Read a book such as Henci Goer's The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth.
Hire an Independent Childbirth Educator (someone who works independently and is hired by you, not by a hospital). Some organizations that certify childbirth educators are The Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators (ALACE), Childbirth and Postpartum Professionals Association (CAPPA), BirthWorks, Bradley, Birthing From Within, Lamaze, and Childbirth International. Regardless of the certifying organization, it is important to take classes from an independent educator who does not teach in a hospital.
Consider hiring a doula-- a doula is an experienced non-medical labor support provider who offers her continuous emotional and physical presence during your labor and birth. Organizations that train doulas include ALACE, CAPPA, and DONA.
Join birth organizations specifically for consumers such as Citizens for Midwifery or Birth Network National.
Talk to other women in your community. Ask them what they liked about their births and about their care providers. Ask them what they wish had been different.
Ask your provider questions. Ask lots of questions. Make sure your philosophies align. If it isn't a match, switch care providers. This is not the time for misplaced loyalty. Your baby will only be born once, don't dismiss concerns your may have over the care you receive or decide that you can make different choices "next time."
Find a care provider that supports the Six Care Practices that Support Normal Birth and is willing to speak with you seriously about them:
- Labor begins on its own
- Freedom of movement throughout labor
- Continuous labor support
- No routine interventions
- Spontaneous pushing in upright or gravity-neutral positions
- No separation of mother and baby after birth, with unlimited opportunities for breastfeeding