Advice for Having a Natural Birth

Natural childbirth is a philosophy of childbirth that is based on the belief that women who are adequately prepared are innately able to give birth without routine medical interventions.

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The goal of delivery is always to have your baby in your arms at the end, with as little trauma to everyone as possible. So I don’t believe that women that go through natural birth are superior in any way to those that don’t. But here I am a few months from my fourth labor and it’s back on my mind again. I have had such good experiences and outcomes using a natural birthing process with all three kids, that I want to share them in case others are looking for encouragement about it.

This post isn’t written for mothers who are terrified of labor and feel that an epidural is the greatest invention for womankind. It’s not written to convince anyone of anything except the women who are really interested in attempting a natural birth. I actually share my experiences with people often, and I really just want to have this post to be able to forward to people. Or be there if people are surfing the web for positive sentiments about labor. I was looking for all the information I could get prior to my first delivery, but I really had to dig. I knew that the conventional plan of getting to the hospital at the first sign of labor, being stuck in a bed with a medicine that paralyzes me and giving up control to the medical team would NOT be the way I wanted to deliver my baby.

I’m really passionate about natural birth because it is absolutely the most empowering thing in the world, I loved it! Did it hurt? Yes. (Like really bad period cramps and abdominal pain at the same time). I told myself that if it ever got too bad, I would let myself have medications, but I never wanted them. I was mentally prepared to work through the pain and it worked. And afterwards, I was SO proud of myself for MONTHS. All my happy hormones were set in motion and they really helped into my post-partum periods, which is always a challenge.

Below you’ll find a few tips that helped me…

Pregnancy/Pre-Labor:

  • Stay in shape. I am convinced that exercising throughout pregnancy and gaining a healthy amount of weight gives us the strength and energy  needed for labor. Also, the mentality and discipline it takes to make yourself exercise, even when you don’t feel like it, is a similar mentality that can be applied to labor.
  • Figure out WHY you want to do it naturally. Is it to experience it that way, to avoid a C-section if at all possible, something else? Whatever it is, know your reason. It will anchor you through the times you think it’s too hard.
  • Arm yourself with knowlege. Watch The Business of Being Born or read books such as those by Ina May Gaskin (a natural birth advocate and midwife) such as Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.
  • Pay attention to your body. When you have Braxton Hicks (your body’s practice contractions in the second and third trimesters), learn what those feel like for you so when it comes to the real thing, you notice the subtle differences.
  • Don’t focus on the due date. Only 5% of babies comes on their actual due date. Know the baby will come sometime around the due date.
  • Consider hiring a doula, a labor assistant. You can find them by searching the internet or asking around. They aren’t necessarily medically trained, but they are advocates for the mother’s wishes and emotional support throughout the process. It’s the #1 intervention to promote natural labor.

When Labor Comes:

  • Try to ignore labor for as long as possible. People get all excited that they’re in labor and then forget it may be hours and hours before they give birth. When I started having some rhythmic contractions with my first, it was around noon in church. I knew that the contractions were different from my Braxton-Hicks because they started in my back. My husband and I went to Dunkin Doughnuts and then walked around Grant Park in Chicago for two hours (we lived there at the time). At that point, I could time them (they were every 10 minutes) but I wasn’t having to “work” through them. I took a Tylenol PM and went to bed. By 10am the next morning, they were starting to get harder. By noon, they were tough, I threw up once and had to work through them. We called my doula, she helped me get through the active part of labor and by 5pm I delivered. (SO….27 hours of labor, but only 7 hours of paying attention and only about 5 hours were pretty tough).
  • Ride the waves of the contractions. There isn’t constant pain the whole time because there is a break in between contractions. I focused on breathing through each one and that really helped.
  • Walk, walk, walk. One of the joys of not having an epidural is the ability to allow gravity to help your baby make it’s way down the birth canal.
  • Hot showers/tubs are nice to help relax during labor.
  • Have a happy place. I had a few mental images that I could go to when it hurt. An ocean scene. A hillside with flowers. Jesus’ face. Bringing up those images helped me immensely.
  • It’s my preference to stay out of the hospital as long as I can. I feel like I would lose control of the pace (sometimes labor slows down in an environment that produces fear) and the peace of my home. No one’s going to “miss” labor. If you’re wondering if “this is it?” it’s probably too early to go in. 🙂
  • By the time you get to the hardest part where the pressure is crazy and it starts to feel like you have to push, you’re getting there and you may not have long! (you’re in transition, dialated 8-10) I believe you should feel this sensation before you push. Let your body to the work for you. I think sometimes the staff tells women to start pushing when they’re  dialated to a “10”, but if you have to work that hard, it might not be time. Every time, it was VERY CLEAR when my body wanted to push and did a lot of the work for me.
  • It’s ok to be vocal. I (sometimes loudly) moaned through my contractions and I swear it helped. All in the spirit of not holding back, letting your body open up and release.
  • This one is sort of silly, but I am motivated by tangible rewards. Consider bringing a new outfit and some amazing self-care products to the hospital. I treat myself to little gifts, and sometimes when I was working hard it helped me think about the fact that the end would come and I would be able to celebrate with a nice shower and pampering time…and I’d get to see my feet again for the first time in a long time!

Post-Labor

  • Bring your own snacks to the hospital. Especially ones that can help you go to the bathroom- prunes, fiber bars etc. I almost found that the bowel movements post delivery were more disturbing than labor. Ask the nurses for stool softeners just for prevention’s sake. There are no bad side effects.
  • Keep the ibuprofen coming post delivery, even if you delivered naturally. The cramping up of your uterus can be quite painful and some higher doses of NSAIDS such as Ibuprofen will keep the pain manageable. Narcotics (like Percocet or Vicodin) can make  you loopy and constipated, but use them if you have to.
  • Skip the hospital photographer. Terrible pics and wasted time. (Total opinion)
  • Feel free to make visiting times for family and friends. “I’d be happy to have visitors from 2-4pm today.” If you choose to breastfeed and you’re learning for the first time, you don’t need to be trying to do it discreetly in front of your father-in-law.
  • You’ll look like your five months pregnant after you deliver. It’s ok, it’s normal and your uterus will firm up over time, especially if you breastfeed. Some women don’t realize this the first time and are glum at the shape of their bodies. There’s time to work on that later…

Know that my story will not be your story. Every pregnancy, labor, birth and post-partum period is unique. I share only to encourage women to trust their bodies more than we’ve been taught to do.

You CAN do it. But you don’t HAVE to. There are certainly no medals, but I find labor to be one of the most exciting things in life. Like I heard somebody say once. Your womb opens up once, twice, three times (whatever it is) in your whole life. It’s an amazing experience to feel your womanhood in all of it’s glory. I hate the idea of getting an epidural (that doesn’t always work and it’s a HUGE needle), being chained to a bed and at the whim of the hospital staff. I’d much rather take some pain (that is bringing me the best gift ever) and have control and be empowered. And every labor after the first one has gotten easier and easier! #3 didn’t even hurt!

One thing I’ve noticed about women of every age is that they love to talk about the days they gave birth and tell their stories. That’s because those days are are so powerfully sewn into our memories for the rest of our lives. I hope you enjoy yours!

Much love mamas,

Heidi

Comments

  1. What a great article! I’m going to share with my mamas!!! Thank you!

    • Thanks Anne- So glad you found it! I had a wonderful experience with my first labor using a doula. She really helped give me the confidence I needed and it lastest through the subsequent deliveries without one. I am an Adult Nurse Practitioner by training and love to use my knowledge of healthcare to advocate for people to get the experience they want. Many happy deliveries to you! XO, Heidi

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