I’m kind of a birth nerd. I’ll admit it. I LOVE to hear everyone’s birth stories and talk through birth plans and encourage mamas and snuggle newborns. I love to make women feel empowered and affirm them during labor and make suggestions and read books and articles and geek out. It’s my thing. I love it!
However, one thing that I do NOT love is seeing an unprepared mama go through a birth that she regrets. I can’t tell you how many mamas I talk to that really have their hearts set on having a natural birth, but don’t put in the time to educate themselves, become familiar with their options, and prepare their bodies and minds for what they are about to go through. Sometimes everything turns out exactly the way they would like, but more often than not, some twist of labor fate ends them up with an experience that is far from what they dreamed, and it’s a lot for them to process!
I want to be clear- I’ve got no issues with people choosing medicated births or even cesareans if it’s right for their families. My sadness is for those mamas who wanted to choose otherwise, but maybe didn’t have all the tools and information they needed to be successful, and they end up with regret. That said, I want to offer up a basic list of tools that can be used to make your natural birth easier, and perhaps increase your chances of success! YOU CAN DO THIS!
A GOOD CHILDBIRTH CLASS / PREPARATION
Honestly, y’all. This is the most important thing you can do if your heart is set on having a natural birth. We don’t have the age-old wisdom of mamas and grammas passing down what birth is like and what to expect and how to handle things anymore- we ladies need to be taught what to expect, what is happening to our bodies, and how to handle it. Invest some time and money into a solid childbirth class- and not just something your hospital offers- so that you can go into your birth informed and prepared. I personally recommend Bradley Method classes, but I have also had good experiences with hypnobirthing and birthing from within.
A YOGA BALL
Or a “birth ball“, if you want a specific one. Not only is this great for you to use for sitting in the last months of your pregnancy (it encourages the baby to be positioned perfectly and helps with elasticity of ligaments) but it’s great for helping you roll around in smooth movements and relaxing during contractions. Many women will spend much of their labor on a birth ball, because it keeps them upright (which allows gravity to help progress labor) but also allows them to relax.
This labor tool is really starting to gain traction, and I love it! This is another tool that is great to use during the last months of pregnancy to encourage good positioning of the baby, but is also awesome to use during labor. The mama can get on her hands and knees and a birth attendant or partner places the rebozo around the belly and lifts up, taking the pressure off of the mama and “cradling” the baby for her. This can feel great for mama, both between and during contractions. I loved this piece on shortening labor times with a rebozo, and after my own 50+ hour labor with my daughter, I am looking forward to trying this with more vigor myself.
FOOD AND DRINK FOR LABOR
Maternal exhaustion is one of the top reasons mamas who desire a natural birth end up with a medicated one- their bodies just get tired. And rightfully so! Birth is really hard work! Though it can be difficult to work around policies if you are in a hospital, almost all birth centers (and definitely all homes, ha) now allow eating and drinking during labor. This is your chance to fuel up! When packing a bag for a natural birth, choose high-nutrient snacks that will be easy to eat in small portions, in case you are nauseous. But throw in some favorites, too- just in case! Many people opt for trail mix, clif bars, honey sticks, frozen or fresh fruit, peanut butter, electrolyte drink mixes, and herbal teas.
POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES
This is such an important tool for pursuing a natural birth. There’s something about mama society now where we trade birth stories like war stories- mine is worse than yours- when in reality, we should be encouraging one another! I believe it can make a huge difference in a mama’s outlook on birth so surround herself with positivity about birth and read empowering, beautiful birth stories. Two great resources for this are Ina May Gaskin’s books, Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Both are full of encouraging and empowering birth stories that are both honest and inspiring. This is an extensive online collection of positive birth stories, too! If you’re struggling with fear of birth because of the experiences of those around you- or even your own previous experiences- hypnobirthing could be a huge asset to your preparation. This home study course, in particular, has a great segment on releasing fear of birth.
ESSENTIAL OILS AND HERBS
Essential oils and herbs can be tremendous tools in labor, both for encouraging the body into more productive labor and for helping the mind deal with the intense emotions that accompany childbirth. Essential oils, in particular, can help make contractions more effective, ease pain, help with nausea, calm anxiety, give energy, help with headaches, and so many more labor issues- a good essential oils toolkit can be invaluable during labor! If you’re like more information on using essential oils and which ones I would recommend for your labor and delivery, feel free to email me: karli dot feedmemama at gmail dot com
This really looks different for everyone, but knowing what things are effective for helping you relax is key! for some people, its a specific music playlist that they love. Maybe its an essential oil blend to diffuse, a special candle in a warmer, a scented lotion or body scrub, a warm rice sack, a special pillow or blanket or nightgown. My advice: bring it all! You want to be as relaxed as possible!
WATER FOR PAIN RELIEF
This largely depends on what is available in your birthing facility, so think about this when choosing a care provider! Having a shower available for directed heat and pressure can be great during contractions- but most mamas swear by the relief that comes from birthing in a tub or birth pool. Warmth helps relax muscles, water takes pressure off the mama and increases elasticity of the skin. This is sometimes referred to as the “natural birth’s epidural”
THE BOTTOM LINE…you need FLEXIBILITY
Being prepared is so, SO important in a natural birth. But really? You need to go into your birth with positivity and flexibility. Birth is a wild ride, and it is unpredictable! Having a set-in-stone birth plan that you are “married to” will very likely just cause you greater frustration and anxiety in the long run. By all means, know what is ideal for you! But also know that you might be repulsed by things that once felt comforting to you, you might not be able to keep food down, or a surgical birth might end up saving your baby’s life (or yours)!