8 Tips for a Natural Birth

Pregnancy is a time of preparation, of course, and you'll want to put in some time and effort to get ready for a natural birth, if that's what you're hoping for. A natural birth can mean different things to different moms. To some, it means giving birth vaginally; to others it means going through labour and delivery without medication or intervention. Here we dive into the latter, so if you’re interested in a natural birth, it may help you feel more prepared to read some tips on giving birth naturally, including suggestions on picking a place for delivery and tips for alternative pain management techniques.

1. Find the Right Healthcare Provider

Whether you already have a doctor and are now thinking about a natural birth, or you’ve been set on a natural birth and need to find healthcare providers who support your choice, choosing the right healthcare provider is important. It’s important to have a doctor who you have a good relationship with, respects your wishes, and can help you on the journey to having a natural birth. There may be other considerations, too. You may, for example, want to find a healthcare provider who has a relationship with a particular birth center that you’d prefer. No matter what, you and your doctor need to be on the same page about your labour and childbirth preferences.

2. Choose Where You Want to Give Birth

Choosing where to give birth is an important decision. You may feel that delivering in a hospital is not right for you, and would prefer the comfort and familiarity that comes with a natural home birth. If you’re considering a home birth, discuss it with your healthcare provider as there are potential risks should you need

  • Labour induction

  • A c-section

  • A blood transfusion

  • Forceps or vacuum extraction

  • Treatment for vaginal laceration or tears.

Having a certified nurse-midwife in attendance can help reduce the risk of complications, but it’s important you have quick access to your doctor and an emergency plan, should you need urgent hospital treatment. Your healthcare provider can recommend whether or not a home birth is suitable for you, but you may need to avoid it if

  • you have previously had a c-section

  • you are pregnant with multiples

  • your baby isn’t facing head down.

As an alternative, many women who want a natural birth choose to deliver in a birth center, which is a home-like environment that gives women more independence and comfort while having midwives and nurses on hand and easy access to the healthcare system. Birth centers work together with a hospital should an emergency arise. If you find a facility that can support your needs, another option is to request a natural hospital birth. Find out what options you have in your area so you can choose what’s best for you. You may even want to visit your local hospital or birth center to help you decide.

3. Learn About Alternative Pain Relief Methods

Knowing your pain relief options and comfort measures is important when preparing for a natural birth. The good news is there’s plenty you can do to cope with the pain of a natural childbirth. Here are a few alternatives:

  • Relaxation techniques. There are many physical relaxation techniques you can try to decrease labour pain and anxiety. You might want to look into progressive relaxation, where you tense and release specific areas of your body from the feet up or from the head down. Mental relaxation techniques, like guided imagery or visualization, may help distract you from the pain.

  • Focused breathing techniques. Controlled breathing, a technique you may learn in childbirth classes, can help you relax during labour. Slow, deep breaths drawn from the abdomen can help reduce the level of pain you feel. Not only does controlled breathing help you and your baby get plenty of oxygen, it also helps make contractions more productive by sending more oxygen to the uterus. Focused breathing also helps reduce anxiety and pain perception, as well as lowering your heart rate.

  • Walking, changing positions, or moving. Finding the right position can ease labour pain and also help labour to progress. Your contractions are more efficient during labour when you walk or move. Talk to your healthcare provider or birth center about your options.

  • Touch therapy or massage. Touch can help, whether it is a massage, acupressure or simply holding someone’s hand. If you are interested, talk to your healthcare provider and contact the birth center or hospital to see what is available.

  • Hypnosis. Deep relaxation and self-hypnosis can help decrease your anxiety, fear, and pain, so you may want to look into hypnobirthing techniques as a natural form of pain management.

When you reach the third trimester, talk to your healthcare provider about your preferences, keeping in mind that you will need to take into account what is available to you.

4. Create a Natural Birth Plan

A birth plan can help you think through your options, and can help ensure you and your healthcare providers are all on the same page. Your birth plan can be as simple or as detailed as you like, and can include things like your pain relief preferences, and any requests about who should cut the cord or hold the baby after birth. When you prepare your birth plan, talk it through with your healthcare provider, who can help you sort out your preferences, priorities, and options. Having a birth plan may help you feel more confident and comfortable; just remember that labour and childbirth are unpredictable, and things don’t always go as expected. To get started on yours, check out our printable birth plan.

5. Keep Fit

Whether you have a natural birth or not, delivering a baby requires a lot of stamina, so it’s important to keep healthy and strong. Once you have the OK from your healthcare provider, add some exercise to your routine.

6. Hire a Doula

A doula – a professional labour assistant – can give you extra emotional and physical support during a natural birth. A good time to look for one is when you enter the third trimester, so you can get to know her before the big day. Your doula may help with:

  • Education about labour. In the third trimester, your doula will help you better understand what to expect during labour, delivery, and in the time immediately afterward.

  • Physical support and comfort during labour. A doula’s most important role is to give you continuous support during labour and delivery, whether it’s providing something like breathing assistance, touch therapy, or massage.

  • Emotional support. A doula will offer lots of reassurance, comfort, and encouragement.

When you have a natural birth, you may need all the extra support you can get and an experienced doula can give you that. However, doulas are not medical professionals, and there are limits to the assistance they can provide. You may also prefer not to have a doula, for example, if you’d prefer to have fewer people in the room with you, or if you would prefer your partner be included and do some of what a doula would otherwise do. Whether a doula is right for you is a personal decision. If you choose to hire a doula, ask your healthcare provider or birth center for recommendations, and don’t be shy about interviewing a perspective doula so that you get a feel for whether you click. You’ll want to ask questions like how many births she’s attended, what services she provides, and whether she can help you with the specifics of how you hope your pregnancy, labour, and delivery will go.

7. Go to Prenatal Classes

Childbirth education or prenatal classes help you prepare for the challenges of a natural birth. They can help you:

  • Learn what to expect during labour and delivery, and after your baby is born. Prenatal classes can help de-mystify what happens during childbirth. Classes will help you recognize the signs of labour and better understand what your body goes through when you give birth.

  • Develop pain management techniques. You’ll likely practice breathing, visualization, and relaxation techniques to help manage pain. You will also learn about your medication options, in case you change your mind when the time comes.

  • Manage your concerns. It’s perfectly natural to feel anxious about pregnancy, labour, and delivery. Prenatal classes are a place where you can talk about your worries with other moms-to-be; plus, the instructor is there to help dispel any myths and put many of your fears to rest.

  • Get informed about possible complications. Even if you are planning a natural birth, medical interventions may be necessary should complications arise. At prenatal classes you can learn about which routine interventions may be necessary and what they involve.

Prenatal classes can also help birth partners understand more about what will happen during labour and how they can help, so it’s a good idea to attend classes along with your partner. Look for a class that’s given by a certified childbirth educator, and try to find a group of no more than 10 to 12 couples. A good time to sign up to a childbirth class is during the second trimester or the beginning of the Third trimester.

8. Prepare for the Unexpected

Even if you physically and mentally prepare yourself to give birth without pain medication, there is nothing wrong with changing your mind and deciding you’d rather go for that epidural. Although your healthcare provider will monitor your pregnancy and the health of you and your baby, unexpected events can happen. In the end, if your birth doesn’t go as you planned, it doesn’t make you any less of a mother. The most important thing is the health of you and your little one. Childbirth is an amazing achievement no matter how you give birth. If you choose to try for a natural birth, it's wise to do some extra preparations ahead of the big day. That way, you'll be as ready as possible for this life-changing journey!

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