How can I prepare for a natural birth?

There are a variety of options regarding how to prepare to give birth without medications or interventions. It’s an excellent idea to take a look at all of your options and determine which one is the best fit for your personality and your wants or needs regarding this baby’s birth.

Preliminary Exercises

You may find it best to take some time to do the following before making your final choice of childbirth class (if any).

  1. Make a list of the top 12 most important items for this pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period. Then take that list and cut it in half to 6. Then cut it in half again to 3. This exercise helps you narrow your focus to the top three Most Important elements you hope to have for this baby’s birth. See if you can determine any common themes such as strongly desiring privacy and respect for you or gentle treatment for your baby. Having your top three objectives will help you determine your best course of action to reach those goals.
  2. Spend some time thinking about your ideal birth experience. What is the atmosphere like (dark, quiet, calm, music playing, etc.)? What sorts of people are with you (your husband or partner, your doula, your midwife, nobody but you, etc.)? What is the emotional mood in the room (confident, supportive, etc.)? What kind of care do you receive from those around you (no invasive medical interventions or procedures, gentle suggestions, encouragement, physical touch, etc.)? Write down your ideal birth experience or perhaps draw or paint it. With this clear idea of the birth you want to have, you’re more easily able to check to see whether or not your choices match up to creating that experience.
  3. Read natural childbirth stories. Read lots of them. Read about unmedicated hospital births. Read about natural home or birth center births. Read about women’s births who have used the Birthing from Within philosophy or women who have taken Bradley classes. Read stories of women who have used hypnosis, such as the Hypnobabies program. After reading through many different types of birth stories you’ll probably find that you enjoy certain themes more than others, which can help you determine what choices you might make to increase your chances of having the type of birth you want. For example, a woman who believes childbirth pain is normal, helpful, and valuable might find that she doesn’t much enjoy birth stories of Hypnobabies moms who report little or no pain. Likewise, a woman who does not value childbirth pain might balk at the idea of intense pain as a positive experience and may feel drawn to learning ways of reducing or eliminating pain with natural methods.

Narrow Your Choices

Once you’ve figured out the general theme or your overall thoughts and preferences regarding your baby’s birth, you can look at specific ways of preparing for the experience. Here is a flow chart style guide to help you pinpoint a childbirth preparation method that may best suit your needs (.pdf format):

UCAN Birth Childbirth Preparation Options Guide (opens in a new window)

Maximize Your Success

Above all, keep in mind that only you can give birth to your baby. Guess who’s the birthing boss, then? That’s right! You are the boss. Your preferences and decisions take priority over anyone else’s. While most women choose to have a birth attendant (doctor or midwife) and a support person such as their husband or sister, these members of your birth team are there to give suggestions and encouragement, not make your decisions for you. If at any time anyone makes a suggestion that you are not comfortable with, you have the right to say “no, thank you” and follow your own intuition, which will guide you to do what you need to do in order to give birth to your child.

I cannot stress enough the importance of making choices that typically result in the type of birth you want to have. If a woman loves the idea of catching her own baby, but is choosing to give birth in a hospital with a doctor who views a mother’s hands as contaminated (as shown by the prolific draping, face masks, eye shields, and suits), her chances of actually catching her own baby are slim to none. Her chances of catching her own baby would go up substantially if she instead hires a midwife who is comfortable with that option and if the woman chooses to give birth in an environment that encourages mothers to do pretty much whatever they want or need to do. Hint: Out-of-hospital birth centers and homes are inherently better suited to supporting natural childbirth and they have been proven time and time again to be birth locations that are at least as safe as a hospital for the vast majority of women. Many believe that home and birth center births are safer than hospital births due to the fact that interventions (which always increase risk) are used only when indicated instead of as a matter of routine.

Find Support

Surround yourself with people who are encouraging and supportive of your decision to give birth naturally. Steer clear of conversations regarding birth horror stories and “you’re crazy if you don’t want an epidural” type comments. If somebody starts sharing such a comment, stop them and change the subject. “Thank you for caring about me, but I don’t need to hear that story right now. Let’s talk about something else.”

See if there are any birth support groups where you are such as Trust Birth or UCAN Birth. These websites list birth networks and support groups.

