Today I’m going to share some of my favorite ways to prepare for a natural hospital birth. I’ve personally used these tips and techniques with all 3 of my births and can tell you that they really do work–a natural birth in the hospital can be done!
-Hospital and OB/Midwife: Since 98% of women give birth in a hospital, it’s important that you be aware of how your hospital (and the staff) view birth. Different hospitals have different procedures, so ask around. Do the research on the local hospitals, OB’s and midwives in the area. What is the hospital’s c-section rate? Do they allow eating and drinking during labor? Do they practice continuous or internal fetal monitoring even though it isn’t evidence-based? Do they provide a comfortable room, complete with birthing ball, large tub, or aromatherapy? Most importantly, what is their view on childbirth? A normal physiological event, or something women need to be saved from? Don’t feel embarrassed to ask your care provider these questions. Remember, they are there to help you.
-Childbirth Method: I suggest picking a childbirth method sometime in the 2nd trimester (around week 20). There are several to choose from-Lamaze, Bradley, Grantley Dick-Read, Hynobirth and Hypnobabies, just to name a few. Choose the one that best suits you and your personality. And, don’t forget to research things like aromatherapy, music therapy, hydrotherapy, acupressure and massage. These, along with the method of your choosing, can do a lot for helping you give birth naturally.
2. PRACTICE: Once you’ve chosen the right method for you, take time each day to practice relaxing your body and mind to the techniques used in the book. This is a great way to get your partner involved too! Your partner can encourage you with affirmations, or give you a massage to help you relax. You can work together before labor begins to see what you do or do not like. Practicing relaxation and breathing before labor will make you feel more confident and sure of yourself once you are in active labor.
3. BIRTH BALL: I know you don’t want to hear it, but get off the couch! A birth ball isn’t just useful during labor; it can help during your pregnancy too! Here are just a few of the ways they can help during pregnancy:
-provide support to your ankles, knees, and hips
-relieve back pain
-increase the size of the pelvic outlet so baby can move down
-help baby get in a good position for birth
4. AFFIRMATIONS: I’ve already written a post on birth affirmations, but I thought it was worth mentioning again. I believe that the biggest hurdle to get over when it comes to natural childbirth is our own mindset. We have been conditioned to believe 2 things: birth is painful and birth is scary. Re-program your brain now to look at birth differently. Yes, birth can be painful, but it’s a good pain. Remind yourself that each contraction helps bring your baby to you. If you need to, stop using negative words like contraction or pain and instead replace them with positive words like surge, wave, pressure, or sensation. In regards to birth being scary: I won’t deny that it can be unnerving, especially for a first-time mom. I think most of the fears around childbirth are due to the unknown. Trust in your body’s capability to give birth. Your strength is more powerful than your fears.
5. LABOR SUPPORT: Having a team in place to love and support you during labor is crucial. Doula support is great for 2 reasons: First, doulas are knowledgable and comfortable around birth. The noises, sights, and smells don’t phase us. Secondly, we are “unattached” to you, meaning it’s probably easier for your doula to encourage you through a painful contraction than someone who is close to you. Doulas are also beneficial for your partner and/or any family or friends present. We have a calming presence and can help others in the room relax too.
6. PROPER NUTRITION AND EXERCISE: Ok, this one is pretty self-explanatory: if you eat well and take care of your body, you’ll feel better: before birth, during birth, and after birth. Talk to your care provider about proper nutrition during pregnancy. Try to eat lots of protein and green vegetables and drink lots of water. With permission, exercise at least a couple times a week. Walking and swimming are great exercises while pregnant. You’ll not only feel better during pregnancy, but it will help prepare your body for labor as well.
7. LABOR AT HOME: Try to stay home as long as you can when labor first starts. Most likely contractions will start off nice and slow. The best thing to do is ignore them. Go for a walk, watch a movie, bake a cake….whatever you need to do to get your mind off the contractions. Remember the 5-1-1 rule: go to the hospital when contractions are 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, for 1 hour. Most likely at that point you will be in active labor, and will be holding your new baby shortly.
I hope these can help you as you prepare to give birth naturally. If you have any others to add, let me know!