Jenn D’Jamoos, CCCE, CHC
Having a natural birth has a lot to do with setting yourself up to achieve your goal. You’ll need to spend time preparing your mind and body as well as learn solid advocacy tools. Here are 17 tips you can start implementing now to help make your natural birth goals a reality.
- Eat a healthy/balanced diet to build a healthy baby and pregnancy. Focus on what you *should* eat (whole, unprocessed foods), not what you shouldn’t. It’s easier to seek out nourishing foods than to base your day on avoiding temptation. Eating more whole, unprocessed foods can help reduce the risk of pregnancy complications which will thereby reduce your risk of needing an induction or a cesarean.
- Get 30 minutes of exercise per day. This is something everyone should be doing, pregnant or not. But, the stakes are higher when you are pregnant. Your “birthing day” could be days long . . . remember that you are essentially training for a marathon.
- Stay Hydrated. You’ve heard it a million times: drink more water. 8 cups a day is the recommended amount and more on hot days or if you’ve been exercising. Amniotic fluid levels can be affected by your fluid intake and a low amniotic level is one reason you could be sent in for an induction.
- Choose your birth setting wisely. Evidence shows that birth setting is the number one predictor of whether you will have a cesarean. Make sure it has a good reputation for supporting natural birth choices. A good person to ask is your childbirth educator or doula.
- Find a supportive care provider. interview them, ask open ended questions. Switch providers if you don’t see eye to eye.
- Take a childbirth class. Independent educators are more likely to provide useful info about what natural birth looks like along with pain coping techniques. They are less likely to teach you how to follow hospital protocol (which might compromise your birth intentions). Along with labor coping skills, they should be teaching you about evidence based care and your rights in the hospital.
- Hire a doula. Evidence shows that doula support improves outcomes.
- Write down your birth preferences and share them with your support people.
- Let baby come when they are ready. Evidence supports holding off on “due date” inductions for up to 42 weeks for low-risk pregnancies. Some women may have a naturally longer gestation than others and thus may go beyond 42 weeks. Risks of stillbirth increase more dramatically after 42 weeks. If you are facing the possibility of going past 42 weeks you may wish to research the evidence on induction for post dates to determine your comfort level with continuing to wait for baby to initiate labor. There will likely be pressure from your care provider to induce. Educate yourself on the most recent data available and make the decision you feel most comfortable with. Your values and preferences are an important part of evidence based care.
- When labor starts … stay home as long as possible; This minimizes interventions.
- Walk: movement helps baby descend.
- Eat and/or drink: outdated hospital policies limit food and drink but your body needs fuel, especially in longer labors. Bring healthy snacks in your hospital bag.
- Breathe: the old days of breathing patterns are not necessary but deep and focused abdominal breathing can help you relax and surrender, and provides needed oxygen to your baby.
- Get in the bath or shower for natural pain relief: they call it “nature’s epidural” for a reason!
- Vocalize: Moan, sing, chant, moo! Low tones relax your body and help it to open.
- Let your body do the work: recognize tension and release it. Try to relax as much as possible because of the fear/tension/pain cycle.
- Get out of your head: Trust your support team to ensure your intentions are being honored and let go of rational thinking. Surrender to your body as your baby makes their way earthside. You’ve got this!