Are you ready for the natural childbirth journey? Join Jenn Head, LDM, CPM, LM, Certified Professional Midwife as she guides us through this natural childdbirth series. in Part 1, "4 Pre-Labor Tips to Prepare you for Natural Childbirth" we learned how to prepare for labor. Now, in Part 2, "5 Tips to help you through Natural Childbirth," learn ways to labor naturally and prepare for the birth of your new baby.
Once labor begins, and your support location and team is in place, the rest should not only be desired, but expected so that the birth can remain unmedicated and natural. Here's how you can prepare for the experience of unmedicated labor and the natural birth of your new child:
Avoid Induction: The most common reasons a women’s labor is induced is because she is past her due date, she is expressing frustration about still being pregnant, or simply because a doctor offers to induce her.
Being past your due date can be a frustrating and disappointing time. It is called an Estimated Due Date for a reason. Your natural length of gestation may be 41 weeks and 5 days and mine may be 38 weeks and 3 days. We each take our own time to grow our babies. The due date is an estimate for our species, but rarely do people birth on their due date. When our expectation of meeting our baby is built around a date, or we are just uncomfortable from being pregnant, we become more susceptible to agreeing to an induction.
Some points to consider:
- * An induction is a sure fire way to jeopardize your desire for a natural birth. The objective of an induced labor is to get the mama contracting every two minutes as-soon-as-possible, regardless of starting cm dilated. In a labor that is not induced, you cannot expect to have contractions 2 minutes apart until you are in transition or roughly 7 cm dilated. Having contractions every 2 minutes from the very beginning often leads to maternal exhaustion and a feeling of being out of control.
- * When your care provider starts talking about possibly inducing your labor, ask good questions such as: Why do you want to induce? What happens if I do not agree to induce? These may be good questions to ask before you are emotionally charged about being past your due date.
- * When you are feeling tired of being pregnant, remember, you WILL NOT be pregnant forever. You will go into labor. Practice great self care: Get a massage, take a warm bath, ignore the incessant phone calls asking if you have had your baby. Don’t go on social media if you know people will be bugging you about going into labor.
- * Induction of labor carries greater risk for intervention and increases the desire for pain relief.
Ignore early labor: When labor begins, it is often in the evening, in the middle of the night, or while you are sleeping. If you have other children, it may be after they have gone to school and you can relax.
Some points to consider:
- * Early labor can start and stop and can last for a quite a while. You may feel excited, relieved, nervous or any number of feelings that can often magnify the perceived urgency of early labor.
- * While early labor is important, it is best ignored. Make sure to call your midwife and doula to let them know that your labor might be beginning, but after that, ignore it. You won’t miss it, I promise.
- * Go for a walk, go out to eat, work a puzzle, start an art project, watch a movie, or just go back to bed. When your labor requires your uninterrupted attention, you will know it.
- * If you have chosen to give birth in the hospital, you will want to do all of this early laboring at home. The longer you are in the hospital, the more opportunity there will be for intervention.
- * Only arrive at the hospital once your labor pattern is established and contractions are stronger, longer and closer together than they were the hour before. When your contractions are preventing you from talking or walking around, you are ready to go. Most of the time, this is when the 4-1-1 rule comes in for first time mamas. (4 minutes apart, lasting one minute long and have been doing this for at least one hour.) Second time mamas may want to stretch that to 5 or 6 minutes apart, as subsequent labors tend to be shorter than first-time labor and birth. No promises, just likely!
Eat and Drink: It is of the utmost importance to stay hydrated and nourished during labor. Imagine training and planning for a marathon without water or the occasional energy bar during the run. Imagine getting to that wall in the marathon without having eaten for the whole race. In the same way, your body needs food and drink to maintain the energy level required to stave off pure exhaustion.
Some points to consider:
- * Some of the most common interventions during a hospital labor and birth is IV fluids and food prohibition. Having an IV attached during labor hinders helpful positions and movement. Sometimes, this may be distracting enough that it takes up some necessary energy to move through labor without pharmaceutical help.
- * If you can stay hydrated, you can continue to refuse being tethered to an IV bag and pole.
- * In the out-of-hospital setting, your care providers know this is important, and will continually make sure you keep drinking and eating. Even if it is only a bite here, or a sip there, you must continue to take in sustenance throughout your labor. Sometimes that means having something when you don’t want it, and sometimes that means asking someone to make your favorite meal, so you can eat it all.
- * Having a spoonful of honey or a sip of coconut water can give you just enough oomph to make it through.
Movement: In so many ways, moving during labor can be helpful. You and the baby are in it together. Continuing to move and change positions helps the baby make progress. Sometimes the baby can get in a funny position. For example, its head might be cocked to one side or it might be what’s sometimes called “sunny side up”. These head positions can cause more pain than needed. Moving not only helps alleviate some of the pain, it also helps the baby get out of a non-optimal position and make labor more tolerable.
- * Having a knowledgeable labor companion can give you ideas on helpful positional changes and sometimes that makes them worth their weight in gold.
Rest: While it may seem conceptually impossible to take a nap or sleep during labor, it is entirely possible and often recommended.
Some points to consider:
- * If in early labor you are having stops and starts of contractions or not progressing past a certain dilation, it may be best to try and help by taking a walk or doing side lunges. It may also be best to lie down and try to get some rest.
- * Laboring and birthing can be a long process, and sometimes all a mama needs is to take a nap and rest. Resting and relaxation can be just as helpful as moving around. It allows your body to rejuvenate and naturally becomes more relaxed. Tension can hold up dilation of a cervix and make labor longer. Do not deny yourself moments of physical and mental rest. Seek it out!
Surrender - Most of all, natural birth is aided by a confidence and understanding that the body is perfectly designed to move through labor and birth. Know that labor and birth is physiologic. You cannot control your labor. You can only rise to the occasion and give in to what your labor is. Remember to breathe and release with each swelling contraction. Then let it go. One contraction at a time. Surrender in the knowledge that your body is working wonders that are just-right for you and your baby.
Have tips to add? Leave us a comment below.
Jenn Head, LDM, CPM, LM, is a Certified Professional Midwife, an Oregon & California Licensed Midwife that has been attending births since 2001. She finds the journey of growing a baby and family exciting, and trusts wholly in the birthing process.
She has spent time as a Senior Staff Midwife in Attiak, Uganda working with the organization Earth Birth, now Mother Health International. International midwifery is a passion for her, and hopes to create a practice and lifestyle that allows her to travel and serve worldwide.
She works at Oak Grove Midwifery and lives in Ashland, Oregon married to her best friend of 20+ years. They have three awesome girls.