Having a natural birth isn’t just about declining drugs. It’s about embarking a rite of passage – joining all the women of the world who have been birthing naturally for thousands of years. A first time mother has so much to consider when embarking on this challenge. One cannot go into the birthing room with the idea that “maybe” they will go natural. One must prepare oneself physically, mentally and emotionally before embarking this challenge. Just as someone planning to climb Mt. Everset, you can’t set out for your journey without first being prepared. If you go into it thinking you can wing it, your chances of succeeding are much lower.
Reading everything you can get your hands on about natural birth helps immensely. “Birthing From Within” by Pam England CNM., MA. and Rob Horowitz PHD. is a highly recommended read. The book focuses on preparing yourself for the birthing experience through creating birth art and doing such “pain techniques” such as holding an ice cube for a minute and noticing your natural reaction to the experience. It encourages several different ways of handling the pain – tuning into the sounds around you and focusing on each sound you hear to get through the minute. Another pain technique is to curse and sware and vent all your frustration the whole minute through. The book is about finding your own unique way of handling pain and practicing ahead of time to know how your natural reaction will be during those crucial labor moments.
The book also is very educational when it comes to learning why hospital intervention interferes with the birthing experience. It helps to educate to help a woman feel involved and important in her birth – that she is the one making the decisions rather than letting a doctor “run the show” for her.
Some people wonder why a woman would even want to experience the pain of childbirth. “Your not a martyr, why make yourself to be one?” people tend to ask. Sure everyone has a right to their own opinion, yet if the time was taken to educate oneself on the dangers of medical intervention, they may reconsider their stance on natural birth. Not only is it safer to go natural but it’s an experience that molds a woman into a many times stronger, more confidant individual. Today’s society tells women that it’s okay to coward away from any kind of pain. It says that if you don’t think you can handle it, don’t worry, medication will always be available. It is this unfortunate way of thinking that women have given up on themselves and their confidence that birth is a natural and very possible thing to accomplish all on their own.
Unfortunately in today’s society many women leave things up to their doctor when it comes to what happens to their body during labor and delivery. Many OB/GYN’s out there make the birthing experience out to be some kind of technical, complicated thing, rather than the beautifully natural thing it really is. Once a woman allows one medical intervention into her birthing experience, many times it multiplies and multiplies into many medical interventions. Let’s say a women comes into the hospital with mild contractions and her water broken. After a few hours her labor stalls. The doctor then offers pitocin and the woman, thinking the doctor must know best, accepts. The pitocin brings on very, very strong contractions, leading the woman to ask for an epidural. After she receives the epidural her pain may be subsided, but then her labor slows down again. When it comes time to push she can only lay on her back, the worst position for birthing a baby in. The baby is stuck so forceps, vacuum or episiotomy are administrated to get the baby out. Or the worst case scenario, the baby goes into distress and the woman end’s up with a c-section.
Of course this isn’t always the way it happens, but it shows you how easily medical intervention can take over your whole birthing experience – but only if you let it. It is easy to feel as though you have become a background bystander to your own birth once doctors take over. Yet it doesn’t have to be like this. A woman can gain back control of her birth and she can educate herself while making her own decisions rather than letting the doctors decide for her.
Instead of jumping to try the pitocin she could try other techniques first. Nipple stimulation through using a breast pump or simply by rubbing her nipples can release oxytocin, while stimulating contractions. Castor oil stimulates the bowels, causing diarrhea which is also said to bring on contractions. Walking, drinking plenty of fluids and just letting nature take it’s course is always best to try first.
If you are not in an environment where you feel comfortable the birth just isn’t going to happen. Considering a birthing center or birthing at home can help many dramatically with getting a natural, more comfortable birth suited to their needs. If you don’t feel comfortable birthing at home or can’t shell out the dough to pay for a midwife out of pocket (many midwives charge up to $2,000) then see if your insurance will cover a birthing center. Many times your insurance will cover a midwife that works out of an OB/GYN office.
Birthing centers can provide a holistic environment and many of them having amenities to help with your experience – tubs to birth in, large showers, birthing rockers and birthing stools. The idea of sitting in water during contractions has appealed to many birthing woman. Birthing tubs are great in a birthing center or to rent to use at home. By simply being in the water your body is relaxing your muscles, easing those contractions up in a soothing, natural way.
