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top 10 things you should do to have a natural birth September 21, 2007

Posted by guinever in : birth, doula, health, labor, midwifery, pregnancy , trackback

jsleepingSo you’re pregnant, and you think you might want to have a natural birth. Having helped many women have natural births in my role as a doula and having birthed 5 babies naturally myself, I’d like to offer what I feel are a few of the most important things to do in order to achieve a drug-free birth.

1. Going natural is a mindset. Make the commitment during pregnancy that drugs are not an option for labor. Believe that you can do it, and you will. If you have the feeling that you’d like to try it to see how it goes, but you’re open to getting an epidural, I guarantee you that you will have the epidural. Labor is hard work and to get through it, you can’t be wishy washy going into it. One medical intervention leads to another.

2. Surround yourself with friends and family who believe that you can have a natural birth, who assume that you can do it. Tune out the negative birth stories that some girlfriends might tell you about how awful labor was until the epidural took effect. Instead, seek out labor stories from women who have had natural birth and you’ll hear how awesome the birth was, how the baby latched on right away, how the nurses kept making comments that the baby was so alert. You’ll hear how proud her husband was, what a great help to her he was during labor, and that the birth was an empowering, amazing experience.

3. Take a private, independent childbirth class. (in other words, don’t take the birthing classes offered by the hospital.) If this isn’t possible, prepare yourself by reading several pregnancy books and learning labor coping techniques. Consider my list of recommended books.

4. Choose your doctor or midwife carefully. If you don’t know where to start looking for a care provider, ask your local childbirth educators and doulas for ideas. Ask lots of questions in your first few pre-natal visits so there aren’t any surprises later on. Be wary when the answer is always, “I only do that when its medically necessary.” You need to ask them, “How often do you feel its medically necessary?” (to do inductions, planned cesareans, episiotomies, etc) You want to find someone with a low induction, low cesarean, low episiotomy (and low tear) rate. Don’t be afraid to switch doctors or hospitals no matter how late it is in your pregnancy. Remember, it is your birth, and you are hiring them to work for you. There should be a mutual respect.

5. During labor, just take one contraction at a time. Don’t worry about the length of labor–how long it has been or how much longer it might be. Women talk about their long labors, but remember, its not as if they were in constant pain for 18 hours. Contractions only last for about a minute (longer during later labor) and you get breaks in between. Don’t let anyone tell you that your body isn’t working if your labor slows down. That is just the body’s way of giving you a rest. Be thankful for the break because labor will pick up soon enough.

6. Stay home as long as possible once labor starts. Nothing slows down labor as much as going to the hospital too soon.

7. Don’t be induced unless medically necessary. About half of all inductions done on first time mothers result in cesarean birth. This is because inductions are done too soon, before mom and baby are ready for labor.  Read think twice, no think three times before being induced for labor.

8. Consider hiring a doula. Read what is a doula and should I have one?

9. Consider having a homebirth or going to a birth center. It’s so much easier to have a natural birth when you’re not in the hospital.

10. Read birth stories. Learn from the mistakes and successes of others. Be inspired from women’s birth stories. Here are a few to get you started:

Birth is a natural process and women have been birthing babies for thousands of years. You can do it too. During labor, as long as you are doing alright and baby is alright, there’s no reason to intervene in the process if you don’t want to.

Please refer to my welcome page for more articles on labor and birth.

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Comments

1. Elaine Weis - September 22, 2007

Guinever! Great article! You explained how to achieve a natural birth so concisely and beautifully. As a mother who had her first birth drug-free and at home with your help as my doula, I know that this works!!

thanks sweetie! you had an amazing birth and your husband was a wonderful support to you. ~love, G

2. Kate D - September 25, 2007

People are so different.
I went into my last birth convinced that I could do it naturally and not afraid at all.
I had an awful time, and am now terrified of my second birth.
I wish I was in the states, it sounds like at least you have some choice over your care. I’d never met any of the professionals that delivered my daughter, but this is normal in the UK.
A natural birth is great, but experience has taught me that some women are just not cut out for it.
Oh well, I can’t back out now!
P.S. In reference to number 5, the length of my labour was a problem, not because of constant pain, but because it meant I didn’t sleep for 64 hours.

Dear Kate, I’m sorry that you had such a long, awful labor the first time. Could this next labor of yours be worse than your first? Probably not. So it can only be a better experience this time around. Second labors go so much quicker than first labors because your cervix has already dilated before. Are you able to move around during labor at your birthplace? (I know nothing about birthing practices in the UK) Being free to walk and get into different positions can speed your labor and make you more comfortable. ~Guinever

3. emvest - September 25, 2007

Wonderful list! Thanks! I’m sending the link to all my friends, and – of course – taking notes for me.

Blessings!

