A doula's guide on what to do before labor to prepare for a natural birth.
To have a natural birth, sometimes you need a little help. I have composed a list of 11 steps to achieving a natural birth.
Find a doctor or midwife who supports a natural birth. Local friends and family members are great resources when trying to find a great care provider. Click here for a list of interview questions.
Research, research, research. Your doctors office might hand you a free copy of What To Expect When You're Expecting but read beyond that. The more informed you are on labor the more prepared you will be. My top three recommended books are The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin, Ina May's Guide To Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, and Active Birth by Janet Balaskas.
Eat like a nutritionist. Or at least talk to one. Call your doctors office, local university, or hospital to find one.
Buy or borrow a birth ball. Birth balls are really just durable exercise balls. You can visit any sports outlet to find an exercise ball for as little as $10 (but don't forget a pump). For help with sizing visit the bottom of this page. Start using your birth ball as soon as you get your hands on it. Sitting on one during pregnancy allows for a constant adjustment in the mothers hips, back, and pelvis. Rocking side to side while sitting on the ball can help to open the mothers pelvis further (like you would in a very deep squat). During labor many women report relief from pain when using a birth ball in various positions as well.
Get ready to squat. World renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin said, in an interview with Amy Goodman, "squat 300 times a day, you’re going to give birth quickly". When you squat the bones in your pelvis actually move and open. In fact a deep squat can open the pelvis by up to 30%. Squatting works the muscles we use to push a baby out similar to what a kegel would do, only more so. Additionally, squatting during pregnancy will help you build the necessary muscles to squat for long periods of time (like during labor) which can make a difference in avoiding an episiotomy, forceps, vacuum, or caesarean delivery.
Do a hospital tour. Meet the nurses (head nurse if possible) and ask them questions! Are there separate delivering and recovery rooms? Are there any private rooms? Rooms with perks? Will baby be assessed in the same room as me? Is there a tub? How many people are allowed in the birthing room with me? What are the visiting hours? Can I bring outside food in my room? Are there lactation consultants available after I deliver? Do you have birth balls? What about squat bars (see above)? Because these visits are known to take some time, call ahead to schedule this tour.
Get a supportive team. This means talking to your husband or partner about what your wishes are. It can be very difficult for dads to see their lovers in pain and sometimes they don't understand Mom's desire to forgo pain medication. Talk with him (and anyone else who will be in the room) ahead of time about what you need from him and why. Additionally, don't expect him to do it all:
Hire a doula! Doulas can be supportive in many ways! For more on why you should hire a doula for your birth, click here.
Create a birth plan. Create a plan that outlines your wishes but is flexible and "read-able" for a busy L&D nurse. Make a few copies of it; go over it with your doctor or midwife ahead of time and take it with you to the hospital to give to the nurses. In my experience, when wanting a natural birth, the most important thing to include in your birth plan is this: "please DO NOT recommend or suggest pain medication to Mom OR Dad at any time during labor".
Learn different pain coping techniques and practice them. A great way to do this is by taking a childbirth education class. If you can't find one that suits your needs talk to your doula about different techniques for pain management and how to practice them.
Believe in yourself. Yes, you CAN go into labor on your own. And you can progress naturally. You can rise above the pain and your body can do this!
Ball Sizing by height:
Under 5'2": 53cm
5'2" - 5'7": 65cm
Over 5'7": 75cm
Statistics from "Birth Balls: Use of Physical Therapy Balls In Maternity Care" by Oaulina G. Perez, R.N.