Can you believe it? In many cases we get to choose whether or not to use meds during labor. Less than half of all moms opt for a drug-free birth, so congratulations; you are unique!
Choosing how your birth will play out can be a powerful process and it's wise to carefully consider what path you will pursue. Your plan expresses a deep part of who you are and how you want your family to operate. Labor can bring you and your loved ones together or it can be a source of contention. You get to decide!
Wanting to have an non-medicated birth isn't enough. Only one-third of the mothers who intend to avoid drugs end up doing so. It's like saying we are going to for sure lose 15 pounds before summer. Our intentions don't get the job done. I remember saying I wanted to have an drug free birth with my first one and my husband asked me, "What do I say if you ask for drugs in the moment?" I felt indignant, but his question became highly valuable because I did ask! When the moment came, he was able to respond as I'd requested when I was in my right mind. It helped me get through that crux moment.
My decision seemed firm, but pain can do funny things to you. That's why people use it to torture prisoners to get information. I mean, sometimes you just crack under pressure. Do yourself a favor and become certain of your desire to have an unmedicated birth experience. If for no other reason than the baby's safety, be sure to check out what #14 says about epidurals and their risks. All of the information can be difficult to navigate once you are already in labor so take time now! You'll thank yourself later.
15 Consider History
Since the beginning of time women have birthed babies without epidurals or other interventions. Sometimes it's easy to forget how many women have gone before us. When you find that fear rises to the top of your mind, take a deep breath and remember that C-sections, as a regular practice, are fairly new. The U.S. National Library of Medicine wrote a brief history of the C-section and stated, "it was only with increased urbanization and the growth of hospitals that the operation began to be performed routinely. Most rural births continued to be attended by midwives in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries..." Considering history can be a comforting force when faced with the present.
How can you go through with this process? Somehow, knowing millions of other women have done it bring the comfort necessary to proceed. If it doesn't completely fill the gap, then number #14 will!
14 Become Educated
Ina May Gaskin has been educating the public on how easy it is to scare women, and how profitable it can be for others. She recommends getting a doula and taking birthing classes. Her books are a mainstay in any midwife's office. Even if you choose an OB, you'll find her perspective refreshing and empowering.
A 12 week course on how to have a baby may sound like a big commitment, but the commitment to having a child lasts longer than that, believe me! It's well worth your time to start off right and work through any issues before you are in labor. My husband and I took a course and he learned how to coach me through labor and I worked through some fears I wasn't aware of before. Having a drug-free birth experience is all about support and taking a class is essential.
Some classes focus on one type of training, like breathing or relaxation, hypnosis or visualization. A well-rounded class will include nutrition, fitness, mental and emotional training as well as discussing what options you'll have based on the environment in which you'll be delivering. Drug-free friendly environments range all the way from home birth without professionals present (which obviously become drug free by default) all the way to hospitals with an OB that is "granola" enough to be okay with your choices to shirk interventions.
Whichever you choose, educating yourself is of the utmost importance when you want to have an un-medicated birth.
13 Stay Fit
We all know the importance of stretching during regular workouts. But it's not like your taking a 3 mile run, so why bother to stretch? WebMD recommends tailor sitting and tailor presses. Both are known to relieve lower back pain and help the muscles surrounding the hips, thighs and pelvis.
If that's not enough to see the value, how about the fact that stretching is a natural relaxation activity. Umm... yoga anyone? When you stretch your breathing becomes slower and more steady, which affects your heart rate and brings an overall sense of calm to your day. What pregnant woman doesn't want that?!
When the big day comes, you'll want to know that you spent lots of time stretching, so that you are strong and prepared to use all those lean muscles to bring new life into the world.
12 Use Those Special Muscles
Yep, I'm talking about Kegels. These muscles can be difficult to control but they are key to not only become aware of, but to use to your advantage. When you use the bathroom, you can practice stopping the flow as you urinate. The muscles you are using are called your Kegels. If you learn to control them, you will have more control during labor when you enter the pushing phase. Check out the American Pregnancy Association for instructions on how to perform these elusive exercises.
Chances are you already know how to use them to your advantage during sex. I mean...you got pregnant, so I'm assuming you are sexually active! When you have sex, you use these muscles and it increases your enjoyment. So the context of labor might seem an unfamiliar place to use them. But, your body will know when to engage them and use them during 2nd Stage (the pushing stage). The more you pay attention to those special pelvic floor muscles, the more able you will be to tackle that last leg of the process. Go ahead, do one right now...no one will see.
11 Trust Your Authority
Who will walk alongside you, order tests, monitor yours and the baby's health? You have many choices, but who you land on will largely determine whether or not you get to have an un-medicated birth. Ask good questions and interview potential OB and midwife candidates. Here is a fantastic list of questions to ask your OB before solidifying the relationship. Remember that you are paying him/her to serve you and your baby. You have the ability to be the "expert" on your own needs.