The birthing center may still use technology such as fetal monitoring or an I.V. but that is usually the extent of it. Even so, the birth is still much more in your hands, the nurses and other attendants at your birth understanding from the beginning that you are planning to go the natural route. Many women like the idea of a birthing center within a hospital, knowing that if something went wrong or if they did eventually decide to get medication they could change their mind and go right down the hall to labor/delivery. Choosing a midwife over an OB/GYN, no matter where you plan on giving birth, is usually the best bet for one planning to take the natural route.
If you don’t live close to a birthing center or your insurance doesn’t cover it don’t lose all hope yet. You can still get the natural birth you hope to achieve in a labor/delivery room. In this case it is important that you come up with a birthing plan ahead of time, laying out the interventions you would allow and in what circumstances, and laying out what you want to avoid at all costs. It is important that your birthing partner have a copy of this to give to the nurses involved or that he at least inform them vocally of your stance. If for some reason one nurse is being pushier towards medication then have your husband/birthing partner know ahead of time to ask the head nurse to switch to someone else so that you do not have to experience the pressure of a pushy nurse.
Natural birth doesn’t have to mean pain. There are several different kinds of techniques out there. Hypnobirthing is a way of almost hypnotizing yourself during labor to tune out the pain. Several people under this practice have admitted to feeling a total pain-free birth. Others said they still felt the pain but that the hypnobirthing techniques helped immensely. Many classes are offered in hypnobirthing and aren’t hard to find if you simply search around the internet. The techniques include having a deep focus and good breathing. One technique includes breathing in through your abdomen as slow as you can, counting up to twenty and imagining your belly as a balloon – slowly filling up with air. Once you hit twenty you slowly work your way back down, imagining the balloon deflating. The hypnobirthing book claims that the filling up the abdomen during the breathing of this exercise helps take away pressure on your uterus, making for much more manageable contractions.
Lamaze is still used widely today as the most popular class offered in the hospital for coping with pain. Although many women have found Lamaze to be an effective technique, others have said that they didn’t feel it prepared them enough for labor. The quick breathing in and out technique is widely shown in our media today in many T.V. shows and movies. What Lamaze doesn’t teach is that following your own natural breath during birth can sometimes be the best way to handle the experience. Forcing yourself to breathe in and out too quickly can exhaust a mother in labor. It can also make her feel as though she “isn’t doing it right” and can easily demolish her confidence.
The idea of having your husband as a birthing partner during Lamaze is something that many women like. The class is a good lesson for the men to be involved in when it comes to seeing actual movies of live birth and learning how to comfort their woman by rubbing her back in certain spots or helping her hold up a leg during pushing. The Birthing Method that focuses most on this husband-wife partnership is the Bradley Method. Bradley classes have been known to be great for couples who are interested in accomplishing the natural birth route together. On the other hand, if your husband is feeling forced into it, he may not be the birthing partner you expected. Some men just aren’t suited as birthing partners. Period. In this case it is best to accept the fact that maybe your husband would do better with other small tasks – calling relatives to inform that you are in labor, taking pictures, or letting doctors know when something isn’t going the way you wanted. Or they could simply play guardian near the door to make sure visitors stay out until after the baby is born. In this case a woman may want to consider having another woman present for her birth – and this is where a doula comes in.
Doulas can range from $200-$400 or sometimes even more. They are pricey but most women who have had them don’t regret putting out the money one bit. If a doula just doesn’t fit into your budget you may want to look into finding a volunteer doula program through the internet. Many of these programs are sprouting out around the country due to the kind women of the world willing to volunteer themselves for free to help you during your birthing experience. Some help a doula may do may include massage, use of natural herbs/oils, and sometimes just simply holding your hand and talking you through a contraction.
No matter what, it is important to seek out the birth in which you yourself envision, not what someone else tries to force upon you. Learning to educate oneself is wonderful not only for gaining a great birthing experience, yet for other things like choosing to breastfeed or formula-feed, or for making other important decisions in your parenting challenges such as in discipline and child care.
It is important to think of yourself as a warrior – a strong, confidant woman who was made to birth babies and who has every ability in her to do so on her own.