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A Guide to Giving Birth Naturally

by Katlyn Joy | October 4, 2013 12:00 AM2 Comments

Opting for a natural birth is a goal that many women have, but far fewer follow through on. The reasons a woman may change her mind may include unforeseen circumstances that complicate the labor such as a breech baby, being unprepared for childbirth, not having a strong support person or having a medical professional who isn't as interested in working for a natural labor.

How to Prepare for a Natural Labor

You don't have to wait until the first contraction to prepare for a natural or drug/intervention-free birth. It begins during pregnancy.

1. Maintain a healthy weight. This means eating wisely and staying in shape. You aren't trying to be super-toned, just able to have endurance, flexibility and good cardio strength. Labor is rather like a marathon you are working towards during pregnancy. Women who stay in shape and don't gain too much in pregnancy will have much easier births, according to Fit Pregnancy.

2. Take childbirth preparation classes and read about childbirth.
Knowledge trumps pain. Knowing what the usual stages of labor are like will keep panic away. Having a general plan for each stage of labor will also give you a tool box for managing the moments or more of intensity that occurs in birth.

3. Choose a supportive birth attendant and support person.
Ask your medical provider how many of his patients have had a natural birth. Also, ask about the c-section rate. Discuss your desire to have a drug-free birth and monitor their reaction. If it's blasé at best or even worse, negative, move on to another provider. You need someone who won't undermine you and who will work with your goal of a natural birth.

4. Practice techniques that will assist you during birth.
These include meditation, relaxation, yoga, and if you take a specific course such as Bradley or Lamaze, there may be other types of homework to prepare. You want to be at ease with the methods you want to employ during labor.

5. Make sure your support person is prepared as well as you are.
Your labor coach should be prepared for labor and childbirth too. He should attend classes with you, go to appointments with you, and understand your basic labor game plan. You should also discuss what to do if you come to a point when you become overwhelmed and decide to get some help, perhaps with pain relievers or an intervention such as an epidural.

Once Labor Begins

There are many methods of easing labor pains and discomforts, and most are simple to employ. Remember that if a strategy doesn't work at one point in labor, it may later. Some touches or sensations are irritating at hour four but soothing 45 minutes later. Give everything a chance.

Use heat or cold.
You can use warm compresses on your lower back, or on your perineum, or try a cold pack or cool cloth on your head if you feel overheated.

Move around.
Try walking, rocking in a chair, sitting on a birth ball, getting on your hands and knees, leaning against your partner, or lying on your side for a rest. Don't attempt to labor in one set position.

Use nature's best pain reliever: water.
Try a warm bath or refreshing shower if your water has not broken yet. Some women pickle up like old ladies because their contractions subside so greatly while emerged.

Distract yourself with games, movies, music and conversation for as long as possible.
This won't happen most likely during late stages, but early labor is a great time to be social and have fun to keep you relaxed.

Nap if you can. Taking little cat naps between big contractions can give you some energy spurts so don't worry about nodding off here and there.

You might love a foot rub, putting tennis balls in a sock under your aching back, or perhaps your cramping legs could use some relief. Let your partner know what feels good and how light or deep you want the pressure.

Breathe slow and deep as things get more intense.
Focus on staying relaxed and remind yourself how close you must be and imagine holding your new baby in your arms.

Give yourself mini-mental pep talks.
Messages should include things like, "Everything is going exactly how it should. This will be over soon and baby will be here!" "I can get through one hard day for a lifetime of love," and "I can do this! I trust my body!"

Drink and eat lightly in the earliest hours to give yourself strength.
Later on, suck on ice chips, popsicles or lollipops if you have a dry mouth. Use some lip balm for dry lips.

Ask for extra blankets, pillows, socks or anything that will make you more comfortable.
Don't be shy if you think you know what would help.

If you cannot manage the pain, let your doctor know.
Maybe there has been a change. Perhaps the baby is crowning, or maybe the baby is in a bad position temporarily. If you have tried and nothing is working, don't feel bad if you do need more help. It's not a Mommy competition. The important and true goal is a healthy baby.

Related Articles

The If/Then Guide to Labor

Guide to Cesarean Sections

Is a Home Birth for You?

How Much Does it Cost to Give Birth in the US?

Water Birth: The Risks and Benefits


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tresha stone Oct 21, 2013 05:10:39 AM ET

It is amazing how different it is when you have to give birth naturally. you just need to know one thing: doesn't have to hurt that much and it is a lot fast than with an epdiural.

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Andrea Oct 6, 2013 04:39:45 AM ET

Have thought about this for a while. i think i am going to do it! thank you for the article!

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