By Cassie Henderson Nguyen
My son’s birth was unusual by modern standards. I gave birth at a private birthing center without any medication, and spent only eight hours there from arrival to the time I took my new baby home. I enjoyed my experience greatly and wouldn’t change a single thing about the labor or birth.
Everybody has a different vision for how they want their birth to go. While most modern women opt for a hospital birth with an epidural, many women seek alternative options for a variety of reasons.
Many women worry about the effects that pain medication has on a baby and want to remain drug-free. Others are terrified of needles or potential side effects of epidurals. Some women just feel that they want to experience birth naturally.
Whether you choose to go with a natural birth at home, at a birthing center, or in a hospital, having a natural birth can be very rewarding.
Childbirth is always intense, but there are ways you can ease the pain and make your labor and birth go more smoothly. Here are four tips for preparing yourself for a natural birth.
Ignore the Naysayers
One of my biggest tips for people who want a natural birth is to simply refuse to engage with naysayers. When you are pregnant, you become a magnet for unwanted opinions. This unhelpful advice escalates even more when people find out you plan to have a natural birth.
One of my biggest tips for people who want a natural birth is to simply refuse to engage with naysayers. When you are pregnant, you become a magnet for unwanted opinions.
When I was pregnant, countless people told me there was no way I would make it without medication. I heard horror story after horror story of terrible labors and traumatic births. I was told repeatedly that I would change my mind or wouldn’t be able to handle it.
Stick to your guns and remember why you chose a natural birth. Don’t let other people make you doubt yourself. If a conversation turns negative, shut it down immediately or just smile blankly and tune the other person out.
Design a Comfortable Birth Space
One of the benefits of a natural birth is that you don’t have to be confined to lying on your back in a bed. You can move around, squat, walk on all fours — whatever feels comfortable to you in the moment.
Using water and playing music are easy ways to create a comfortable birthing environment.
Many people love to labor in water. Check with your hospital or birthing center in advance and see if they offer a bathtub or a shower.
I spent the dreaded “transition” phase of my labor in a bathtub. I remember that part of my labor fondly, relaxing in the warm water while my husband held my hand. By the time I got out of the tub, my son was ready to make his entrance.
Bring a playlist of your favorite music! Make two playlists — one with relaxing, calming music, and one with energizing and upbeat songs. Switch between them depending on what you need at each stage of labor.
Listening to your favorite music will give you a sense of comfort and something to focus on other than contractions.
Gather Tools and Techniques
A natural birth doesn’t have to mean one devoid of any assistance. Our ancestors might have given birth in fields or caves, but we have many resources now. While definitely not necessary, there are plenty of tools and techniques to help ease your natural labor and delivery.
A birthing ball, or an exercise ball, is a wonderful tool for a natural birth. Rocking on the ball can help ease the intensity of contractions, and it can relieve back pain as well. This study in Taiwan showed a correlation between using a birthing ball and decreased labor pain. It even indicated a link between birthing balls and shorter labor!