14 Ways to Prepare for a Natural Birth
Natural Childbirth: 2 words that can strike fear into the minds of newly pregnant women all over the country. I remember before I had kids thinking my one and only friend who had a natural birth was nuts. 3 natural birth’s later, I guess I’m the crazy one now!
Fortunately you have 9 months to prepare you body, mind and spirit for the life altering birth experience. I’ve picked up lots of tips to prepare for natural birth along the way, so if you’re pregnant and interested in natural birth you’re in the right place!
Pick a Location that you’re Comfortable With
One of the first things I recommend doing when considering a natural birth is to pick where you would like to have your baby. While most people immediately think they will birth in a hospital, consider where you will feel most comfortable.
When I was pregnant with my first, I had never stayed in a hospital overnight and the thought of it made me very anxious. This was one of the primary reasons I looked into a natural birth: the hospital just didn’t feel like the right place for me to birth.
Think about where you will feel the most comfortable when you are in the intense and vulnerable throws of labor. Do you want the security of a hospital in case something goes wrong? Are you comfortable in a birth center, of do you want to birth at your own home?
Thankfully there are lots of options today, and there are some hospitals that are embracing natural birth by offering ‘birth center’ type suites that may even have birthing tubs. Of course these options will vary greatly depending on where you are, so do a little research on your city.
While I didn’t feel comfortable having my baby in a hospital, I wasn’t so sure homebirth was for me either. So for my first pregnancy I used a birth center and had a wonderful experience. I did end up having my next 2 babies at home and loved that even more, but the birth center was a great fit for my first birth.
Choose a Supportive Care Provider
Who you choose to be your care provider for your pregnancy and birth will have a large impact on how your birth experience goes. You might know you want a doctor, or maybe you are considering a midwife. I absolutely suggest interviewing several providers before deciding!
Make sure whoever you choose shares or supports your birth philosophy and that you feel comfortable around them (they will be seeing ALL of you, after all). Ask about their natural birth track record to be sure they practice what they preach.
Bring a list of questions and don’t be afraid to ask about anything that concerns you! Any good care provider will be happy to answer all of your questions.
I saw a doctor for the first 4 months of my first pregnancy, but I grew increasingly more uncomfortable with the ‘vision’ of how my birth would go as our appointments went on. I was a little unsure when I began calling some local midwives, but once I met with them I knew I wanted a midwife for my birth.
My husband whole-heartedly agreed and we broke up with our doctor in the second trimester. I am SO glad we made that decision. It’s never too late to change providers!
Once you’ve selected your location and provider, you’re ready to get to the real work of preparing! Make sure you ask questions at every single appointment you have. My midwife always told me to keep a running list of questions so I wouldn’t forget what I wanted to discuss. I came to each appointment with a list, sometimes big and sometimes small, and we always covered everything that was on my mind.
Line up Your Support System
Spend some time thinking about whom you want to be at your birth and who will help you cope with labor. Will your husband be by your side the whole time, or maybe your mother or a close friend? Make sure whoever you select is 100% on board with your birth plan and will support you the entire time.
Consider hiring a Doula to support you and your partner as well. Doulas provide emotional and mental support for laboring moms. They understand the birth process and provide a calm and peaceful support in whatever way you need. That could mean anything from speaking words of affirmation during a difficult contraction, providing counter pressure to ease back pain, or guiding a husband who is unsure how to assist his laboring wife.
I had a Doula for my first birth, and know countless women who say their birth would not have been the same without their Doula there.
Educate Yourself: Read and Research
I, like so many other women I know, am an avid researcher. If you’re reading this right now, chances are you can relate. I don’t make a decision on what kitchen appliance to buy without hours of research, and I would certainly not want to push a baby out of my body without a thorough understanding of the whole birth process.
One of the ‘ah-ha’ moments for me was when I began to learn about what happens to the mother’s body when she is in labor. The body has systems in place to trigger labor, help you deal with labor pain, and the entire birth process happens on its own without any medical interventions. When we remember that our bodies were made to give birth, we can begin to trust the process.
There are a ton of wonderful resources about natural birth. These are my top 3 natural birth books:
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
- Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way
- Childbirth Without Fear: the Principles and Practice of Natural Childbirth
There are of course lots of wonderful online resources, just make sure you steer clear of the negative articles and horror stories. While it’s important to understand potential risks, it is far more common to have a wonderful, smooth birth than risky delivery. Why spend your time worrying about what will probably not happen?
Check out the Mama Natural Birth Stories section of her site. It is filled with positive birth experiences from many different points of view.
Watch Birth Videos
Once I was committed to a natural birth and had chosen a midwife that I loved, I began watching videos to prepare for natural birth. Now I’m not talking about the video you watched in sex-ed as a kid that scared you into thinking you would never have children. I’m talking about professionally done videos of real women birthing their babies naturally. There are a TON on YouTube to choose from, so make sure you have the tissues handy (birth videos always make me cry).
Pay particular attention to the different ways women labor and how they manage the pain. You might be surprised to see that often times, they don’t even look like they are in pain!
