How to Have a Natural Childbirth

by Kate on January 30, 2013

in Healthy Living, Natural Birth, Natural Mom, Simple Living, Women's Health

My husband and I have recently decided we’d like to start trying to have a baby, and sure enough, here I am in my first trimester. Being the research-junkie that I am, I have already set about finding any resource I can on how to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.

How to have a natural childbirthAbout a year ago, I got a subscription to Netflix Instant Streaming and became a total documentary addict. One of the first documentaries I watched was Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein’s The Business of Being Born. If you’re thinking about having a child anytime soon, I’d definitely recommend it. They do a nice job presenting the arguments for natural birth and explaining how the American hospital system treats birth without being too crunchy or biased. Watching this film was really the first time I’d ever thought about what my labor and delivery experience might be like some day. And frankly, I think if I hadn’t seen the film I might never have given much thought to the labor and delivery experience. I think most women (including myself before I watched this movie) just assume there’s not much they can do to control the birth experience so they just don’t give it much thought. Instead, they prepare for their pregnancy, labor, and delivery experience to go something like this: find a good doctor at a respectable hospital, go to all prenatal appointments, take prenatal vitamins, wait for the contractions to hit, show up at the hospital and figure out where to go from there. The problem is, by the time you get to the hospital there’s often no time to become well-informed on all the different options the doctors and nurses will present to you. Not to mention, you’ll eventually be in a considerable amount of discomfort, and pain can make it hard to make good decisions.

I’ll be writing more about the benefits of natural childbirth and why I’ve decided I want to do everything I can do have a natural, drug-free experience with minimal intervention. But for today, I just wanted to look at some of the ways I’ve found to best set yourself up to have a natural childbirth.

  1. Choose Your Provider Carefully: Don’t simply continue going to your regular OB/GYN for your prenatal appointments for the sake of convenience.  While it may be comfortable to work with a doctor you know during your pregnancy, you still need to find out his or her birth philosophies.  Does your doctor support and see value in natural childbirth?  A doctor who advocates for natural childbirth will likely encourage and be familiar with a number of natural techniques to relieve pain, speed up labor if it’s progressing too slowly, and prevent an Episiotomy.Though it may not seem that important, a provider who is familiar with these techniques can make or break your chances of having a natural birth.  You may want to consider interviewing a few midwives if natural birth is important to you. Midwives are really the experts in natural birth–they cannot perform a c-section so in an emergency you’d need to be near a hospital, but if you have a low-risk pregnancy a midwife could be a good option. Even better, some hospitals employ midwives, so you could plan to have your baby in a hospital with a midwife, with the comfort of knowing an OB/GYN is right around the corner.
  2. Choose Your Hospital Carefully: Second in importance to which provider you choose is the hospital you choose. The national c-section rate in the US is about 30% and many hospitals in major metropolitan areas have c-section rates that near 40%.  These rates clearly far exceed the rates recommended by the WHO.  There are a number of reasons the c-section rates are so high, but for a good chance at avoiding a c-section, survey all the hospitals in your area and choose the one with the lowest rates.
  3. Become Informed About Interventions: Anytime you intervene in the natural birth process you increase your chances of having complications, not to mention you interfere with the natural process your body creates to get you through labor and delivery. For example, an epidural may make your baby lethargic and have trouble getting into position for delivery. It can also lower the fetal heart rate, a problem that often results in an emergency c-section. Plus, an epidural slows down labor and makes it harder for you to feel the natural urge to push. Thus you often need a little Pitocin (the drug that induces labor) to speed up your contractions and help you get the baby out. Unfortunately, Pitocin can result in more painful contractions than you would have had had you never had an epidural in the first place. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid any interventions, but it is a good idea to become informed about the risks involved so you can make good decisions.
  4. Take Childbirth Classes: Most women I’ve talked to have said that when it came time to labor and delivery they used their childbirth class techniques up until about 5cm and then it all went out the window. That said, being mentally prepared to handle the discomforts of childbirth could really make the difference in your birth experience.
  5. Hire a Doula: Even if you’re too far along to change your provider or hospital at this point, hiring a doula could be a really great move. A doula is a natural birth advocate and coach who will help you while you’re laboring at home and then be your advocate when you get to the hospital. Thus, if you get to the hospital and are offered all kinds of interventions, a doula will know which questions to ask and help you stand up for yourself when you want to decline a particular intervention. A doula also can generally help you with natural pain relief techniques (like massage, counter-pressure, and selecting the best labor positions). Usually a doula’s services cost anywhere from $400-1500, but often doulas also have trainees they can send to help you for less than that.

These are the top 5 pieces of advice I’ve come across again and again when researching how to have a natural childbirth. Do you have any tips for me? In the end, I just want a healthy child (and a healthy me!), but I’d love to hear any advice you may have.

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*In the spirit of full disclosure, links to products in this post may be affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you decide to purchase any of the products I recommend. Know that I only recommend products that I have used and love myself.

*I am not a doctor, a nurse, or any kind of health practitioner. I’m just a gal with a pretty keen intuitive sense, great research abilities, and curiosity that is easily peaked. Please understand that my advice is really just another opinion and it’s for you (and your doctor) to decide the best course for your health and well-being.

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