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.
You may find it best to take some time to do the following before making your final choice of childbirth class (if any).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Unmedicated Childbirth Advocacy Network (UCAN Birth)
- Lamaze International
- Trust Birth Initiative
- Independent Childbirth Educators
- Birth Network National
- International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN)
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!