relief in simple ways, including our support for laboring mothers to stand, walk, and move around to become more comfortable, while other hospitals may discourage ambulation.

For women who need further intervention for pain relief, we offer injection of sterile water papules in the skin over an area of the back to relieve back pain during labor. This technique can be very effective for many women and doesn’t carry the same risks associated with some other interventional methods.

West Suburban Medical Center was also one of the first hospitals in the Chicago area to offer nitrous oxide for maternity pain relief. The laboring mother receives a mixture of half nitrous gas and half oxygen—sometimes called “laughing gas”. It’s inhaled through a self-administered mask or mouthpiece. Many women find it a very effective way to manage pain, rather than using invasive methods. It’s the only pain relief method for labor that is cleared through the lungs—as soon as the mother pulls the mask away, the nitrous effect is gone within a few breaths, so it has no effect on the baby. Additionally, the temporary effects of nitrous oxide often allow mothers the option of moving on to a different type of pain relief as labor progresses.

V-Bac Support

Women who have had a previous C-section and who would like to try for a vaginal birth after c-section (VBAC) for their next baby find that it may be difficult to find a provider or hospital who has a culture of strong VBAC support, and some providers even actively discourage women who can safely attempt a VBAC from having one. A VBAC delivery does carry some risks, as does a second C-section, so always discuss your risks with your doctor or midwife so you can make informed healthcare decisions.

If you’re interested in learning more about VBACs, register for a detailed 4-hour VBAC class by calling 708-763-6518.

Learn More About Alternative Child Birth at West Suburban

Register for an ABC orientation or a tour of our Birthing Center to explore alternative child birthing methods for your unique birth experience. Call 708-763-6518 to register for any class or tour.

Visit the Family Birthplace for more information.