Many women opt for a natural delivery today. Here's what you need to know.
Expectant moms can be some of the healthiest women around! When your goal is to provide the absolute best physical environment for your growing baby, precautions are taken. Hearing all the reports about what not to use or eat while pregnant can make just about any soon-to-be mom light headed. You just may decide to have an all-natural pregnancy … and there are some advantages, too.
Advantages of a Natural Pregnancy
When you start to think about what you can do to make your pregnancy as natural as possible, talk with your spouse about helping you achieve the best outcome. An all-natural childbirth preceded by natural childbirth classes and a healthy full-term pregnancy. “The more natural your approach (one which relies on healthy lifestyle choices and use of the least interventions and medications possible), the healthier your children will be for the next generation,” says Lauren Feder, M.D., author of Natural Pregnancy: Practical Medical Advice and Holistic Wisdom for a Healthy Pregnancy and Childbirth (Hatherleigh Press; 2014). Feder's book provides loads of information on different pregnancy conditions, homeopathy for childbirth, the different emotions women go through during a pregnancy, birth and more. There's even a lengthy discussion on both natural births and the medical approach. “The more a pregnant woman knows, the more comfortable she’ll be making decisions during her pregnancy, labor and birth,” says Lindsey Seger, chapter leader of ICAN of Nashville (icanofnashville.webs.com), is a Certified Childbirth Educator and instructor with An Everyday Miracle Childbirth Classes (aneverydaymiracle.com).
Staying Healthy & Strong
Taking the natural route during your pregnancy means committing to being healthy and strong for the best outcome. Stay away from smoking, drugs and alcohol. Take your prenatal vitamin! If you decide to try an all-natural diet, discuss it with your doctor first to be sure you don't eliminate something your body needs. “Stay well nourished with good wholesome foods, move your body every day to build stamina and strength, tend to any chronic medical conditions you might have like high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.,” advises Seger. Mothers Naturally (mothersnaturally.org), a public education program from the Midwives Alliance of North America, tells pregnant women to eat nutrient rich, whole foods and avoid highly processed foods and empty calories — eating organic when possible — and suggests that if you’re craving sugar, eat protein to alleviate that craving.
While delivering a baby with an epidural allows pregnant women to feel virtually nothing and leads mothers to feel like they're not a part of their baby's delivery, really, natural childbirth is just the opposite. "Birth is our superpower as women," says Jeannie Casey, AAHCC, CD (DONA), HBCE, PD, of Nashville Childbirth (nashvillechildbirth.com). In choosing natural childbirth, she says, "Women want to feel all the movement and to work with their bodies to give birth. They want to be emotionally connected to the baby and experience all of the birthing process. They want to bond with a baby who's alert and looking into the parents' eyes," she adds. “Without an epidural in place, women can feel the body’s cues to change position, to move or bear down,” Segar says. “Labor is less likely to stall out, and you’re less likely to have an instrumental (vacuum or forceps) or surgical birth,” she adds. Aside from being a full participant in your baby's birth, another advantage to a natural delivery is that you will not have to endure the side effects from any interventions. “You’ll have the shortest recovery time, and Baby will be more alert and better able to initiate breastfeeding,” says Seger. “Plus, women report that birthing normally gives them a sense of confidence and exhilaration. It's like the feeling you get after running a marathon or climbing a mountain,” she adds.
What about those contractions!? While the thought of childbirth pain can worry you endlessly, there are natural ways to alleviate discomforts. A simple change in body position can be all that you need to relieve your pain. “Lying flat on your back is how we’re accustomed to seeing women labor on TV and in movies, but most women find that position to be quite uncomfortable in real life,” says Seger. “Upright (standing, leaning forward, walking, slow-dancing) and asymmetrical (lunging, walking up and down stairs) positions are favorites,” she adds. If a change in position doesn’t give you the comfort you’re seeking, be vocal about it. Don’t whine or complain, but hum a tune or sing your favorite song. “Vocalizing through contractions can be very helpful,” suggests Seger. “Sing, hum, chant an inspirational phrase or moan. The woman who doesn’t feel like she has to be silent is usually doing better than the one who does.” In other words, don’t worry about what everyone in the hall hears! Staying calm does wonders for a woman under stress, too. “I can’t stress relaxation enough,” says Seger. “The more you can work WITH your contraction instead of fighting it, the better. All sorts of techniques exist to help you stay calm and loose. For instance, the touch of your partner, counter pressure on your back, rebozo tricks, deep slow breaths, aromatherapy, self-hypnosis, you name it,” she adds. But, don’t wait until the last minute to try something out. Give them a practice run and see how you feel doing them in the comfort of your own home. “You’ll be more successful if you can practice techniques beforehand and get a sense of what works for you. That’s where childbirth classes really come in handy,” says Seger.
Hold Off on the Pain Meds if You Can!
If you begin to feel the urge to call for an epidural, don’t worry. It could be a sign that you just need to try something different. “Maybe you’d like to get in a deep warm tub or bounce on the exercise ball awhile,” says Seger. “Remind yourself that you’re doing very well and that you only need to worry about THIS contraction. Pain meds aren’t a sign of failure — they’re just the last technique in your bag of tricks,” explains Seger. “A woman who has an epidural in place may have pain relief, but she will still need emotional support. She'll also need physical assistance to assume different positions,” she adds. After all is said and done, you’re sure to feel exultant about the adventure you just accomplished. You'll love the healthy lifestyle you’re introducing your newborn to. That seems to be drawing more and more women toward natural deliveries. “Whether or not they are interested in natural birth, nearly all my patients come seeking an additional approach that honors both the body and the spirit of mother and baby,” says Feder.