4. Kate D - September 25, 2007

I moved around a lot for the first half of the labour, but then tiredness took over.
Its a shame, because I was so positive, I stayed at home until I was 4cm dilated.
I never thought I’d have the same experiences as my mother (my sister didn’t) but since I’ve managed to discuss it with her it sounds like history repeating itself!! Her first three births were bad. With her fourth (me!) my father actually went and got a bundle of cash and got her the epidural she’d wanted.
I’m going to make sure I have some money available, in case they refuse me an epidural like last time!!

Dear Kate, wow, that is a whole lot different than birthing in an American hospital. Most nurses here are drug pushers and want everyone to have an epidural and they have to give any woman drugs who asks for them. I hope you get your epidural this time if you need and want one. But there are things that you can do to prepare for the pain of childbirth. If you don’t have classes you can take, there are several books available that you can read and practice the exercises in them so relaxation comes naturally during labor. Relaxation is the key to having a natural birth. If you can relax all your muscles and let your uterus do the work, labor can go smoother and easier than if you are tense and scared of the pain. Are doulas available in your area or do you have a friend or sister who can be with you during the birth? ~Guinever

5. Kate D - September 26, 2007

My partner will be with me again. He is very supportive – but I’m thinking my Mum might be good to have around as well. The midwives might take more notice of her if they need a kick up the backside!
I’m also considering refusing any internals, as I’ve heard they could actually contribute towards an anterior lip developing (one of the problems I had)
Also, I wasted a lot of pushing urges, as they knew I was only 9cms and told me to hold back for ages. This was pointless, as I never got to 10, so could have started pushing as soon as my body wanted to.
The worst thing is the amount of conflicting information on labour. They kept getting me up on my knees towards the end, and I’ve since read that its better to take the pressure OFF the cervix for a while to get rid of a lip.
Looking back, I don’t think the labour pains were that scary. It was the internals, the midwife holding the lip out of the way (or trying to), the injections before the episiotomy and the screaming pain in my hips from having them pushed so far back for so long.
Think I’ll wander off into the woods and do it on my own this time…..;)

Dear Kate, I haven’t heard that about exams contributing to an anterior lip.(I’m going to look into that) The cervix does not dilate symmetrically. It helps to be in different positions so the baby’s head can put pressure on different sides of the cervix. As far as pushing before you’re fully dilated, its best to follow your body’s urges. Sometimes, you might feel the urge before its time and maybe you could wait it out a couple contractions, but it doesn’t hurt to push for a few contractions to see what happens. If it makes you complete and the baby descends, well then you know you did the right thing. But if you push and push and push against a cervix that isn’t fully dilated, the cervix can swell, and then you’re closing up a bit which is not a good thing. This is what the nurses were guarding against in your case.

I’ve had my cervix manually moved in two of my labors and by far it’s the most excruciating thing I’ve ever had done–it is definitely worse than labor itself. So if you can just avoid having that done, sounds like you’re good to go. If are pushing while the episiotomy is being cut, you can’t feel the cut so meds aren’t necessary. While pushing, the head cuts off circulation, your skin is blanched white, so it blocks the nerves…of course, you would want the pain meds to get stitched up. Or you could just not get an episiotomy this time. ~blessings, Guinever

6. Rebekah - September 27, 2007

Guinever, do you have a post about why someone might/ought to choose a natural delivery over a medicated delivery? I thought you may have posted something like this in the past but I didn’t see it when glancing through your archives.

Dear Rebecca, no, I don’t. That’s a great idea. I’ll get right on it after writing posts about what to do when your baby is breech, having a VBAC, why choose cloth diapers, when your baby should start solids, how to choose your OB or midwife, writing a birth plan, and I haven’t even touched breastfeeding yet! Anyway, there’s so much I want to write but it seems like these days most of my “blogging” time is spent telling people I have no idea when they’re going to have their baby (can you hear me dripping sarcasm?) Seriously, do you have someone you want to give an article like that to? Maybe I can bump it up my priority list. Hope you’re loving Denmark! ~hugs, Guinever

7. Sarah Thornton - October 11, 2007

Hi guinever. Great article. I have a friend due with her first baby in March. Her exact words to me were, ” I want a natural birth, but I’m going to keep an open mind about the epidural.” Knowing her sensitive nature I didn’t do as I wanted and tell her she was going to have an epidural.:-)

I have invited her to our homebirth in December. I am very excited, and I just feel that things are going to go well. The thought of not having to go to a hospital, and deal with policy has me calm and relaxed already.:-) I hope she takes me up on the offer.

I so wish more moms truly believed in their ability to birth naturally. It’s just a shame that American women especially, have it drilled into them from childhood that hospitals, and drugs are an absolute necessity to “surviving” a birth.

