10 Steps to Achieving a Natural Birth
Avoid childbirth complications &
set yourself up for the best possible birth...
You can beat the odds and get the natural birth you want! It’s a breeze when you act now to set yourself up for success.
Many women when asked say they'd like to have a natural birth, but few actually do. Statistics show a 60-90% epidural rate in most hospital labor and delivery units, and those numbers climb even higher when you include other medications used in childbirth. One in three women today ends up with a cesarean section.
So why the discrepancy? A major factor is that in the current maternity care system, there is a huge gap between that desire to give birth naturally and the supportive environment and resources necessary to actually pull it off.
The very term “pulling something off” implies something unlikely and improbable, requiring a lot of luck, and achieved by the skin of your teeth. And, unfortunately, this is an accurate depiction of how many women manage to get a natural birth in the hospital. Despite their best intentions, most get swallowed up in the sea of technology and medical intervention that governs childbirth in America today.But take heart, it can be done, and it’s getting easier every day.
More and more women are becoming aware of their childbirth choices and creating a higher demand for a different kind of birth experience. A multitude of support, systems and resources are evolving to slowly but surely fill in the gap.
So where do you begin if you know (or even think maybe) you want a natural labor and birth? Creating the conditions that will set you up for success is the key.
Here are 10 steps to making your desire for a natural birth a reality:
- Believe it is possible: It’s easy to look at the statistics and hear the birth stories of family, friends and all the reality TV birthing shows, and conclude it’s next to impossible (and maybe even a little crazy) to have a natural birth.
Learn the truth behind natural childbirth myths and about the actual experiences of natural birthers. You may have to put forth a little more effort to find them, but natural mamas are out there and their birth stories are powerful and inspiring.
- Commit and take steps to prepare yourself: Don't underestimate the energy of commitment. Simply having a desire or a preference for a natural birth just isn’t going to cut it.
Many women have the idea they’d like to “try” to give birth without medication, but do not know or follow through with the necessary action steps. So what many women do is similar to someone showing up on the day of a marathon and saying “I think I’d like to try running this race.”
What will make the difference is committing to a natural child birth and then following these steps to make it your reality.
- Prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally: Do all you can to maintain a low-risk pregnancy with a holistic approach to pregnancy. This will minimize your risk of complications and need for medical intervention during birth.
Mental and emotional preparation includes identifying your principles, fears and expectations about birth. Challenging and moving beyond those that are limiting will translate to an easier and more fulfilling birth experience.
- Engage your partner: Your partner is likely to be a continuous presence during your labor and hopefully a primary source of support. When he understands and supports your wishes, your partner can be instrumental in assisting you and advocating for you at your birth place. Taking birthing classes together is a great way to get on the same page.
- Decide on your birth place: Your choices include birthing at a hospital or at an alternative location such a birthing center or at home. Even if you feel you’ve already made this choice or don’t feel open to an alternative option, I encourage couples to try on the idea of homebirth.
By learning about it and making the decision consciously, you may either change your mind (!) or simply become aware of a wider range of choices and birth practices that can be adapted for a hospital experience.
- Choose your provider carefully: It pays to shop around and be a savvy consumer of your obstetrical services. The difference between the birth of your dreams and your nightmares can hinge on the care provider you hire. Less dramatically, it can mean the difference between an uphill battle for getting the birth you want and coasting through with a like-minded and supportive caregiver.
So once you know what you want, go about the business of interviewing providers, much as you might a pediatrician, daycare provider or anyone else you’d be trusting with your child’s life and health.
- Line-up labor support: Hand-selecting your birth team includes, in addition to your primary care provider, your partner and anyone else you want to have there for support. Be sure those you choose will truly be supportive of your wishes.
Seriously consider hiring a doula, who is a professional labor assistant. Doulas are instrumental in helping you cope with labor and, especially if you’re birthing in a hospital, navigating the terrain of common childbirth routines and medical interventions that might be suggested.
- Write a birth plan: A birth plan helps you to define and clarify your wishes and preferences for your birth. It also can serve as an excellent communication tool for use with your birth team.
- Understand, appreciate and allow natural labor: The course of a normal labor carries the lowest risk and the most benefits for both mother and baby. When skilled in coping techniques and given proper support, women can very effectively ride the gradually building waves of natural labor.
It’s when the natural process is disrupted by agreeing to an induced labor with drugs like Pitocin, that labor becomes unmanageable and the cascade of medical interventions begins. This leads to use of epidurals, narcotics and even significantly increases the risk of C-section.
- Become skilled in natural techniques for coping with labor: An easy or even painless natural birth results from mastering the art of relaxation and breathing. Labor pain relief is further enhanced using additional comfort measures like effective labor and childbirth positions, use of a birthing ball and laboring in water.
Trust that your desire for a natural birth comes from a wise and instinctive place within yourself. Each of these steps will build upon the others and resonate with that knowing place, making your journey to birth an intensely joyful and fulfilling one.
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