Preparing the Body for Natural Birth

How in the world do you prepare for a natural birth? Given that my babe’s due date is in less than a month, it’s safe to say that I’m in full-on prep mode! Here’s some of the measures that I am taking- and that many mothers take- to prepare their bodies for a natural labor and delivery.

Prepping the Body for a Natural Birth

SENSE ASSOCIATIONS– Perhaps one of the more fascinating (and effective) ways you can prep yourself for labor, this one just involves sticking to a relaxing routine in the weeks leading up to your birth. Our bodies learn to associate certain smells, sounds, and even colors to certain emotions or bodily reactions- and what we are going for is relaxation! For me, I have a few different artists that I like to listen to during my relaxation time (Iron and Wine, Sigur Rós being the most common) and I have certain essential oils that I routinely use as well (DoTerra’s Serenity blend being the most effective). When I have a relaxation practice, I use the oils and put on the music, and practice total body relaxation- trying to intense every muscle in my body. The thought is that, once I am in labor, my body will remember these sounds and scents and automatically become more relaxed.

EXERCISES– Because we took Bradley Method classes, we were automatically given a list of exercised to perform daily, each designed to prepare the body in some way for labor.

Pelvic Tilts/ Hands and Knees- Basically a pelvis-focused version of the cat/cow exercise in yoga. This helps improve pelvic mobility, strengthens the core, and relieved lower back pain.

Butterfly- You need a partner for this one. Sit against a wall or headboard with your knees bent together. Have your partner push your legs together as you push them apart, strengthening the outer leg and hip muscles.

Squatting- One of the most beneficial exercises to do during pregnancy, squatting regularly will gently stretch the perineum and improve hip and pelvic mobility. This is also a great position to use in labor (particularly pushing stage) because it opens the pelvis at extra 10-15%.

Tailor Sitting- Or, ‘criss cross applesauce’. Work on getting your knees to the floor! This will keep you in good posture, which helps align the baby correctly for delivery.

Moderate Walking- I’m bad at this one. I try to walk places as much as I can but I’m really exhausted. That said, get in as much activity as your body can handle- stamina is what you need! Labor is an athletic event!

Exercise Ball- My new favorite, especially with baby girl being posterior. Birth balls or exercise balls force you to have great posture, strengthen the core and the back, and help align the pelvis and baby for birth! I have also found that it helps alleviate my back pain. These balls are also invaluable during birth- but more on that in a later post 🙂

Pregnancy Tea

HERBAL TEAS– This is something that I have been implementing almost my entire pregnancy, thanks to my home-blended pregnancy support tea. Now that I am nearing labor, I am ramping up the amount of Red Raspberry Leaf in my tea (to strengthen the uterus) while toning down the amount of peppermint (which can sometimes inhibit milk production). I’ll be bringing this tea to labor with me, too!

HERBAL TINCTURES– This is probably less common, but I’m going for it, anyway- it can’t hurt! I received a small bottle of Labor Prep tincture from Trilight Health– an herbal blend designed to prepare the body for labor gently but effectively. you take a very small amount per day- again, it can’t hurt! I also have several tinctures from WishGarden Herbs that I use frequently- one for stress relief, and one to help me sleep. Both are quite important now!

PERINEAL MASSAGE– Say what? Yeah, basically a foufouey way of saying ‘pre stretch yourself’. Neither erotic or comfortable, but certainly effective in preparing the nether regions for birth- both in preventing tearing (which is obviously a plus) and getting mom used to the sensation of being stretched down there. When the feeling comes it will be vaguely familiar- which will allow her to focus through the pain. This article has an easy explanation of perineal massage.

EPO– This might be the most controversial one. I thought that using Evening Primrose Oil, both internally and vaginally, was becoming more commonplace until I asked my midwife. She informed me that the birth center had seen a connection between women using EPO and having their water break without actually being in labor- and told me that they do not recommend it. However, other labor professionals I have spoken to have not seen that correlation and do support their clients using EPO. The bottom line: there’s not really medical evidence either way- only anecdotal. But there’s some pretty convincing anecdotes, too 🙂

REBOZO WORK– A rebozo is basically a long scarf that can be used to lift the uterus off of the pelvis and give the baby some room to move around.  I’ll discuss the rebozo more in my post on my ‘natural birth hospital bag’, as there are many things a rebozo can be used for during birth. However, it is a great tool to help get the baby into a favorable position before labor- something we have been working on since she seems to be posterior at this point.

ACUPUNCTURE– I’ve been seeing my acupuncturist regularly throughout my pregnancy, and he’s a great friend to have going into labor. Not only is he skilled in turning breech babies, but he can induce labor as well, if necessary.  He is helping with my anxiety, heartburn, sleep issues, and baby girl’s positioning!

Do you have a favorite way to prepare the body for natural birth? A tried and true method, or something that you’re curious about? I’d love to hear!

14 thoughts on “Preparing the Body for Natural Birth

  1. This is a great post! Thanks for sharing. I took a birth prep formula (Dr. Christophers, in the form of herbal capsules) before my first birth and since things went smoothly (and a little early) I’ll definitely do a similar one again. I love your idea of the relaxation association, and really need to come up with a routine like that with some oils and maybe music. We are prepping for hopefully our second homebirth in February!

  2. These are all great ideas! My baby girl (after two boys! 🙂 ) was born last march at my midwife’s home. After three natural births, two in-hospital, recognizing what relaxed me naturally was the biggest preparation. What had constantly relaxed me all my life was what I kept turning towards in all three labors. Apparently my mom rocked me a lot as a child. Guess what? I rocked for active labor, all three times. My mom and husband still make fun of me for it. 😀 The Miles circuit, Rebozo work in early labor, and heat on my tailbone as she turned in early labor made a big difference. Make sure you have a rice sock, it heats up faster than a heating pad! Those are my few suggestions, but otherwise, healthy, happy birthing!

  3. What an exciting and hopeful time for you and your husband – it brings back memories, even if 40 years ago!!! These relaxation tips and the additions of special teas is so interesting – I did not know of things like this years ago when I was expecting. No doubt you are planning to breastfeed if possible? My only tip is to be prepared there too. My OB recommended massaging in lanolin several times a time to toughen and prepare the nipple area – but any massaging oil would do. I have heard of many who did nothing before breastfeeding and had to stop and switch to bottle feeding because of the pain caused on tender nipples. My own mother for one related the same experience. Especially after bathing, use your towel to gently roughen that area and they will lose their tenderness and make you more ready to handle nursing. Good luck and don’t forget to have a good rocking chair handy for nursing when the baby arrives.

  4. Hey! Thanks so much for the link back! I have had quite a bit of traffic from it! You have a great blog- very well researched and aesthetically pleasing! Nice work! And that network you are a part of looks very cool!

    Best wishes for your birth and don’t forget to prepare yourself for postpartum too!

    Mama, blogger & doula,

  5. With my second child I did many of the stretches you suggest and used essential oils during delivery as well but what I attributed the most to was the perineal massages. I started about 34 weeks and did it every day after showering but I also used doterra geranium essential oil. My second birth and recovery was night and day improvement over my first.

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