Why natural labor?
Labor is hard. Recognize that and embrace it.
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
- Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin
- Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon
Personally, I shy away from books about medical interventions and hospital births because I find they typically overlook the amazing nurses and doctors who work at hospitals, and that are supportive of natural childbirth techniques. But we’ll talk more about finding a great support team later…
Prepare yourself, because no one runs a marathon without training.
Get in touch with your body – physically and emotionally.
When I say prepare your body, I mean get in touch with both your physical and emotional self. Find an exercise and diet plan that works for you. A new Canadian study recommends 150 minutes per week of exercise during pregnancy, citing a 25% decrease in complications for those who follow the guideline. This boils down to five, thirty minute sweat sessions a week. I’d like to suggest that not only do you try to keep up with this recommendation, but that you also stay as active as possible until labor starts. The average labor clocks in at about 14 hours for first-time moms, and 8 hours for subsequent babies. That’s a long time to demand your body work both physically and mentally. Prepare yourself by staying active throughout your pregnancy. I imagine the cave ladies of early days were hunting and gathering until they could no longer stand up.
Find a doctor or midwife who is fully on board with going natural.
This one is key to having a “successful” and supported natural labor, and encompasses a few other pieces than just the doctor or midwife attending. Not only do you need to find a supportive care provider as soon as you get pregnant, but you should also consider the location where you will give birth, as well as who your personal support team will include in the labor and delivery room.
Home birth is a bit dicey in terms of Pennsylvania law, but birthing centers, as well as hospitals that support laboring naturally are available. Do your due diligence and research your provider and health system far in advance of your expected due date. Tour the facility so that you can be comfortable and familiar with the place where you will bring a child into the world. There’s nothing worse than being stressed out over something non-birth related while you’re in labor, and quite frankly, you’ll need to focus fully on bringing a baby into the world.
I am super lucky to have had a midwife who is totally on board with laboring naturally, and a hospital with amazing nurses who are super supportive, and amazingly kind, even when you’re super grumpy while in pain. These folks have attended so many births. Lean on them and ask for their support. Their experience is more valuable than gold when you’re feeling vulnerable during labor.
Don’t create a ridiculously complicated birth plan.
Now that I’m pregnant with baby three, my expectations for labor and delivery have simplified themselves over the course of the last two births and this pregnancy. My advice to first-time moms – keep it simple. A list of unrealistic expectations will only lead to unnecessary disappointment. Check out my list, below.
- Go into spontaneous labor, or use natural induction, such as breaking water, if necessary
- Labor naturally without the aid of drugs and using comfort items like the birthing/stability ball
- Delay cord clamping until the cord has stopped pulsing
- Nurse baby and enjoy skin-to-skin time for as long as possible
- Delay baby’s first bath at least 24 hours
On my list of ridiculous wishes – the whirlpool/birthing tub while in labor. This is something I didn’t get the chance to try while in labor with my first two, as it was already in use when I arrived at the hospital. I’ve read some amazing things about water as a form of pain management that leaves this one hanging on to my birth plan, even on this third go-round.
Don’t be disappointed if things don’t go as planned…
because a healthy momma and baby is the most important outcome. I’m very frustrated with the number of “failure” articles and blog posts that I’m reading lately on social media. Having a c-section is not a failure. Being unable to nurse is not a failure. Growing and birthing a human is most certainly not a failure. Far from it. Be in awe of your natural ability to bring a child into the world no matter how you do it.