Natural Birth – 10 Tips
Is a natural birth important to you?
Would you prefer to give birth with the least amount of intervention possible?
Most pregnant women I speak to express a desire (of varying degrees!) to give birth naturally.
First, let’s be clear on language.
Without any judgment, a natural birth means with no drugs or interventions.
A vaginal birth means a baby coming out of the vagina. You may have had a range of interventions or pain relief, but the baby was born vaginally.
There’s a big difference between the two, so it’s important to be clear on what you’re wanting to achieve.
For the purpose of this article, I’m assuming you want to achieve a natural birth.
Which ever way you birth your baby, as long as both mother and baby are happy and healthy, this is the optimal outcome.
Interventions Do Have A Place
I’m not anti-intervention, because sometimes they’re most definitely needed. Thank goodness we have them for genuine need.
But often, interventions are unnecessary.
Today, some hospitals in my state of Victoria are medically inducing labour for around 50% of pregnant women.
That amount of women being induced is clearly not medically necessary.
Genuinely natural births occurring in hospitals are around 0.5% (and that’s probably generous).
Natural birth doesn’t mean you’re giving birth in the woods with a rolled up towel either.
Doppler is used to monitor baby’s heart rate, and other non-invasive wellness checks are performed.
But what it does mean is no artificially breaking of the waters, no third stage injection and pulling the placenta out, and of course, no drugs.
Some women are happy with a vaginal birth (or a c-section) and that’s completely fine.
But many women struggle to achieve a natural birth in today’s birthing climate.
Are We In The Labour By-Pass Era?
As my teacher, Rhea Dempsey often says, we’re in the ‘labour by-pass era’.
Be it the c-section or the epidural, both are happening in numbers which are not just growing, but exploding, and completely by-pass the all important labour process.
What many pregnant women find to be lacking in today’s society is enough support, education and encouragement to help them achieve the natural birth they hope for.
Not only that, labour pain has become something that is seen by many as ‘unnecessary’ or ‘bad’ pain – when in fact, it’s a very useful pain.
Given time, our body even responds by sending out natural pain killers – however interventions at birth interfere with this. So it makes sense to work with labour pain as best we can, seeing pain as power, progress and not our enemy.
There is an epidemic of fear about labour pain, which prevents women from even wanting a natural birth (or vaginal birth).
You can read more about this in our article which covers common fears about labour.
A normal physiological birth without drugs reduces possible risks and complications for both mother and baby, and reduces the need for further obstetric interventions which may follow as a result.
Consider: What Are Your True Motivations For a Natural Birth?
You need to make sure you want a normal physiological birth for the right reasons. It will help you to stay motivated, on track and focused during your labour and birth.
Ask yourself, “Why do I really want a natural birth? What are my true motivations?”
If your motivations aren’t something deeply meaningful to you, it’s probably not going to mean anything in labour, making it easy to give in when it gets hard.
When you’re in the height of contractions, knowing you’ve chosen a natural birth for a reason that matters to you will help get you through.
Perhaps you want a natural birth to prevent your baby from experiencing side effects due to being exposed to drugs.
Or perhaps it’s critical to you that you get that bonding moment after the birth, the initial attachment, because you know you won’t ever get that moment back.
Find out more about 5 big ways babies benefit from natural birth.
You’re less likely to achieve what you want if you’re trying to manage without drugs, for a superficial reason.
For example, if you want to show a support person ‘how it’s done’ or how easy it is for you.
Or maybe because you feel for your support person who ‘missed out’ on a natural birth with their own child, and you feel you have to ‘do it for them’.
It’s important to experience labour and birth in your own way and for your own reasons.
#1: Write Out Your Birth Preferences (Birth Plan)
Some believe birth plans aren’t worth writing because things may not go as planned.
I think the opposite.
Writing out a birth plan can generate important discussion between yourself and your partner/support people and raise important questions and points to think about.
It need not be pages long if you don’t want to go into too much detail.
But make sure there is enough key information so that your caregivers and support people know what your preferences are for your birth.
