5 Simple Steps to a Natural Birth

Birth is a powerful, life-changing experience. It’s full of emotion, sensation, and hormones, and our bodies are never quite the same afterwards.

Whether you push once, for hours on end, or experience a C-section, you bring new life into the world with a strength to which nothing else can compare.

 
5 Simple Steps Natural Birth Inset Only

 

Birthing my son after 4 hours of pushing, I felt that I could do anything. Having somehow managed to find the energy to keep going after pure exhaustion, I felt limitless in my strength.

When women set their sights on a natural birth, many from our culture gawp at us with raised eyebrows. “You want to feel all that?”

For many, the creation of the epidural is a Godsend.

Personally, I wanted nothing to do with it. And I know there are many out there who feel the same way.

I wanted to experience all that there was to experience in birthing my son. I believe it to be a rite of passage into motherhood. And I say this with no disrepect to the women who chose the epidural. It’s proactively making the choice that’s important. I also deeply respect those women who’ve undergone c-sections. While it is done more than medically necessary, it also saves lives, including many of my friends. And I admire their courage in the process.

I’ve been asked by a number of moms-to-be how to have a natural birth, so here we go.

Before we dive in, let’s make sure we’re on the same page: a natural birth is commonly defined as one without routine medical interventions, particularly drugs for pain relief. It starts and progresses on its own, ending in vaginal delivery without the assistance of forceps or vacuum.

That said, here are my top 5 tips for how to have a natural birth.

 

1. Commit to a natural birth

Many women are nervous to make the commitment, and say they’ll “give it a try.” There’s nothing wrong with trying, but if you’re not committed, chances are you won’t follow through, because it does get hard. And in those tough moments, you need something to keep you going.

Sit down and journal about your motivation. Why do you want a natural childbirth? What will that do for you? What will it do for your baby?

There are a number of benefits to drug-free birth: when mama can feel what’s going on in her body, pushing is more effective, and so labor is shorter. It also requires fewer interventions. When baby is born after mama has had an epidural, baby is more likely to experience difficulty breastfeeding in the first hours, days, and weeks after birth. (Source)

My aim here isn’t to convince you to want a natural birth. As I mentioned, if you’re not committed, it will be very difficult indeed to follow through. I simply aim to provide you with some facts.

 

2. Get your partner on board

Whoever will be supporting your labor – your husband, partner, mother, friend, doula – you will need their SUPPORT. It’s hard. And you will likely be exhausted, and then some, before you’re finished. Your biggest supporters may be uncomfortable seeing you in the intense grip of contractions, and they may encourage drugs for pain management.

If your advocates are not on the same page with you, it’s going to be very hard to resist the temptation, especially when you’re beyond exhausted.

Share with your support team why it’s important to you to have a natural birth. Ask them for their support.

And if there’s a time mid-labor when you’re ready to change course and choose pain management with drugs, make it an empowered choice – and ask for their support then too.

 

3. Find the right practitioner

Ask for your practitioner’s views on interventions. Gather their statistics. How often do their patients need interventions? Drugs for pain management? C-sections?

If your practitioner tends to use certain interventions a lot, chances are they’re doing it more than is medically necessary. (When you have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail…)

For example, take the rate of C-sections. In the US in 2014, the average rate of C-section births was 32.2%, however the target rate for C-sections, including only those that are medically necessary, is about 15%, as set by the World Health Organization.

Consumer Reports published a fascinating article, “Your Biggest C-Section Risk May Be Your Hospital.” I recommend checking it out; it’s a great read.

In essence, you need to find a practitioner who is aligned with your views. If you want to have a natural birth unless circumstances call for medically necessary intervention, you need to find the right medical professional to support you to do so.

For that reason, I recommend considering a midwife instead of a doctor. Around the world, most births are attended by midwives, who are fully trained to handle normal pregnancies. So long as everything progresses normally, you might never see a doctor for your entire pregnancy or delivery. But if you fall into the high-risk category, a midwife will likely turn you away – your labor and delivery has the potential to be more complicated and should be under the specialized care of an OB/GYN.

Even if you see a doctor, you can search out one that agrees with your philosophy of birth and has low intervention rates.

 

4. Learn. A lot.

Prepare yourself! Birth is a long process that can take hours or days. Yes, days, plural.

You will get tired, and the experience will likely be more physically intense than anyting you’ve ever experienced before, so you need some tools ready.

Take a class in the Bradley Method, or HypnoBirthing, or whatever local classes your practitioner recommends. Practice techniques like breathing, and get your partner involved so they’re better able to support you in labor.

 

5. Set an intention, make a plan, and let go

Wait, what? Let go?

Yep.

You’ve done the work, you and your partner are ready, you know what you want, and you’ve put together a birth plan for the doctor or midwife to consult.

Now it’s time to trust your body, your baby, your partner, and your practitioner. You can’t control the process, and trying to will only drive you nuts. (Trust me. I’ve been there.)

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “We made a birth plan, but it didn’t really turn out that way…”

That’s why it’s important to have an overall philosophy to follow in your birth. My husband and I knew the things we wanted to do, and were able to do most of them. But because of the circumstances, the health of my baby required certain things – I wasn’t able to get in the tub for the waterbirth I’d wanted, I needed an IV, and a shot of something immediately after birth to slow the bleeding, etc.

But we stuck to our philosophy the whole way through – we kept it as natural as possible, without any unnecessary interventions, and the healthy of baby and mama coming first.

And in the end, we went home with our beautiful baby boy, and my heart was ready to burst with love, and I felt – heck, I had just survived a long 30+ hour marathon of labor and pushing for 4 hours, so I felt I could do absolutely anything (after a little sleep, anyway)!

 

How much does “natural birth” matter?

On a sidenote, by the definition of “natural birth” we agreed on at the beginning, I didn’t have a natural birth. I needed a Foley Balloon to induce labor after going 12 days past my due date. But because we prepared and had an excellent midwife, we stuck to our philosophy 100%, and I’m happy to say my son’s birth was a wonderful experience, even if it didn’t meet the definition of “natural.”

And I believe that’s the key part: sticking to your philosophy and values, and working with a practitioner that will support and respect your desires, natural or otherwise.

Other advice to share for moms-to-be wanting a natural birth? Comment below.

Note: As you’re doing your research to prepare for the different choices you’ll need to make in pregnancy and childbirth, check out Evidence Based Birth to find current non-biased research-based information. I also recommend the documentary The Business of Being Born.

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2 Comments

  1. I had five children via natural childbirth within 8.8 years. I would do it that way again if I had another. I too wanted to experience the entire process. The decision was made and never changed – that my children would come into the world drug-free, and I would not have a needle in my spine. I think it helped to understand that even though there was pain, my body was not being injured, and I knew it would end eventually.

    • Yes! I think there is a great power in recognizing that our bodies were literally built to bear and birth children – that the process does end, and doesn’t injure us (barring medical complications). Thanks for sharing, Pat! 5 natural births – WOW. 🙂

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