When I was preparing the birth of my second baby, I was also doing work to prepare my then toddler for the arrival of her baby brother. We prepared together by watching birth videos, and she LOVED it! She requested to watch ‘baby be born’ every single day. When I was watching with my 2 year old, I made sure to choose professional videos from videographers who I was familiar with so that I could be sure they were family friendly.
Check out any of the beautifully done videos by the ladies at Birth Unscripted. There are hours of amazing birth footage to get you pumped for your own birth right here!
While I didn’t have a videographer at any of my births, I did have a photographer (she took all of the photos in this article – isn’t she amazing?! Check out Birth is Beautiful, Captured by Ina).
Here is the slideshow from my third birth:
Take a Birth Class
One of the best ways to prepare for natural birth is by taking a birth class. Especially if you are preparing for your first birth, a birth class will help tremendously! Ask your doctor or midwife if they have a local class they recommend, and try to get your partner involved. Look for a class for both of you, since your partner will be an important part of your birth. It’s important that they understand what’s happening also!
If you can’t find a local class, check out the Mama Natural Online Birth class. She knows her stuff and provides a great, extensive class you can do from the comfort of your home.
Learn Natural Pain Management Techniques
There are lots of ways women cope with pain during labor, and it’s a good idea to be familiar with some techniques before labor starts. Laboring in the water is a big one for many women (and a technique I can vouch for).
Various breathing techniques, music, walking or slow dancing, counter-pressure and switching positions are all ways to handle pain during labor. It’s a good idea to be familiar with a number of pain management techniques since you won’t know what works for you until labor starts.
Prepare your Body
Have you heard the saying birth is like a marathon? That may sound daunting, but it’s true! Your body will be in labor for many hours, preparing to do the most difficult work of its life (birthing a human is not easy!). You wouldn’t show up to run a marathon without preparing, right? Birthing a baby is no different.
Your body is busy doing its own preparation for birth, but there are lots of things you can do to help. Make sure you stay active by exercising or walking frequently. Yoga is a wonderful activity to incorporate into your pregnancy, particularly if you can find a prenatal class. It is gentle on the body and can be usually be done up until baby arrives (I went to prenatal yoga the same evening I went in to labor with my first baby!).
Several online yoga studios offer a strong prenatal program. MyYogaWorks has more than 50 prenatal and postpartum yoga classes at all levels. You can try MyYogaWorks for 3 months for only $3 with code YOGA3.
There are some exercises you can do strengthen your pelvic floor and the surrounding muscles. You’ll be using muscles you’ve likely never used before during labor, so preparing your body for this will certainly help the process.
Nourish your Body
I know you already know how important a healthy diet is when you’re pregnant! You’re probably already taking a prenatal vitamin (if you’re not, start today!) and maybe other supplements as well like probiotic and vitamin D (go you!). If you are healthy, birth will be easier. So make sure you are eating lots of nutrient dense food and drinking plenty of water every day.
I also love red raspberry leaf tea to help prepare your body for birth! It tones and strengthens the uterus, can be safely consumed all throughout pregnancy and it tastes good. I used to make a big pitcher of iced raspberry leaf tea and drink several cups a day.
Prepare your Mind
Once you’ve decided to have a natural birth, a large part of the preparation is mental. If you were previously scared of childbirth because of the pain or the general unknown of it all, you need to work to overcome your fears before you give birth. Talk with your care provider about any fears you have and continue to read affirming birth stories from other women who have come before you.
Birth stories and videos were a HUGE part of my preparation for natural childbirth. This is one of the reasons I love Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth so much. It features all types of births written from the mother’s perspective.
When you repeatedly read how empowered and strong women feel after giving birth naturally, those fears will begin to melt away. And once you have your own natural birth, you will know exactly what they were talking about!
Connect with other like-minded Moms
It is so helpful to talk to others who are going through exactly what you are. Find a group of pregnant moms who plan to birth naturally and get to know them! This could be through your birth center (ask your midwife!), in a natural birth class or maybe in a prenatal yoga class (this is where I found a great group of moms). If you can’t find a group locally, go online! There are lots of Facebook groups dedicated to natural birth, just filled with pregnant mamas who will ‘get’ you.
You will have an immediate connection with these women since you are all pregnant with the same goal. And it is so wonderful to have other people who are exactly where you are in your journey to talk to.
Eliminate the Negative
For many women who choose natural birth, one of the biggest hurdles they face is the negative comments from their family and friends. While your family probably has your best interest at heart and is concerned because you’ve chosen to do it ‘different’, it can be a struggle to overcome the negativity.
If you are dealing with this, try setting some solid boundaries. Let your family or friends know that if they are not going to be supportive, you will not discuss your pregnancy or birth with them. This is YOUR birth and you have the right to do what is best for you and your baby without defending your decisions.
Trust your Body
This can be a tough one for lots of women, but it is so important to get to this point. Our society spends lots of time teaching girls and women that our bodies are not good enough. Of course this is crazy talk, since our bodies are strong, capable and made to birth babies. Ask any man who has watched his partner ROAR a baby into this world and he will tell you how strong women are.
But you have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that YOU are strong and capable of birthing your baby. Believe that your body was made for this. Trust in the process of labor and birth; that your body knows what to do and you are along for the ride. Surrender to your body and watch the magic of birth unfold.