When I think about the birth of my daughter, I can’t help but think about how amazing the experience was. When I think back to how I felt as a first time mom preparing for what would be one of the hardest things I have ever done, I never would have imagined how fondly I would be able to speak of the experience. Natural unmedicated birth is hard. I wont lie, but when you know how to prepare for natural birth, it’s a little less daunting.
The biggest encouragement I had in the months leading up to the birth of my daughter was the many stories I read about and watched from mom’s who like me desired an unmedicated birth.
Natural birth stories from other moms not only gave me an idea of what to expect, but also inspired me to try even when it seemed that much of the (often unwanted) advice I received was from women sharing how horrible the birth experience was.
Unmedicated birth wasn’t easy, but it was by no means horrible. Preparation helps! Knowing how to prepare makes all the difference.
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What is natural birth?
Natural birth as it stands is a misnomer. The official definition of a natural birth is a vaginal birth. Traditionally however when we think of a natural birth, we are speaking of a birth that takes place with minimal medical interventions. Nine times out of ten, this means without epidural.
The more accurate term to use when discussing a birth san use of epidural is the term unmedicated birth.
According to a 2008 study conducted by the CDC nearly 60% of moms having a single child requested epidural for pain management for the birth of their child. Unmedicated births are the clear majority particularly in the hospital setting. Most moms that give birth in a hospital end up using an epidural.
My unmedicated birth story
When I describe my birth story, I often use the word, fun. That’s right. FUN! Now, make no mistake there was a point during labor when I looked at the screen, cried for my mom and told her I wanted the drugs. At that point, I was nearly through transition!
While you may think I am slightly bonkers for considering one of the most grueling experiences of my life fun, I 100% credit the fact that I made it through 4 hours of contractions and 16 minutes of pushing to how I prepared for my natural birth.
You can check out my natural childbirth video for the full story! It’s quite humorous!
Is Natural Birth painful?
The short answer is yes, but it is not unbearable. The contractions feel like waves, and it sort of feels like really bad cramps. Especially in the beginning. Your body tenses up, and then it releases, and you have a break. As you get closer to transition and the pushing stage you begin to feel like you must poo RIGHT NOW! The best preparation is to listen to your body and think of waves or anything that oscillates.
Prepare for unmedicated birth by learning ways to Manage labor pain
The most important, in my opinion, way to prepare for your natural childbirth is to learn ways to manage labor pain. I recommend you do a little research on each of the following techniques to determine which one/s you would like to add to your birth plan.
- Prayer and meditation
- Birth Affirmations
- Breathing techniques
- Warm water or heating pad
- Changing labor positions
- Listening to calming music
- Ice packs or cool rags
- Birthing ball
- Emotional support
- Creating a focus point
- Moving around
How to prepare for natural birth
As I said before preparation was key to being able to successfully birth my daughter. As a full-time working mom, I had to be creative in how that preparation happened. Both my husband and I work in the health care setting and we also had our son to care for. Long drawn out classes and courses were sort of out of the picture.
I will also disclose that I lean towards procrastination and I procrastinated a lot during pregnancy. There were, however, three key areas that I ultimately focused on while preparing for my natural birth.
Prepare your mind and heart for an unmedicated birth
Learn and much as you can. The first step in preparing for a natural unmedicated birth is to be in the right headspace. That starts with learning as much as you can about your body and what it will do during birth. You should get an understanding of labor stages. I read and watched many more birth stories for tips from moms about labor than I can to admit and completed the online course through Lamaze International.
There were two books that also helped me learn the process of labor and ways to adjust my mindset to the pain that may come. The first was Supernatural Childbirth, which gives one woman’s account of how she was able to have multiple pain free births, and how you can also set yourself up ahead of time to have a natural birth as well. The second is The Hypnobirthing Book and Complete Prenatal Preparation MP3 The Inspirational Guide for a Calm, Confident Birth which is a book that describes birth and gives techniques for using hypnobirthing to remain calm during labor and have a pain free birth.
The most beneficial part of the second book is the hypnobirthing tracks that come along with it. I listened to these often in the months leading up to my birth.
Prepare to relax in response to pain. Understanding the different pain management techniques mentioned above as well as practicing them helped me to prepare my mind for the task of laboring without medication. I personally listed scriptures that encouraged me to be able to get through scriptures and wrote them on note cards you can also find pre-made birth affirmations for purchase. I also purchased Holy Spirit Labor Relaxation Album which has several amazing tracks, but the one in particular that helped me pre-labor and during actual labor was a track that is simply scriptural based affirmations and verses.
Prepare your body for an unmedicated birth
Preparing your body is in my opinion easier was easier to do to prepare for an unmedicated birth than the mental portion.
Breathing exercises such as the “J” breathing technique really helped me! I also used a smart phone breathing app to practice breathing while I was at work during breaks. Having practiced these by myself and with my husband, I was able to readily pull them out of my birthing toolbox when it was time to deliver my daughter.
Gentle stretching and yoga were lifesavers especially when it came to moving between different positions when my contractions got more spicy 😊. Having a list of potential laboring position and moving between those prior to birth can help you readily be able to go to those positions when you are actually in labor. I knew I wanted to use a birthing ball during labor so having one prior to giving birth to practice with was super helpful!
Stay active throughout your pregnancy if you can. Always make sure it is okay with your doctor, but movement pre-labor is good. Taking daily walks is a great way to minimize swelling and unnecessary weight gain. It also helps baby get into position when you get closer to the time!
Prepare your environment for an easy natural birth
The last step in preparing for your unmedicated birth is to prepare your birthing environment.
Choose your healthcare provider and birthing team and make sure that they are onboard with a natural unmedicated birth. If you have to give birth in a hospital, ask questions, like the C-section rate. If you can choose a midwife over an OB, that can increase your chances of having someone who is on your team and all-in when offering options during labor.
I personally did not have a doula, but I have yet to find someone who did have one not rave about her. A doula can advocate for you (husbands advocate, but its different). So, preparing by interviewing and choosing a doula can be a benefit and offer you an additional support person during labor.
Create a birth plan that can be easily given to staff during labor and can help “speak for you” when laboring gets more intense. Make sure that you have additional items that speak to the room environment on the birth plan. I wanted Christian music and pictures on my grandmothers in the room. A friend of mine wanted rock music and a dance party. It really all depends on your needs. Write them down and pack several copies in your hospital bag.
Take your time to prepare
From the moment you get the positive pregnancy test, your mind begins to spin with all of the things you need to do to prepare for new life. Preparation for the labor can sometimes get left for the last thing on your to-do list. Preparing your natural birth toolkit early on can help.
Gather your materials and resources early. Try to carve out 10-20 minutes each day to do something to prepare yourself. It could be reading a book, checking out birth stories, or practicing breathing techniques. The most important thing to do is to try. You’ve got this mama!!
Did you have a natural birth? Share your story below! I’d love to hear it!