Find support groups online, too! If you’re on a birth board or expecting club, start a weekly thread for other women that will have natural birth experiences. Avoid reading negative talk about natural childbirth and instead focus on giving support, encouragement, and advice to other natural birthing mamas. Your bulletin board community may also have a board for unmedicated or natural childbirth such as the Birthing Naturally Board at Pregnancy.org, which can be an excellent place to get positive ideas and encouragement.

I hope this helps and I wish you a joyful, positive birth experience!

9 Responses to “How can I prepare for a natural birth?”

  1. Hannah Short Says:

    this is more of a question then a comment. I am horrified of pain and as well as something happening to me or my baby if i do take pain meds. So i was woundering how to over come this and trust other methods. Or is this a normal fear for first time mothers to be?

  2. birthnaturally Says:

    I think it’s a normal fear. I had that fear myself. What I did was learn how to reduce or eliminate pain through natural methods. I chose hypnosis (love Hypnobabies) and combined it with things like movement, water, eating and drinking, rocking in a chair, etc. I have given birth painlessly without drugs by doing so.

    Other women choose to get over their fear of pain by learning to embrace it as normal. They learn pain coping techniques and how to view pain in a positive way. Birthing from With (the book or the classes) is a good choice for this philosophy.

    Reading birth stories can be helpful in determining which approach might be better for you. It’s best not to try to combine the two approaches since you can’t have a painless birth using Hypnobabies if you’re expecting pain so you can use your pain coping skills. :-)

    Both approaches require you to gain trust and confidence in yourself, your body, and birth in general. Reading good books about natural childbirth and speaking with moms who have done natural childbirth (on purpose) are great ways to gain this confidence.

  3. Melanie Says:

    Did you say painless childbirth? I had a wonderful natural birth with my son, but it was definitely not painless. We’re expecting again in Nov., and trying a painless birth sounds fabulous :-)

  4. birthnaturally Says:

    Painless birth is fabulous. :) You might look into Hypnobabies to see if it would be a good fit for you. That’s what has helped me give birth comfortably without drugs. I certainly still felt sensations and I exerted effort (mostly mental), but it was so much easier than my first, painful birth where I ended up choosing an epidural because it hurt so badly.

    http://www.hypnobabies.com is where you can find a local class or purchase the home study.

  5. paula Says:

    this is great. i haven’t come across something as simply lined out as this yet. i’m planning on having a waterbirth at the hospital with the midwives here, and this is my first child. im due in 8 weeks, and while i’ve done loads of reading, talking with other moms, and reading/watching natural birthing stories, my partner and i have not taken any classes.
    i mentioned this to a midwife yesterday and the vibe that i got from her response was more like “are you serious? you cannot give birth without a class” without those exact words. i’m not sure what she meant; she could’ve been implying that i won’t be able to give birth naturally without classes, or that i could be a burden as an uneducated patient.
    my partner is taking an active role in educating himself as well. i don’t understand where this particular midwife sees a problem (or potential problem). i’ve never had a child before, and everyone’s birth is different, everyones body is different, and everyone deals with pain and stress differently.

  6. Laura Says:

    I’m glad you liked it, Paula. :-) You might ask your midwife for clarification. I know midwives who strongly encourage a class and midwives who may even discourage classes. What’s really important is that you feel prepared by what you’re doing. If you do, then that’s the end of it. :-) If you don’t, then you might look at class options or home study courses that might suit your needs. :-)

  7. Amanda Vella Says:

    Hi Laura,
    Good read. I am planning a homebirth for my 2nd daughter, due in 6 weeks. I’m also a yoga teacher so I have a good relationship with my body and I trust in its functions. I also trust myself to surrender to the process. I will check out you links for more info. Thank you for your work.
    Amandsa

  8. Amanda Vella Says:

    Hi Laura,
    Good read. I am planning a homebirth for my 2nd daughter, due in 6 weeks. I’m also a yoga teacher so I have a good relationship with my body and I trust in its functions. I also trust myself to surrender to the process. I will check out you links for more info. Thank you for your work.
    Amanda

  9. Stephanie Says:

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks for such a great article! I think that preparing for birth using these methods and realizing that you are the only one who will be able to do the job while you are birthing are definite necessities for birthing naturally. I have found that women who take responsibility for their births tend to appreciate the entire process more than those who just go with the flow.

    I also really appreciate your process of elimination for finding out exactly what you want from your own birth experience. This process, I think, will really help women focus on their births to get what they want out of it, and thus feel more satisfied.

    Thanks for the great article!

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