Your birth plan can encourage thinking about tools and ideas that might be useful for you in labour.
For example, noting various positions you might like to try for labour and birth can be discussed and practiced.
Positions should ideally be upright and off the bed.
Reclining and semi-reclining positions can slow labour and may even make it more painful, so reserve those for resting only.
A good birth plan should also touch on your preferences for various outcomes.
If a medical reason arises for an emergency c-section during labour, it’s a good idea to think about what you would like to do in those circumstances.
For example, do you want dad to be present, and with the baby at all times?
It’s great to have your mind set on a natural birth.
But it’s also important to remember there will be some instances where intervention may be needed for the safety of yourself or your baby.
#2: Optimal Fetal Positioning
If you’ve not yet made yourself familiar with optimal fetal positioning, it’s really important!
During pregnancy, it’s common at times to be less active, to slouch, to have poor posture, cross our legs, wear heels, and other lifestyle factors which puts our body out of balance.
Why is is a problem?
If your pelvis becomes twisted or not in alignment from these lifestyle factors, your baby can have a harder time turning and finding his or her way out.
Your baby might even get “stuck” and then you end up thinking your body is broken or incapable of a good birth.
Sitting on it daily (in place of a chair) will help with your posture, and will hopefully prevent a baby that ends up stuck or posterior (which you will know all about if you’ve ever had back labour). It’s also a fabulous labour aid to help get that baby moving down into your pelvis.
Be sure to pick the right size for your height – at the very least, you want your hips to be level with your knees, or a bit higher.
#3: Find a Midwife/Obstetrician Who Will Support Natural Birth
Make yourself a list of questions to ask your midwife/obstetrician on your first meeting with them, to ensure they will support your choices for labour and birth. Don’t feel embarrassed asking lots of questions and providing a copy of your birth plan to them – you need to feel comfortable with the main caregiver you choose for your care and be able to trust them.
You may find it more difficult to find an obstetrician who will let you attempt a normal physiological birth in some instances, for example a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) or even multiple births, however there are obstetricians out there who will support these births if all is going well, so do a little homework to find them.
If you’re birthing in a public hospital and can’t choose your carer, you can still have a birth plan. Take one with you to a pre-natal appointment for their records, and also when you arrive in labour. This way, you know the midwives on duty are aware of your wishes. Public hospitals tend to have lower intervention and c-section rates than private hospitals.
Private hospitals and private obstetricians (you need a private obstetrician if you want a private hospital) have the statistically highest rate of birth interventions and caesareans across Australia. Consider your own independent midwife to take to hospital with you or look into a homebirth. Independent midwifery is the gold standard of care for low risk mothers and babies, offering individualised, continuity of care.
Check out our article, Who Cares? Choosing a Model of Care.
#4: Surround Yourself With Your Own ‘Cheer Squad’
If your family and/or friends aren’t able to support or encourage you in the way you’d hoped or if you would like more support, seek out and chat to those who have already experienced or intend to experience a normal physiological birth.
Join some support groups where you’ll receive the inspiration, encouragement and information you’ll no doubt be craving!
#5: Find Appropriate Support People For Labour
It’s very important to have the right support people at your birth if you want a drug-free birth. You might think it will be all wonderful and fluffy having mum, sisters and all the family to be there to watch your baby be born, but in the height of your contractions when you start begging (or perhaps screaming at!) all your birth support people to ‘help’ you, are they going to encourage you and help you get to where you want to go?
Or are they going to collapse into a bawling heap and tell you how awful it all is and a little pain relief can’t hurt?
The support people in your labour are more important than you think. Before asking them to be a support person, ask them how they would react if you went to them in labour, begging you to stop your pain. Would they tell you that you should get some pain relief? Or would they encourage you to keep going and tell you what a great job you are doing?
If your support people start to panic, you are more likely to panic too – and that’s when you might be looking for the next exit to the epidural freeway.
Be sure your support people are strong because they are going to have to be there for YOU and not for THEM.
#6: Educate Yourself and Your Support People
There are so many great resources available which are found in a variety of mediums.
