Natural childbirth is based on the belief that healthy women are adequately prepared and are innately able to give birth without routine medical interventions. It is a method of childbirth that is woman-centered; allowing women to lead the labor and delivery process. According to Cynthia Gabriel in her book, Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds, “For most women, it means giving birth spontaneously (without induction), at one’s own pace (without drugs to increase the speed) and under one’s own power (without anesthetics).”
There are many methods women use to stay comfortable during labor, including breathing exercises, visualization, positioning, massage, hydrotherapy and music therapy. HypnoBirthing®-The Mongan Method is another technique for achieving a satisfying, relaxing, and stress-free method of birthing.
Many women experiencing natural birth have a strong feeling of empowerment during labor and a great sense of joy, accomplishment and satisfaction afterward. For some women, being in charge helps lessen their perception of pain and discomfort. Most women choose this method because it helps them remain in control of their bodies and be an active participant throughout labor. Another reason women choose to birth naturally is to minimize risks of medication.
Some of the benefits of natural childbirth are:
- You will be an active participant in the birth of your baby.
- You can move around freely (unless there are certain complications) and can find positions that will help you cope with the pain.
- You’re less likely to need medical interventions like catheterization to help you pass urine, drugs to make your contractions stronger and speed labor along, or delivery help, such as vacuum extraction or delivery using forceps.
- Your partner can be fully involved in the process. This is often true with traditional childbirth and even c-section deliveries, but there tend to be more opportunities for involvement during natural childbirth.
- The coping and relaxation skills you learn while preparing for natural childbirth can be very helpful once your baby is born as you’re dealing with some of the challenges in the first few days and weeks at home.
- Your recovery time is often faster with a natural childbirth, allowing you to go home sooner.
Once you’ve decided that natural childbirth is for you, it is important to choose a health care provider who will support you in your efforts to birth naturally.
Education is an important part of preparing for natural childbirth. Finding a childbirth educator who understands the elements of a natural childbirth experience can help you learn and practice techniques to make your labor and delivery as comfortable as possible. It’s also important to learn about the process of labor and delivery – how your body is changing in order to be able to move your baby into the world. Knowing what happens to your body and how those changes help deliver your baby can be empowering and can aid you in visualization techniques. Knowledge is power. It can give you confidence, reduce anxiety and tension and aid in relaxation – and all of these things can help ease your pain and may also help your labor progress more quickly. You may also want to learn about medical pain management and other medical interventions in case you change your mind or your labor and delivery don’t go as planned. Knowing what to expect can make you feel more in control no matter what happens.
Having someone who is there for you throughout your labor and delivery can provide great comfort and support and reduce anxiety and stress. Having a support person can also make it easier for you to make it through without medication. This can be your spouse, partner, other family, friends or the specially trained hospital nursing staff. You may also want to hire a professional one-to-one labor support person, often called a doula. A doula is trained to coach you through labor and assist with labor and delivery. She provides emotional support and assists you with all of the non-medical aspects of your care, such as helping you with breathing exercises, visualization, massage and finding positions that make you most comfortable. She can also free up your partner to just be there for you so the two of you can experience this together, which puts less pressure on both of you.
The elements of a natural childbirth approach include:
- support team – choosing your support people
- planning – creating a birth plan and discussing it with your health care provider and support people
- education – learning what to expect during pregnancy, labor and delivery and understanding your body’s natural processes during labor
- creating your environment – deciding how you’d like your environment to work for you and your birth plan; this may include music, aromatherapy, lighting and more
- breathing and relaxation – learning how breathing exercises, visualization and relaxation techniques can help finding natural pain relief options and techniques – deciding whether you’re going to try physical labor aids and natural pain relief options, such as birthing tubs, massage, acupuncture or acupressure, essential oils or aromatherapy, music, and white noise machines
- fetal monitoring – talking with your health care provider about how much fetal monitoring may be medically necessary or if there is an ability to utilize minimal, intermittent monitoring or wireless monitoring that allows for free movement being open minded and letting go – being prepared for the possibility that all might not happen according to plan and going with the flow to create a less stressful and more enjoyable experience
- preparing yourself physically – eating healthy, exercising, resting and avoiding risky behavior such as smoking and drinking alcohol are all important elements in preparing your body for all types of childbirth, including a natural approach