Mama Monday - Considering Natural Childbirth
This week for Mama Monday, I would like to share some information with expectant families who are considering a natural birth. There is plenty of education available to help you make informed decisions about your birth, and I would like to highlight some of my favorite resources.
As a birth doula, I am an advocate for women rather than a proponent of any method of birth. My passion is for women and their partners to feel informed and empowered in childbirth, thus eliminating confusion and fear associated with this life changing experience.
Natural childbirth can sometimes be a misleading term. Some people use it simply to refer to a vaginal birth rather than cesarean whether or not pain medications are in play. However, most think of natural childbirth as one free from pain medications and little if any medical interventions. I will use the latter definition for the purposes of this article.
I encourage you to be clear about your reasons for pursuing a natural method of childbirth. Keep a journal as you gather information and write down things that are important to you. Are you concerned about side effects of drugs on yourself or your baby? Are you fearful of having a cesarean? Do you have a desire to prove to yourself that you can do it without pain medication? Do you have drug allergies or other medical conditions that prevent you from being able to have an epidural during labor? All of these are important questions and are completely personal and different for each woman. You may take a look at the Pain Medication Preference Scale to try to gauge where you are and help you define exactly what your goals for birth are. Print it out or save it in your favorites. Write down your preference before you begin your research of natural childbirth, then go back and reassess after you get some more information under your belt. You may be surprised at your preferences once you've learned more!
There are a few key things I think are most important when considering natural childbirth as an option for you and your family:
- Learn about the birth process. It is important to understand what happens in each stage of labor and how the body is designed to function. Believe it or not, the female body was designed to give birth! There are natural processes that occur in conjunction with gravity, hormones and emotions that all work together for one purpose: get the baby out. When you understand the plumbing and how it is supposed to work, it's easier to make decisions about how your actions can aid your body with it's number one goal of giving birth to a healthy baby. Click here to get started learning about what natural birth looks like and what happens in each stage of labor.
- Understanding pain as well as comfort measures for labor. As you read about birth philosophies you will begin to see that there are many views on pain in birth. Some believe that through prayer, meditation, hypnosis or visualization you can experience a 100% pain free birth. Others believe pain is a guide and is your body's way of communicating to you where you are in the process of labor and helps you progress things by reacting and moving in certain ways to alleviate the pain and thus move things along. Wherever you stand in your philosophy of pain, you need to understand it and also have "tools" in your toolbox to help you deal with it. Click here for more information about understanding pain in childbirth and here to learn about comfort measures.
- Get educated. Along with reading trusted articles and books about pregnancy and childbirth, it's very important to enroll in a childbirth education class with your partner, husband, or support person. I remember seeing the movie Look Who's Talking as a child and hearing John Travolta's character ask the panicking mother in labor, "Have you been doing your Lamaze?" It seemed like such a joke and really downplayed the importance of preparing for labor. In reality Lamaze classes, or any other childbirth course, are about much more than the "hee-hee-hoos" of breathing. A childbirth education class will walk you through many of the items I've highlighted in this article, as well as give you an opportunity to test out different labor and birth positions, practice contractions, and experiment with different tools like massagers and birth balls. Ask your doctor or call your hospital to see if there are any free or inexpensive childbirth classes available. Also, click here for a list of courses that may be available in your area.
- Get support. Without a doubt, the most important tool you will need in your belt if you are considering a natural birth is support, both before, during and after labor. While labor and delivery nurses are extensively trained to help you during labor and desire to be by your side, they have other patients to attend to and duties to perform. You need someone to be with you encouraging you and making sure you have what you need during this intense time. You may have your husband or partner, mother, mother-in-law, sister, best friend, or a combination of some or all of these people with you on that special day. I highly recommend you consider hiring a doula as well. Whatever you choose, make sure you are not alone, and make sure those who surround you know your wishes for birth and are prepared to help you pursue your goals.
Resources to get you started:
Please also know you can always contact me if you have any questions or concerns about your pregnancy or plans for birth.
Love and Honey,