Many of the factors leading to a successful natural childbirth begin long before you go into labor. Check out these 4 Pre-Labor Tips to prepare you for natural childbirth. Jenn Head, LDM, CPM, LM, is a Certified Professional Midwife who finds the journey of growing a baby and family exciting. Her wisdom derives from 12 years of experience attending births around the world. Once you've done your pre-labor homework, check out these 6 Tips to prepare you for the experience of unmedicated labor and the natural birth of your new baby.
"Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers ~ strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength." -Barbara Katz Rothman
4 tips to help you prepare for natural childbirth
Many of the factors leading to a successful natural childbirth begin long before you go into labor.
Find a supportive location. If you desire a natural birth, consider giving birth where there is little opportunity to intervene. When you choose a hospital birth, all the tools to disrupt a labor are right there. You want to be somewhere that you do not have to “fight” to have a natural, physiologic birth. [phys·i·o·log·ic : Being in accord with or characteristic of the normal functioning of a living organism.]
- * If you do choose a hospital setting, look for hospitals with doula programs.
- * Ask about hospital policy on eating and drinking during labor.
- * Make sure to research the hospital’s cesarean, induction, and epidural rate. If you are seeing high numbers, consider a different location.
- * If you are a healthy, low-risk mama, consider an out-of-hospital birth. There are home birth midwives and free-standing birth centers (not connected to a hospital) that offer a safe, natural alternative to the hospital setting.
Choose a care provider that is not only supportive of natural childbirth, but is also an advocate of it. Many women who want an un-intervened and unmedicated labor and birth end up hooked up to IVs & monitors. Ultimately they may end up with an epidural, and maybe a cesarean section, against their original plans or desires. Many times this is because the care provider views the birthing process and the woman herself as something that needs to be managed and fixed.
- * Find a provider that has an innate belief in the power and humanity of birth. Research and ask your prospective provider for their cesarean rate, how often they induce labor and when they consider inductions of labor. Because out-of-hospital midwives do not carry the medications and devices that lead to intervention, you will find they will have a much lower rate of cesarean and inductions.
- * Another way of learning about a potential provider is to ask around in the community of like-minded women and hear their thoughts. Word of mouth can be a good indicator. For example, if I am asked about a particular doctor who has a high intervention and cesarean rate, I might say, “She is a very good surgeon.”
Consider a Doula: A doula, also known as a labor coach, is a non-medical person who assists a woman before, during, or after childbirth, by providing information, physical assistance, and emotional support for both the laboring woman and her family.
- * In the hospital setting, a doula is an important advocate and buffer for you as you labor and birth. They can help you understand what is happening, translate doctor-ese and keep the intention of your natural birth present in the room.
- * Doula support has been shown in studies to lower cesarean risk, shorten labor, and reduce the need for medications and medical procedures that carry risks, including forceps and vacuum extraction.
- * Often doulas will labor at home with you before you head in to the hospital. You will want to establish care with a doula before you go into labor, and preferably in your second trimester.
Keep it positive: It is completely natural to have fears and doubts about your ability to cope with labor and birth. The more you feed your spirit and brain with positive stories and images of birth and yourself, the more reassured you will be.
- * Find some great natural birth videos online.
- * Draw boundaries around what you want to hear or see. Most people are well-meaning when they begin sharing their harrowing stories of their own labor and childbirth, and when they begin to share, you can always say, “I am choosing to focus on the positive and would love to hear about the best parts of your labor and birth.” You can also choose to gently redirect the conversation. This is your journey and all pregnancies and births are different even from your own family members.
- * Surround yourself in pregnancy and labor with your “biggest fans.” These are people who love you and share your desires and respect for natural labor and know you can do it. Do not entertain the naysayers, real or imagined.
- * Avoid “reality” television shows that condense a woman’s birthing experience to a 30 minute segment. There is little reality to these poisonous shows outside of the egregious amount of labors ending in cesarean section. In the United States, the cesarean rate is hovering between 33% & 36%. While the shows can be an accurate portrayal of massive intervention, they usually do not reflect the positive images you need to create the natural birth experience you are looking for.
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. Check out the second half of our Preparing for Natural Childbirth series & find 6 Tips to prepare you for the experience of unmedicated labor and the natural birth of your new 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.