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First time motherhood is scary. Decision making is terrifying. Women are charged with protecting this little nugget inside of them that they cannot see or feel for the first few months. We are solely responsible for their health. It was a day like any other when we discovered we were expecting our first child and our entire world was shaken in the best way possible. Here are some tips for how to prepare for a natural birth. I knew way before my husband and I ever met that I wanted a homebirth. Want to know why? Click here. We wanted to be fully educated, so we took The Bradley Method classes. You can find more information on those classes and local instructors at www.bradleybirth.com
How to Prepare for a Natural Birth
1. Watch The Business Of Being Born
If you have never watched this documentary, this is a fantastic first step. It highlights some of the basic risks of standard medicated births and raising many questions that are often forgotten. The Business of Being Born is a fantastic launching point in your decision to prepare for a natural birth.
2. Take a Natural Childbirth Class
Education is necessity. Our ancestors used to pass knowledge of childbirth from generation to generation. Daughters would watch their mothers birth siblings. Birth happened at home and involved the whole family. Sisters, auties, mothers and grandmothers all supported the mom-to-be. Recent times have changed. We have forgotten the secrets passed down generations. Medical information has grown leaps and bounds, but instinct has been smothered. Childbirth classes are a fantastic resource. There are many options to choose from including Lamaze, Hypnobirthing and Christian Childbirth. My personal favorite and the one I chose for my to births is The Bradley Method. It teaches the Husband to be the primary supporting role and goes in more detail than any other method about how to body works. To learn more and find a local teacher, head over to www.BradleyBirth.com. Click here to see why I personally chose The Bradley Method.
3. Exercise regularly
Birth is an athletic event. You wouldn’t go from the couch to a marathon, so don’t go from stationary to birth. Your body needs time and training to be prepared. If you already had a workout routine, you can continue it as long as your medical team approves. Walking daily is a fantastic way to build endurance as well as approve your circulation and alignment. Other fantastic exercises are tailor sitting, pelvic rocks, butterfly and kegels.
4. Evaluate your birth team
A supportive birth team can make or break a birth. During birth, women are extremely open to suggestion. If the birth team constantly challenges the mother’s desires she is more likely to be discouraged. Ask all the hard questions and don’t be afraid to switch providers.
5. Evaluate your birth location
Even if your birth team is supportive, you need to learn the policies and procedures of your birth location. All hospitals and birthing centers have rules they must follow legally and for their own safety. Some of these may contradict your birth plan so you need to spend your pregnancy making sure you can live with their rules. If you still don’t like the rules, maybe consider homebirth. Click here to see why I chose a homebirth.
6. Research the effects of intervention
“No drug or chemical – whether prescription, over-the-counter or food additive – can be regarded as having been proven to be entirely free of potential harm to the fetus.”
Drug manufacturers are required to submit data supporting that their drug is safe and works as intended before the FDA approves it. We have all seen the commercials with the laundry list of issues discovered after certain drugs are “proven safe” showing that this system is certainly not foolproof. Pregnant women are always excluded from these studies for liability purposes. Seriously, would you volunteer for trial during pregnancy on an untested drug? Nope. Instead, they test pregnant animals which can give a ballpark idea, but it is not the same. Do you research.
What is the risk of every intervention. Look at the narcotics (like pitocin and epidurals) and physical practices (like forceps and episiotomies). Don’t stop there, research everything that is going to touch your baby from the soap you use, the post-birth injections that are routinely given and other procedures such as circumcision and eye cream. You are responsible for your own level of research.
7. Labor at home as long as possible
Statistics show the earlier one goes to the hospital, the more likely one is to start the intervention snowball. Try to stay at home until things get very serious. By serious I mean, use the 3-2-1 method. Contractions three minutes apart for over two hours that are more than one minute long. This rule is not set in stone and many women know when it is “time.” Listen to your gut. Fathers, if she is still giggly and excited, it is too early. Only go when things get serious. Use other methods to minimize pain. Relax. Move. Eat. Drink. Sleep. Bath. There are many methods of pain management in labor that can be used to delay leaving.
8. Avoid labor horror stories
There is always that well meaning friend or relative that wants to tell you their story. It always includes the phrase “we would have died without the doctor.” Now, these complications do arise, but they are few and far between. Honestly, many of them are cause by an intervention from the doctors themselves. Either way, don’t listen. Be educated, but any story based in fear is not one you want to hear. It is not at all rude to cut someone off and ask that they only share positive birth experiences. Be bold and be firm. Some people won’t be happy, but they are not the ones about to give birth.
9. Build a birth plan
Birth plans are an amazing tool for you, your support system, and your birth team. They help you figure out your priorities, help remind your support team of your choices and inform your birth team. There are several different ways to write a birth plan. You can make it purely visual, write a letter, use bullet lists or any combination thereof. Remember, your birth plan should include what needs to happen during labor, during delivery and post delivery.
10. Have a support system
The biggest thing I love about The Bradley Method is that it teacher the father to be the #1 supporter and coach. Doctor Bradley’s book about his own methods is called “Husband Coached Childbirth” for a reason. For information on that book and other recommended reading to prepare for a natural birth, check out this post. If a spouse or partner is not involved, mothers can use a trusted family member or friend to be their closest support. Doulas are a fantastic addition to the birth team and can act as the coach’s assistant.