Once you choose who to work with during pregnancy and labor, you'll build trust. This cannot be understated. In the moment, you'll feel out of control, so you need to know that this person has got your back, understands your desires (check out #3), and will do what is best for both you and baby.
Having this trust brings relaxation and aids you as you enter into labor. Instead of being afraid, you can be confident that you are well taken care of. And that can make all the difference.
10 Read Success Stories
I really like this video because her story is informative, encouraging and to the point. She made an excellent point that when she felt like she couldn't do it, her sister said to her in the moment, "You can do it because you are doing it." And she's right. Listen to what she says about the pushing phase. Prepare to be surprised!
Having friends who talk to you about how capable you are - these are the friends and family to surround yourself with during pregnancy and labor. There are many websites you can visit that talk about "positive natural birth" if you do a search. Here is one that I like.
9 Take Recommended Supplements
Supplements can be helpful to take during pregnancy so you're as healthy as possible during your labor and delivery. Choosing a caregiver who is familiar with multiple types of supplements can be very beneficial.
Now don't go just taking everything that some blog tells you to take. Ask your OB or your midwife. They will run labs for you and recommend the supplements your body could use. But when they tell you and you think, "Well, it doesn't really matter." Think again.
For instance, if your body has a low hemoglobin count, you might not be able to control the bleeding after birth. I took two different kinds and ingested twice the recommended dosage because my body needed it. Some women score just fine on their iron levels, so they don't need to introduce unnecessary minerals or vitamins into their bodies.
Remember how you're going to choose someone you can trust to be your caregiver? Well then do that. Trust that what they say your body needs isn't just fluff. It's crucial for the health of your body to be ready to deliver the baby without complications.
There are, however, some supplements that seem to help every woman. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea, for example, helps strengthen the uterus. That sounds helpful doesn't it?! Don't you want the temporary home for your baby to be as strong as possible? So drink up - it tastes good. Also, Evening Primrose Oil can aid you toward the end. It can be taken to ripen the cervix. Obviously you wouldn't want that to happen early, so as with all medical/homeopathic advice, ask your healthcare provider when/if it would be beneficial for your body at that time.
8 Practice Mental Imagery
When you close your eyes, and picture your pregnant body giving birth, what comes to mind? Go ahead, this article won't disappear. Take 10 seconds now.
What did you see? I can bet money you didn't envision energy going through your body instead of contractions. Well that's what a friend of mine described. Some women are drawn to thinking of water trickling down their bodies like a waterfall, other like to imagine colors, or feeling the warm sunshine.
Take some time to think about what you enjoy. Do you enjoy water, sunshine, mountains, a light breeze? Think of a physical place you would love to go for vacation. What about it draws you in? Use your senses and grasp the words you need to paint a mental picture. This is what you'll do during labor. It's amazing how the brain releases hormones that make you feel good right when you need them if you focus on delightful moments.
Mental Imagery, or Visualization harkens back to ancient times. For thousands of years, people have taken their minds and imagined what they wanted in order to change their emotions and even their physical experiences of the world around them.
But you don't have to be new agey person to latch onto this practice. Olympians use these techniques to maintain the state of mind that is useful to them during a competition. The NY Times wrote a piece about how this process works and how important it is not to fail in your imagination! “In images, it’s absolutely crucial that you don’t fail,” Detling said. “You are training those muscles, and if you are training those muscles to fail, that is not really where you want to be. So one of the things I’ll do is if they fail in an image, we stop, rewind and we replay again and again and again.” Thanks to our frontal lobe, we can all do this. So begin right now because training your mind is as important as training your body.
7 Utilize Different Positions
Flat on your back - officially the worst position to have a baby. But isn't that how we always see it? Hospital beds have ways to support many positions you might want to get into. But, if you really want to have versatility of and freedom of motion, use the ball!
Everyone should at least try it. Birthing Balls can be used during every phase of pregnancy and labor. It helps open up the pelvis, which is exactly what you want! It's amazing how contractions can hurt less due to the counter-pressure it provides. Hospitals have them so ask for one.
As you consider what positions to try remember that gravity is your buddy, so use it to your advantage, which means to stay off your back! Try out the hands and knees, squatting, etc. Mayo Clinic has a slide show to give you a visual. Check it out and then consider how you'll not only position your body correctly during labor, but how what you do with your thought life can affect your success rate. Let's keep you in that one-third of mommas who stay the course!
6 Memorize A Mantra
Words are powerful. They can bring death or life. What others say to us is something that cannot completely be controlled, but we can control what we say to ourselves. We can choose to keep in check what we think.
During labor it will serve you well to have a sentence or phrase you can return to. I had a few that I liked so I wrote them down in case I forgot. Once, I had them read to me during tough contractions so my mind would be filled with truth.