You would think that in today’s society built on the empowerment of women, women CEOs and even a woman running for president that they would have more faith in an ability they’ve had since creation. If only they knew how empowering a natural birth can be…

Dear Sarah, I know you’re going to have a great, peaceful homebirth this time. I hope your friend comes to your birth. I agree with everything you said, and you said it well! ~blessings, Guinever

8. Kate D - October 15, 2007

Hello again! Its been a while. I’m six months gone now.
When they did the episiotomy, her head wasn’t that far down. They didn’t cut to prevent tearing, but to give them a different angle at which to pull on the vonteuse cap.
Now I’m a bit further gone, I’m not so worried. My mum and an ex-midwife have both given the opinion that I may be induced early,(my belly looks seven months and is permanently rock hard) in which case getting the epidural wouldn’t be a worry.
Its a shame not to have a more natural birth, and I would definitely go for that option if I was a bit bigger, or my babies were a bit smaller!!!

Kate, Thanks for the update. ~Guinever

9. Hilary - November 12, 2007

I am pregnant with my first child and not nervous about anything except labor. I hate pain. The very thought of being in labor for a whole day or more brings tears to my eyes. Is there any relation between your mother’s first birth and your own? My mother went into labor at 9 am and had me at 2:34 p.m. The doctors said that was amazing. I also read of a woman who went into labor at 12 p.m. and started puking at 1 p.m. and gave birth five minutes later. What are my chances of having a hard, long labor?

Dear Hilary, Your mother’s birth experience is no indication of what yours will be like. As far as your fear is concerned, knowledge is power. You probably fear the unknown, but if you educate yourself and know what to expect you can break that fear, pain cycle. Average length of labor for a first time mom is about 17 hours. Don’t let that scare you. The first several hours will be characterized by contractions that don’t hurt very much and they’re really far apart. Then as labor progresses, the contractions are about a minute long with several minutes in between. Yes, labor is hard work, but it is so rewarding. So all this to say a 17 hour labor isn’t 17 hours of constant pain. Relax and enjoy your pregnancy. Prepare for birth and prepare for nursing your little one. ~Guinever

10. LaurenD - January 7, 2009

Thank you for the informative article. I just have to get my husband to read it now. I am pregnant with my first baby and just reached the fifth month mark and celebrated it by dumping my miserable OBs (four rotating in 1 practice) and am now searching for a birthing center close enough for me to use.

For any woman wondering if they are strong enough or can handle the pain of labor I would suggest reading anything by Ina May Gaskin. I casually picked one of her books at the bookstore and it truly has justified and validated all the feelings I had about natural childbirth and why I shouldn’t feel crazy for believing this is what my body was made for.
I am making my husband read it as he is completely paranoid about the birth going horribly wrong and doesn’t understand I am young, healthy and fully capable of doing what my body is made to do without being treated like I have a rare disease.
If he wasn’t so nervous I would be giving birth on my living room floor where its most comfortable but we settled on the birthing center as a happy medium!
Ladies your bodies are stronger than you give them credit for! Men wouldn’t even know what to do if they had to deal with giving birth!

Lauren, may your birth be everything that you hope for! ~blessings, Guinever

11. Curry - February 4, 2009

Thank you for this blog! I am pregnant with our first, and he is already HUGE, and we’re due in 5 weeks. A specialist I no longer see was advising a C-section at barely 31 weeks! My midwife is great, and I’m ready for and open to the discomfort and pain of a natural birth, with the positive idea that it ends eventually, I have support in my husband, and it brings our sweet son closer to us. I am always thinking of complications, and little “what ifs” which keep me from totally relaxing into imagining our “perfect birth” at the birth center. I have some mild hypertension, but it is under control with exercise and simple diet. My midwife is all for the birth center birth. Any advice on how to quiet the doubts? I think about shoulder dystocia, cerebral palsy, oxygen deprivation. I worry that my actively seeking a natural birth might be a selfish choice, should anything go wrong.

Curry, how to quiet the doubts? Just keep focused on the positive. Planning a natural birth often prevents many problems from happening that are caused by intervention during labor. Actively seeking a natural birth is NOT at all selfish because it is the best choice for both mom and baby. If you do need interventions during labor, then that’s ok. But just because you plan for a natural birth doesn’t mean you have to stick to if “anything goes wrong.”
~blessings, Guinever

12. Brenda - March 19, 2009

This is an awesome article! I would like to ask permission to post it on my website along with a link back to your site. I am a mom of 6 children and also a birth doula. Thanks for a great website!

Thanks for the kudos and of course, you can use the article and link back to my site.
~sharing the doula love, Guinever

13. Caroline - April 10, 2009

I just wanted to say that i love this article and that with my first daughter i had her 100 percent natural, though i wanted an epidural i didnt get it because of some lab work that hadnt came back. looking back i just wanted to say was that the worst part of the dilivery was that i had vaginal tearing, but after i saw that gorgious little girl i didnt feel much of anything except love, plus I was up and walking around within 2 hours of dilivery I hope this gives everyone who is wondering about natural childbirth a good insight into the fact that once the baby is born you dont remember the pain much at all, and the nurses and doctors are really, truly proud of you when you do it with no drugs to ease the pain, it also helps to have a good birthing nurse of some kind in the room along with plenty of possitive people in the room while your in labor.