Are you hoping for a natural birth? The first step is to use that phrase carefully. I’ve seen some Doctors view a vaginal birth though started with an induction and an epidural a natural birth. If you’re looking to experience a birth that begins on its own spontaneously, without augmentation, and without drugs then you’ll need to be very specific with your care provider in stating, “I want an un-medicated birth.” Interventions have their place but I would say that most of the time they are abused.
So you want an un-medicated birth? Here are some tips from a doula and mother of two, whom experienced a hospital birth with interventions and home birth with none. Yes, you guessed it, in contrast my home-birth without interventions was easier, faster, and more joyful then my hospital birth with unnecessary interventions.
- Educate and prepare yourself. You are responsible for your birth and like the saying says, “if you do not know your options, then you have no options.” Some awesome books for reference are:
Natural Hospital Birth: The best of Both Worlds by Cynthia Gabriel
Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
The womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, Teresa Pitman
The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Childcare by Sally Fallon Morell, Thomas S. Cowan
Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan
Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin
- Chose a place and care-provider that supports this decision. Ask people you’ve known that have had un-medicated births who they had for care-givers. Look at hospital policy and statistics, on induction, assisted vaginal births, and cesarean deliveries. Once you found the right care-provider talk with them regularly about what you want/don’t want and make sure they are on board.
- Labor at home until you hit active labor. The hospital setting and the car ride usually slow down labor at which point Doctors will start pushing for pitocin or to break your water. Active labor begins at 6cm and is usually accompanied with contractions 2-3 minutes apart and 60-90 seconds in duration. There are other ways as well to check your dilation yourself without doing a cervical check. There are some great articles here and here on how to do this. Or consider a home birth. For most women homebirths are a completely safe and terrific option. Remember, most births take time, around .5cm an hour… If it happened all at once and rapidly our babies and bodies would get stressed.
- Take a childbirth education class. I highly recommend Hypnobirthing. Read the book and practice the relaxation techniques every day. Role play and practice labor scenarios with your partner and other support team. Have them practice the massage techniques, show them and remind them of different positions you should try during labor. Practice, practice, practice. Nothing will be more helpful when you are focusing on getting through a contraction then having a support team who knows how to help you cope and to offer suggestions when something stops working.
- Watch natural birth videos. You can find many birth videos for free on You Tube, including The Business of Being Born. Another great video to watch is Organic Birth.
- Eat a nutritionally dense diet and exercise. It is highly recommended that you consume a diet high in protein and fiber loaded with lacto-fermented foods like yogurt. Maintaining a healthy gut flora, by eating lacto-fermented foods and taking a probiotic as well as eating “anti-bacterial” foods like garlic can help in the prevention of Strep B. The good bacteria in your system will also transfer to your baby during birth and breastfeeding which will set the tone for their immune systems. Keep moving, whether its walking, yoga, weightlifting, running… Keep it up. If you were on a work-out program prior to pregnancy continue with it as much a possible but listen to your body. If you were not on a program here is a great chance to get going. Start with yoga, walking and swimming. Swimming is a great option in the last trimester when joints, pelvic girdle and back pain set in. Swimming is also great to reduce swelling. Movement keeps and promotes baby into a good birth position. AVOID positions such as slouching and reclined sitting which promote a posterior baby and is not ideal for labor. When sitting try turning the chair backwards and resting your arms on the back of the chair or get rid of the chair completely and use a balance ball.
- Hire a female doctor. I know, I know I am not a sexist person and personally hate it when someone tells me I can’t do something because I am a female. However, there are a few things I don’t think male OB/GYN’s understand. For one they cannot even begin to understand what labor, menstrual cycles, and healing from labor is like and therefore will not be able to relate to a woman and her needs. They also do not understand that labor is a magical experience for women and goes beyond much more than bringing forth new life. Birth matters and it can shape how she mothers in the future. All birth, especially natural birth is in incredibly empowering experience either creating a mother more confident in her roles or it can diminish her stature creating a sense of failure. I am sure there are great male doctors out there and I don’t want to generalize but chose wisely who will assist you in birth.
- Hire a doula or acquire a support team. Preferably women who have birthed before and will offer positive support. Negativity and horror birth stories have no place around the laboring woman. I say it again hire a doula or acquire a support team. A husband is not enough and though there are great, fantastic, supportive husbands out there but most have never seen a birth nor can relate to a laboring woman’s needs. Please refer HERE for the evidence for doulas.
- Avoid cervical exams especially prior to the onset of labor. I have seen Doctors push for an induction purely on the fact that you’ve already started to dilate. This is not a medical reason for an induction and cervical dilation does not tell us how long labor will last nor will it tell us when it will begin. It simply tells us where you are at for the moment. During labor, nothing can bring down a laboring woman more than being told she has not made any progress. Not to mention, I have seen within a 30 minute time frame a nurse measuring a woman at 6-7cm and the Doctor following up with a measurement of an “easy 8.” The lack of accuracy here is enough to avoid doing them and also prevent further damage by mentally bringing a woman down. For more on cervical dilation click HERE and HERE.
- Find privacy. My last tip to accomplishing an unmedicated birth is to find a private and secluded area to labor. If you chose a hospital setting and everything is going well with labor the bathrooms are a great place to labor undistracted. It is difficult to concentrate and relax on your birth when Doctors, nurses, and staff are interrupting. We are naturally accustomed to relaxing our pelvic floor when we sit on the toilet, couple that with dim lights and minimal staff distractions, the bathroom, can really help move things along!
All natural, un-medicated births will rock your world and medically if you can it should be the goal. I am not saying it will be easy it will be worth it.