Giving birth naturally is akin to running a marathon. Athletes are known to maintain positive self-talk. Psychology Today writes about the power of positive self-talk and the implications of forming that habit. If you can't think of anything to say to yourself, find music that speaks to your soul. I've even heard that listening to a joke or comedian can do the trick. Anything to release those endorphins!
5 Don't Listen (To Some People)
You've been there. Someone is talking and everyone realizes what they are saying is too much...except they don't seem to notice. A pregnant woman can be very sensitive to negativity. So let's give each woman a chance to have her baby without entering into fear. If you're reading this and have had a bad birth experience, see a therapist to get through those emotions.
And, if you're expecting, feel free to set boundaries with your mommy friends. It's okay to interrupt someone and say, "You know, I've been having kind of a tough day. Do you mind saving that story for after I've had the baby?" And you know what? They'll stop. I mean, you are pregnant...you will get your way!
4 Hire A Doula
When you're climbing a mountain, you don't want to go alone. You need help. Whether that's a husband, friend, relative or professional. We all need help in times where pain is involved. It's that person who will remember your requests outside of the moment, who will be an advocate, a cheerleader and a guide so you can focus on one task, climbing the mountain.
A doula is a professional who is charged with giving advice, comfort and support to a woman having a baby. She can be an advocate for you if hospital staff is asking questions or making their own suggestions. She can stand in the gap for you if something arises that was unpredictable. Many women want to have their first birth in a hospital and having a doula serves to ensure things go, as far as you can control, as you desire.
The best part about having a doula is she won't leave you. The doctor will come in when they need to, the nurses are tending to many patients and must leave periodically. But a doula? They are by your side, helping you change positions, encouraging you, reminding you of what you planned to visualize. Doulas should get paid more.
3 Create A Birth Plan
Picture your labor and delivery. What do you want it to look like? If you're like most moms, it's tough to know what you want, especially if this is your first baby. Everyone is so unique in their preferences. Make sure you have conversations (friendly ones, not demanding ones!) about your ideas with your healthcare provider and with the hospital.
Some of the considerations are a Vitamin K shot, cutting the cord vs leaving it to pulsate for a few minutes, breastfeeding right away or waiting, baby in the nursery or with you, directed push vs spontaneous pushing, eye ointment, what you wear, and the list goes on and on.
Don't stress out! These are preferences. If you read one and you think, "I don't care." Great. Leave that off the list entirely. Let your trusted caregiver take the lead. But there are some you'll want to ask around to your friends and see what their opinions are and experiences were. The one thing I recommend for every woman wanting an un-medicated birth, is to include a line like this: Please do not offer me pain medication, even if you see I'm in pain.
There's nothing like wanting to go drug-free and being asked every half hour! So as you make a birth plan, be short and clear, but don't go crazy. Afterall, you want the nurses to like you, right! They'll be taking care of you, so get on their good side!
Check out this hospital's list of considerations as you think about what to include in your birth plan. One thing's for sure...you probably won't have a drug-free birth if you don't ask for it.
2 Eat Healthy
We all know we should eat healthy, pregnant or not. But during pregnancy they say you're eating for 2. In fact it only takes about 300 extra calories, and up to around 500 toward the end for the baby to get all she needs.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states, "In general, pregnant women need between 2,200 calories and 2,900 calories a day. A gradual increase of calories as the baby grows is the best bet." They have a wonderful breakdown of how much weight is healthy to gain depending on your pre-pregnancy weight. Also, their site includes a fantastic goal for increased caloric intake according to trimester.
A balanced meal helps the body to give all the necessary nutrients to the baby from your diet, rather than stealing them from your bones, muscles and tissues. Yes, your body will give the baby what it needs. So make sure your body doesn't become depleated during the process. Isn't life amazing?! Your little nugget will gather what it needs, but you my darling must watch your eating habits. So when you consider, "Hmm, should I eat two bowls of ice cream?" Better skip that second bowl, or better yet, read this write-up by a midwifery group. They state, "We recommend 60-80 grams of protein each day for the average pregnant woman. Some women need more such as those with Gestational Diabetes, Pregnancy Induced Hypertension or Preeclampsia."
1 Say "No" To Inductions
Induction drugs are still drugs. Over 50% of babies are being born in an unnatural way. Listen to Bettina Brunig, a midwife, talk about the topic, "Why it matters how we are born" in her TEDx Talk. Her candor and inspiring questions will help you as you walk through discovering the answers to what kind of birth experience you want for yourself and for your baby. Because let's not forget, it's not just you involved. The baby has to deal with whatever you decide to put into their bodies during labor. Everything that enters your blood stream enters their body. Bettina describes commonly known facts about how obesity, type 1 diabetes later in life can stem from a lack of the hormone produced during a natural labor and delivery. So if at all possible, don't schedule your birth and introduce unnatural induction drugs into yours and your baby's body. Allow nature to take it's course. Give your body the chance to take those natural breaks. Because believe me, induction drugs will not give you a break.