As a doula, I attend all types of births. Hospital births, home births, birth center births, inductions, surgical births, births on water, births on land, epidural births, and pain medication free births. I believe that you can have a spectacular birth in any of the above ways. However, if you are wanting a natural birth, here are some tips to help you get there!
1. Get prenatal education
Having some type of prenatal education is SO important! There are tons of different natural childbirth class options. Some favorites are Bradley, Lamaze, Hypnobabies, and Birth Boot Camp. I am trained in the Bradley method and find that its common sense approach to childbirth works beautifully for most of my clients. Not being in the correct mindset and not knowing what to do are the two biggest road blocks when trying to achieve a natural childbirth, and good prenatal education addresses them both. If you are interested in natural childbirth classes, check out my classes page for upcoming dates.
2. Hire a doula
I'm not just saying it because I am a doula, I promise. Science actually backs up the fact that the presence of a doula increases a womans chances of having a spontaneous vaginal birth and decreases her chances of using pain medications. How does a doula do all of that? Well since she is a trained childbirth expert, she takes the weight of birth from you and your partners shoulders. You can rest assured that your doula is going to take care of all the little details and help keep you informed about all of your options. She can translate the medical jargon your doctor may use into words that you and your partner can actually understand. Your doula knows millions of tips and tricks for optimal positioning, speeding labor, and keeping you comfortable. Her presence increases your self esteem, and decreases anxiety, which makes for shorter, easier labors, that are more likely to be free of interventions and pain medications.
3. Hire a good care provider, and pick a good birthing location
Your birth team can make or break your birth experience, and I dont just mean your personal support. Your medical team makes a huge difference as well. Some hospitals have ammenities that significantly help with pain management, such as tubs or showers for hydrotherapy. Some routine procedures can make a huge difference as well. Consider heart rate monitoring, does your hospital require constant, or intermittent monitoring? Do they have wireless monitor options? The most common heart rate monitors used are made of 2 large belts that go across your belly. Not exactly the most comfortable during contractions (I bet a man invented them...). If your hospital prefers constant monitoring, this can severeley limit the postions you can labor in, because in some positions its hard to hear the baby. Another common rule that can really help or hinder natural birth, is eating during labor. Without a little bit of nutrients, moms can run out of energy during a long labor. Some providers and nurses are also more "natural friendly" than others. Do some research and ask your friends and doula for their experiences and reccomendations. Remember that its never too late to switch providers. If your provider doesnt see eye to eye with you during pregnancy, you shouldn't expect for that to change during birth.
4. Aim for low interventions
Some interventions are medically needed and unavoidable, but the majority of interventions are done for mother or provider comfort. Many interventions can unknowingly add to the pain level of labor. For instance, artifical rupture of membranes (letting the doctor break your water rather than it breaking on its own) can cause a lot of extra pain during labor, but this is rarely mentioned! Think about it, your baby is surrounded by a cushion of boyant water that is pressing on your cervix evenly during contractions. Take that away and instead your babies head is pressing on your cervix. This can also cause the baby to get stuck in a bad position, because they dont have the bag of water surrounding them allowing them to easily change positions. A non optimal position can cause extra pain and back labor. This can also cause your cervix to dialate unevenly, because the babies head is not placing pressure evenly on your cervix.
5. Spend early labor at home
Early labor can sometimes be a long, long process. Most moms are most comfortable spending it at home. At home, you can lounge in your favorite clothes, you can eat and drink whatever and whenever you want, you can take a bath or a shower, or even an uninterupped nap. You can watch your favorite movie or blast your music up loud if you want. At the hospital you are generally hooked up to some monitors, a nurse is checking on you regularly, and they just dont have all of the comforts of home. Early labor can seem so much longer when you are not in your own comfortable space. This can lead to more stress, more pain, and more suggestions for interventions (most commonly to speed things along). Especially for first time moms, there is usually plenty of time to get to a hospital, and your doula can help you decide when it's really time to go.
6. Take it one contraction at a time
Instead of thinking of labor as this long marathon event, just focus on what you can do to get through this one single contraction. We dont know how long labor will take, so dont waste your energy fretting over it. Just accept that it is a process and that your body knows exactly what it is supposed to be doing. If you focus on labor one bite size piece at a time, it's a lot easier to manage than thinking about all the hours you may or may not have left to go. Contractions during active labor are generally 60-90 seconds long. Think about what you can do to get through the next 60 seconds and do that. You can do anything for 60 seconds. :)
Miranda is a birth and postpartum doula serving the central Oklahoma area.