Preparing for natural labor is the one phrase that can single handedly strike fear into the heart of women in an instant. We have heard age old stories from our mother’s and grandmother’s about how the pain was horrific.
Women who have experienced it, snickering at the young unsuspecting mom-to-be who desires to labor without pain medication thinking she can do it. Convincing us that our bodies are not capable. You might think you will be traumatized. You might think you will need to rely on drugs and epidurals because you can’t handle it.
I am here to tell you friends all of that is not true. Yes, there are some women who don’t have any desire to experience birth that way. That’s OK. Yes, there are some women who, because of complications have to have C-sections and don’t get that opportunity. That’s OK.
I had my first child when I was 20 years old. I had NO clue about giving birth. I had taken a hospital birthing class and thought I knew what to expect. I was so wrong. I always intended to have a epidural with this birth but to do so vaginally.
Due to a “cascade of interventions” I ended up having a C-section that was more than likely unnecessary. I was a first time mom that “labored” less than 12 hours. My doctor was not on call at the time of the birth and I had a physician treating me that barely knew me. He came in on that Sunday afternoon and flat out told me that I was too small to push this baby out and I better have a C-section to get it over with.
As a scared young mother I believed this doctor had our best interest at heart, I eagerly agreed.
After I became a nurse and was armed with much more knowledge, I knew that I had probably been pushed into a surgery out of convenience. Most first time mothers have to labor longer than 12 hours to prepare their bodies for giving birth. They said my baby was too big for me to push out at 8 lb 1 oz . . . for reference I am 5’2″ and was 150 lb at the time of birth. It was a Sunday. That doctor more than likely wanted to be home for dinner with his family that night instead of waiting around for me to deliver. There were never any signs of distress in my baby.
When I got pregnant for the second time ,years later, I was on a mission. I wanted to prove that my body was not broken and I could do this. I knew that sometimes epidurals could stall labor. I wanted to work WITH my body, not against it. .I was also trying to achieve a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). I wanted to do everything in my power to have that and that. For me that meant the least possible medical intervention. If you are like me and have a deep desire to birth your baby with the least possible intervention this is for you. Today we will cover how to prepare your body and mind for a natural labor. I will show you the steps I took to achieve a natural labor and delivery.
What is Natural Labor
Natural birth is giving birth to your baby with limited to no medical interventions in an environment that feels safe for the mother and her choices are respected. Giving birth naturally is intuitive, trusting your body and your baby during a process that women have been going through since the dawn of time.
You can choose to give birth at a hospital, birthing center or home.
With natural labor you have the option of moving around to alleviate the discomfort of the contractions. If you have an epidural obviously you can’t feel your leg, get up to walk and most likely will have monitors attached to you to monitor the baby. If you are moving around they can monitor you intermittently to make sure baby is tolerating labor ok. Being in an upright position to labor works with gravity to help the baby descend vs lying flat on your back. Epidurals increase the chances of :
- low blood pressure
- longer pushing stage
- urinary retention
- Use of Pitocin
- c-section for fetal distress/failure to progress
Pushing can be more effective because you can feel your body and what it is doing or needs to do rather than someone telling you what to do.
You will be able to move around after the birth more quickly because you are not waiting for the effects of medication to wear off.
You may have more success breastfeeding if you have not received an epidural..
An epidural may:
- May dull a babies feeding behaviors because of exposure to pain medications.
- Inhibits the release of a mother’s natural oxytocin.
- Can cause breast swelling due to the extra IV fluids received during the epidural administration.
Why are Women Scared of it?
You turn on Lifetime or a big box movie and if there is a birth scene you are most likely going to see a woman screaming at the top of her lungs, sweaty with exertion, and screaming that she hates her husband. She is scared and seems out of control. We have been conditioned to think about birth this way.. It doesn’t have to be that way. In MOST cases it’s not!
The scene conveys that we need someone or something else to make the situation ok. That we can’t handle it by ourselves. In most cases the definition of a “natural” birth is defined as “nothing going wrong” , however, that model still relies on technology and other people to manage the birth for the mother.
Instead of empowering her for the process, educating her beforehand and supporting her through the event. It is actually normal to have fear of something you have never experienced. Its called fear of the unknown. I had a ton of it before I had my natural delivery.
I was unsure of what to expect, complications that may arise, what labor pain would feel like. The more I armed myself with facts and education the better I was able to manage my fear and anxiety. Having a natural drug free birth wasn’t easy, it was challenging and pushed me far beyond what I thought I was capable of.
Every step I took to prepare for that moment helped me to manage the pain, be in control of my body and the process and achieve success. With anything else in life we take on and have never done (career changes, moving, getting married . . ) we research, we plan, we prepare. Don’t go into it blind and just hope it turns out ok!
Lets go ahead and dive into the best tips to help prepare you for a natural delivery so that you can become the confident, assured and secure mama you want to be!!!
How to Prepare for a Natural Labor.