I’ll add to this list gradually however the best books are not necessarily the worldwide best sellers that we all know as a household name.
If your support people are friends or family and not trained support people, it’s a great idea to have them come along to birth classes with you or read some resources.
You can share our article with them, 10 Great Tips That Will Help Her In Labour.
#7: Read Empowering Birth Books Full of Great Information
Check out BellyBelly’s recommended birth books.
You’ll get so much useful, powerful information, that it’ll make some other birth books seem more useful in the bin.
Before you get bogged down with a million books to read, choose one of these FIRST.
#8: Find Out What You’re Really Heading Into
Many of us have unrealistic expectations about what we’re heading into when it comes to giving birth in the hospital system.
There are so many things to consider that don’t work in your favour.
Most women are cared for by stranger midwives (or obstetric nurses in the US) and even stranger obstetricians. They change shifts three times in a 24 hour period, so you don’t have continuous care.
In addition, the maternity system is overworked and often resembles a conveyor belt system – women in, women out. Many of whom end up having a lot more intervention than they expected.
But you don’t have to be one of them.
Be sure to watch BellyBelly’s The Truth About Natural Birth before you step foot into a hospital.
If you choose to do birth classes, choose independent birth classes (as well as, or instead of hospital based classes) if you’d prefer to have a non-biased view of how birth can be, and what your rights are.
BellyBelly’s article on Independent Birth Education is a must read, and covers nine super big, important reasons why you should choose independent classes.
If you’re in Australia, you can contact NACE to find independent childbirth education in your area.
#9: Hire An Experienced Doula
Skilled birth support can make a massive difference to the outcome of your birth.
A recent study found doulas were able to provide more effective birth support, compared to hospital staff or family members.
Doulas support the birthing mother and her partner, offering strategies, tools, and comfort measures to work through every contraction.
They can make a massive difference if your birth support person is unsure of what to do, or if they will cope.
You need encouragement in labour and not sympathy. Sympathy, stress or anxiety is what our family members or friends tend to default to when seeing us in pain.
Our partners may also just want to ‘fix’ our pain for us, because they don’t realise that the pain is normal.
Everything else may be going beautifully, despite these painful contractions!
Based on many studies around the world, having a doula present for your birth can offer so many benefits, including:
- Significantly decreasing the use of pain medication
- Shortening labour/making it more efficient
- Decreasing the chances of a c-section
- Increasing breastfeeding success
- Reducing the incidence of post-natal depression.
#10: Trust Your Body, Trust Your Baby
Women have been birthing since the beginning of time.
Yes, mortality rates during childbirth are lower than that of our ancestors.
But their instinctive ways of birthing was much more efficient and less painful than what we commonly experience in hospitals.
In the past, women expected pain in labour, and didn’t fear it as much as we do today.
They didn’t have epidurals to fall back on.
Fear is really the enemy, because it can slow or stall your labour… and even make it more painful!
Have confidence and faith in your amazing birthing body. Follow your instincts in labour and allow your body and your baby to do exactly what they know to do.
Surrender to the power of your own birthing energy – your thinking brain might have no idea how to do it! But your ancient brain that knows how to breathe, walk and talk also knows how to birth.
There will be times when obstetric intervention is necessary.
To help you know if it’s necessary or not, there is a little acronym you can remember. It’ll give you a better idea if the intervention you are being offered is warranted.
What are the *B*ENEFITS? (of this being done)
What are the *R*ISKS? (of this being done)
Are there *A*LTERNATIVES? (than this being done)
What is my *I*NTUITION SAYING
Does it need to be done *N*OW?
Can I have 10 minutes to make a *D*ECISION?
Chances are, if they give you 10 minutes, its not that urgent.
Having a healthcare provider you trust, and a skilled birth support person, can help you feel more satisfied with the outcome of your birth. Even if the situation calls for some form of intervention.
‘We can trust we have inner knowledge of the birth process, trust that our babies know the journey, trust we will draw to us those we need for support, trust in the power and flow of birthing energy.’ — Rhea Dempsey
All the very best for a wonderful birth!