One of the most important choices a pregnant woman will make is how she will give birth. While it is common for many birthing women to choose medications and synthetic drugs to manage pain during labor, choosing to do so brings on a greatly increased risk of birth complications and further labor intervention procedures. While childbirth may be painful, in a healthy pregnancy, a natural, drug-free childbirth is by far the best option for having a healthy delivery. A woman who trusts in her body's natural ability to labor and birth will have the most rewarding, emotional and powerful birth experience.
There are many steps you can take during your pregnancy in order to prepare for a natural birth. Make sure you keep a healthy lifestyle during your pregnancy, eating primarily nutritious, whole foods and getting plenty of easy exercise by walking, doing stretches, and yoga.
Once you decide you are serious about having a natural childbirth, hire attendants who are more likely to support your decision to birth naturally. Consider hiring a midwife rather than an OB. Midwives are autonomous practitioners and are the primary carer for the vast majority of women in both the developed and undeveloped worlds during their pregnancy. Provided a pregnancy is progressing normally, a woman need never see a doctor. According to Catherine Taylor in her book Giving Birth: A Journey into the World of Mothers and Midwives, midwives have a 19% lower rate of infant deaths and a 33% lower rate of neonatal mortality (infant death in the first month) than doctors attending comparable births, and midwives who attend hospital births have a cesarean rate that is half the national average. Additionally, midwives tend to be more open to different methods of childbirth. And, if complications do arise, midwives are assuredly knowledgeable and capable.
Whether you choose to hire a midwife or not, you may also consider hiring a doula. Essentially, a doula is a natural-childbirth coach and advocate for the birthing mother and her family. If you have a doula present at your birth, she will be able to remind you of the reasons you chose to birth naturally and gently push you to continue as you had planned when you are in the throws of labor. She will also be able to assist you with relaxation, breathing and pain-relieving techniques and help labor move along as smoothly as possible. In addition to providing emotional and physical labor support, she will advocate your wishes and can assist in communication with medical staff in a hospital setting, as well as obtain information for you to better be able to make informed decisions in regards to procedures and possible interventions.
Perhaps the most important step to preparing yourself for a natural childbirth is to educate yourself about every aspect of the birth experience. You have nine months to learn all you can about labor options, birth attendants, common procedures, possible necessary and unnecessary interventions, and the common and unique qualities of other successful natural childbirths. With the internet, there are literally countless resources at your fingertips. There are also many books that focus objectively on natural birthing options, including my favorites, Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England and Rob Horowitz and The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions by Penny Simkin. When browsing birth-education reading material, be sure to choose books and sources that positively support your decision to have a healthy, aware, and natural childbirth.
Another step you can take to prepare yourself for a natural birth is to participate in childbirth education classes. While many hospitals offer basic classes for pregnant couples, there are many alternative options that actually focus on natural labor techniques. Lamaze is the most discussed method of birth education and natural pain management, teaching techniques for focused breathing. Lamaze will help you focus on making it through each contraction, though it does not necessarily prepare women for what to expect in regards to the intense pain involved in labor. Becoming increasingly popular, however, are comprehensive natural childbirth classes such as Hypnobabies, The Pink Kit, and Birth Outside the Box. These well-rounded, objective courses are comparably priced and available to you in the comfort of your own home or in small group settings, and they will provide you with options for natural pain-relief and a solid foundation on which to build your natural birth experience.
Lastly, be confident about your decision to have a natural childbirth and your body's ability to birth. For most women who choose natural childbirth, their main goal is to be lucid and alert after the delivery of their baby, to be able to immediately and peacefully see, hold and bond with their baby. Visualize this positive outcome throughout your pregnancy and be confident that this is what your want. If you expect horrible labor pain, you are more likely to actually be in pain. Confidence is actually a big step in making the labor process more bearable.
Once you educate yourself about your options and decide on birth attendants who support your decision to birth naturally, you will be able to develop a clear picture of your own expectations for a emotionally fulfilling positive birth experience. If you begin feeling discouraged at any point during your pregnancy or labor, remember this one simple thing: You were made for this.