- Tip 1: Learn about the birthing process and what your body is capable of doing! Education is the first step. The more you know about something the less you have to be afraid of because you will know exactly what to expect. I read Ina May Gaskin’s book Guide to Childbirth. She normalizes natural birth and gave me several methods to use during labor that ACTUALLY worked! I also watched a ton of natural birth videos on YouTube. Real mamas giving birth unmedicated either in a hospital setting, at home or in a birth center. It helped to watch what the process was like for them, what pain relieving techniques REALLY seemed to work and how they reacted during birth. I was surprised by how calm and in control these mamas appeared to be!
- Tip 2: Have a solid support system. This may be your husband, boyfriend, mom, aunt, sister or a doula. This is the person that knows all of your delivery preferences and is willing to back you up in any situation. They will be the ones to remind you of your WHY in the difficult moments. Some women find it helpful in addition to having a significant other to hire a doula. A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.
- Tip 3: Detailed but realistic birth plan.
No matter where you choose to birth it is helpful to all involved if you can specify your birth preferences in writing. You won’t always be able to communicate those things in labor. That is where your birth support system and a written birth plan come in play. Keep in mind that birth can be unpredictable. You have to be open and flexible to work with your care provider if unexpected situations come up. Educate yourself on ALL possibilities of birth. If you tear during birth, require an episiotomy, c-section or the baby needs additional support to transition after birth. You will know your preferences in ALL situations.
- Tip 4: Choose a care provider you can trust. This is crucial . Make sure your care provider has experience in natural deliveries and supporting the mothers who choose to do so. Look for reviews on their level of expertise and care based on the experiences of other women. It is helpful if your doctor supports being able to eat/drink during labor, will allow you to opt out of and IV or only have an IV plug inserted, if the hospital provides birthing balls/peanut balls, birthing bars, if they provide intermittent monitoring vs being hooked up to a stationary machine ect . . . Some of these things will be regulated by hospital policy and regulations.
Your doctor may not have a choice if the hospital itself has a policy against it. Never be afraid to ask questions. Write down any questions you may have before you go in. Typically midwives and birth centers are more flexible.
- Tip 5: Prepare your body. Birth will be a marathon, not a sprint. Birth can take a while. You would never expect an athlete to go run a half marathon without training first. Same with birth. If you stay active during your pregnancy you have a better chance of achieving a natural birth. This IS NOT the time to start a new workout program or go hard!! Aim for consistent exercise 3-4 days a week that is consistent with your activity level pre-pregnancy.
If you were not very active before you got pregnant you could go for light walks, walk the stairs in your home or try light aerobic activity or yoga. If you were very active before you got pregnant it is recommended that you maintain your same level of activity and modify as the pregnancy continues. ALWAYS check with your physician/midwife before you engage in any activities during pregnancy to make sure they are safe for YOU and YOUR BABY! Maintaining a well balanced diet and making sure you are well hydrated throughout your pregnancy is also a big factor in maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy and fueling your body for success!
- Tip 6: Learn about the different coping techniques and which one works for you! There are a variety of different approaches to this. I took a Bradley Birth class. I also tried Hypnobabies . Both utilize breathing techniques, visualization and birth affirmations. It is recommended in both courses to actually practice the techniques recommended. This is so important!! If you don’t practice the pain relieving techniques you may not be familiar with them enough to implement them when labor starts. You may find that the one technique you thought would be great, actually doesn’t work well for you. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!
- Tip 7: Talk to other women who have achieved a natural birth. Ask them what it was like for them. What worked best for them? What did they find was unexpected? How did they prepare? Do they feel like they could have done anything different to manage the pain better looking back?
- Tip 8: Avoid negative people. Many people, who when hearing of your plans for natural labor or even just giving unsolicited advice. Don’t allow yourself to feed into the fear that creates.
- Tip 9: Have determination and the mind set that you WILL achieve a natural birth. Your body was made for this! Don’t into this scared to death and not sure if you can have a natural birth. You have to believe in your body’s ability to give birth. Surrender to the process and allow it to take over. One of the birth affirmations that helped me THE MOST was about riding the waves. When you are in the middle of the ocean riding waves, you see it coming and brace yourself. You can feel it building and jump into allowing it to take you all the way up and bring you back down. I got through contractions this way. I felt it coming and prepared, going to my calming place and breathing techniques. I knew it would pass and I just held on until I felt myself coming back down. You will have a break in between contractions to rest. The pain is not continuous!
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Natural Labor.
Women are strong. You created and nurtured a human life for
nine ten months. Birth will push you to the absolute limit of what you think you can take and then go farther. It will cement in your mind the strength you may have never known you had. You will be amazed at what your body CAN and will do!
However don’t base your worth on the outcome of your birthing time. Every baby, mother and birth are different. If we know ANYTHING about birth is that it can be unpredictable.
You can prepare for it in the best ways possible. If your birth does not go according to the plan you have created, you are not a failure. In preparing for a natural birth make sure to include flexibility for unforeseen circumstances.
If you implement the strategies that we have discussed here today you are well on your way to preparing for a wonderful birth experience. I would love to hear about your labor and delivery. Are there any tips you would add to this list to achieve a natural birth?