7 Essential Elements for Natural Childbirth
In a recent report from Healthy People 2010 and CDC, Fit Pregnancy in a natural childbirth post reported that “a natural, unmedicated vaginal birth is an entirely achievable and reasonable goal for about 85 percent of pregnant women, according to Healthy People 2020. The other 15 percent have health complications that put them in a high-risk category where they’ll need certain interventions, such as a Cesarean section, to make birth safe, either for mom or baby. We know, however, that even though 85 percent of women are in the low-risk category for a vaginal birth, only about 67.2 percent of women in the U.S. have vaginal births according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The other 32.8 percent have C-sections.”
Many women may desire a natural childbirth, but don’t know what to do to prepare and further, they may have no one to rely upon for advice and positive stories about natural childbirth. As a mother of three sons, all born naturally, and as a maternal health physical therapist, here are 7 elements I believe are essential for natural childbirth:
- Find the right baby catcher and birth facility, as well as the right birth partner. You can never really overplan for natural childbirth, but you can certainly underplan. The worst thing a woman can say is that she’ll just wing it and “see what happens” during birth. You wouldn’t go out and just “run a marathon” and childbirth is just that – a marathon. So plan for it by being fit, planning birth strategies with your health care provider and birth coach, which includes not just a Plan A, but Plan B too.
- Become an expert breather. Experts agree that the best way to control your hormonal (neuroendocrine for you physiology buffs) system is through breathing. It also the quickest way to change pain perception, improve focus, cognition, and mood. Read my post – Better birth is only a breath away.
- Move. Walk, use a birthing ball, use yoga props, use a husband or friend as a yoga prop or manual/physical therapist; use manual therapy or yoga postures or both to open the pelvic outlet and relieve “back labor” pains. Whatever you do in labor, make sure you are moving, with the exception of during a hard contraction. During those times you want to find a position that relieves pain and stick to it during the hardest contractions, focusing on surrendering to your body’s attempt to open the cervix. Read my post on three yoga postures during birth
- Have constant support during labor. Research is unanimously clear on one thing concerning natural childbirth. Laboring mothers need and do better, including baby, if mom had 100%, continuous labor support during childbirth. Whether a husband, mother, friend, or doula, they must possess two traits: 1) They must be knowledgeable about your birth preferences, plan, and childbirth coaching and 2) They must be able to provide not just physical and psycho-emotioanl support, but be your advocate to defend your birth preferences.
- Change Sensations. Managing pain is probably the most important concern a woman has, and it may solely drive her to fear childbirth. But be encouraged, as a mother of three sons, all born naturally, there are many methods to manage pain during labor. What may surprise you is that each birth is unique, and what may work for some laboring mothers may not work for others. That was the case in each of my births. I used a combination of many different natural pain management techniques, from acupressure, massage, manual and physical therapy, heat/cold, positioning and birth gadgets, aquatic therapy/tub, walking, yoga, and even a TENS unit. See this post by Comfort in Labor by physical therapist and childbirth educator, Penny Simkin.
- Practice Yoga. Meditation, Focus, Opening pelvic outlet, Relieving back labor and general labor pains, Progressive relaxation, Determination and resilience, and teaching expert Breathing. Yoga can do all of these things and more. Read my post on Prenatal Yoga to Fit You
- Create a Birth playlist. During the birth of all three of my sons, all three vastly different, I used all of these methods for pain management during labor. But my secret for pain management was… music. Music has the power to take everyday moments in life and make them sacred. Music allows your mind to retrieve and feel with the same intensity experiences that happened two months or even two decades ago. Music harnesses tremendous power. Read my post on why and how to create a Birth Playlist. Secrets for Soothing Pain during Childbirth
Did you notice one thing all of these 7 tips have in common? They are all active. They are all verbs.
Birth is not a “giving in” or “becoming a wet noodle.” Birth is active and it requires your full participation. Even when a laboring mother looks like she is “relaxing” during active labor, be assured she is not. She is exercising extreme focus and is working very hard for her baby.
I encourage you to consider a natural birth for your baby. Seek out the support of those friends and family who have had a natural birth. Surround yourself with a community of support that believes You Can Do It! Because I believe you can.
A source of positive stories and support for natural childbirth can be found:
- Ginger Garner, Women’s Health Physical Therapist and Mothers Advocate: Reading My Birth Story and more stories and informative articles at my blog, Mothers Matter.
- Tracy Donegan, Midwife and GentleBirth Advocate at http://www.gentlebirth.ie
More resources for natural childbirth tips:
- Baby Zone – 16 Tips for Natural Childbirth
- Fit Pregnancy – 7 Tips for Natural Childbirth
- Fit Pregnancy Labor Positions