10 ways to achieve a positive, calm and natural birth

So the bump’s in full view – making you a shining beacon for women who want to tell you the worst birth stories ever. How about some good news?  There’s a lot you can do to help bring about an easier, natural and calm birth.

Here’s a list of 10 ways to achieve a positive natural birth.

1. Work for the birth you want – own it!

Many women birth in hospitals avoiding medication and medical intervention (unless medically necessary). It’s all about following the natural rhythms of labour, understanding how your body works and trusting your body. We like to use the term physiological birth to steer away from some of the different interpretations of ‘natural’ birth. By physiological birth, we mean a healthy mother with an uncomplicated pregnancy giving birth with no medical interventions. Of course some births will necessitate assistance from your caregivers but we mean to differentiate necessity from hospital procedure or managed birth.

2. Where possible, go with a midwife or a midwifery led unit (domino or community midwives)

Midwives are highly skilled and are trained to look at birth as a physiologically normal and magical event in a woman’s life. The number of women who express birth as a satisfying experience, and success rates of physiological birth, is often far greater with midwives rather than with consultant led care (private or semi-private). There are great midwifery led units and independent midwives all over Ireland. Book early; as they are popular and fill up quickly.

From the onset, midwives are best trained to support pregnancy and birth. They have the best outcomes as far as fewer interventions and many mothers profess to having a far better birth experience in their care.

3. Get informed. Attend independent antenatal education classes

Independent childbirth instructors focus on their clients needs, and will spend time discussing a variety of options in coping with the intensity of labour and birth. Since nearly all encourage physiological birth, they will equip and prepare you to manage your entire labour and delivery, not just try to “keep you comfortable until your epidural”.

Finding good independent antenatal birth classes and workshops, will not only empower you and give you self belief, it will also empower your birthing companion and give them confidence in their ability to assist and support you.

5. Stay at home as long as possible

In a nutshell, the longer you’re in the hospital, the more chance you have of medical intervention. Good preparation at the right antenatal course should enable you to recognise at what point your cervix is dilating and your labour is progressing nicely. Arriving in hospital at this point will assist in your physiological birth.

Often women come in very early on in labour, especially with first babies as they are unsure of what stage they are at. It is common in hospital to start a clock once some form of dilation is noted, and can lead to time constraints and extra anxiety for women to dilate within a set period of time.  So do try and stay at home for as long as possible.

6. Have a short birth plan

Your plan really doesn’t need to be the birthing magna carta! Keep it simple and one page long and write it as ‘birthing preferences’ rather then a plan you’re going to adhere to, no matter what. Use a polite tone rather then a ‘do this or else’ tone and print a few copies off in case there’s a change in staff. Make sure your birth partner is well versed in what you want and what you don’t and why so that you can concentrate on the job of birthing and leave the explaining to someone else! Always approach the birthing plan or preferences with an open mind. Sometimes things change and becoming too attached to the ‘plan’ can cause anxiety for you.

7. Eat well during labour

Maintaining your energy levels at home and in the hospital by staying hydrated and nourished is one of the best ways to keep your labour progressing and reducing exhaustion. It’s a uterine marathon after all. You need to keep the fuel coming in to keep your uterus working well.

Most Irish hospitals still restrict food intake as part of a blanket policy. This serves NO benefit for the mother. It stems from when many C-sections were performed under a general anaesthetic to reduce the likehealthy-eatinglihood of food aspiration (inhaling food) during anesthetic. So, forget about an extremely unlikely scenario (c-section, general anesthetic, aspiration etc) and think about the dangers of labouring whilst your energy is depleted. Eat nice, easy to eat, high energy snacks and drink plenty of water but remember to empty your bladder as often as you can as a full bladder can slow labour.

8. Pay attention to your baby’s position in the last few weeks of pregnancy

Having your baby in the optimal position for birthing is half the battle for a positive birth experience. Depending on whether its your first or subsequent baby, you should be asking your caregiver about how baby is positioned, towards the last 8 weeks of your pregnancy. The familiar ‘oh the head is down’ response is not enough. You want to know that your baby is in the left occiput anterior position. If your baby is not in this position there’s a lot you can do to help.  You can get some good information on this at www.spinningbabies.com

9. Use gravity during labour

Gravity is the birthing mother’s best friend. The position you commonly see women giving birth in the movies, lying on their back, is actually not a great idea at all as you’ll have to work much harder to get baby out on an upward slant. Giving birth in an all-fours position or in a full squat will make life a lot easier! You should learn about these positions in your independent antenatal class.

10. Encourage your endorphins and oxytocin

Endorphins are our own natural morphine – in fact they can be 200 times stronger than morphine, so you can see how this might help in labour. They are released when we laugh, when we love, when we feel happy and safe and when we feel sexually aroused.  ‘Nuff said.

Their best friend and ours, oxytocin, the hormone of love, will help your labour be more efficient and shorter. Think of it needing the same environment as you need for a good nights sleep:

  • Privacy
  • Safety
  • Respect
  • Love
  • Familiarity with those present
  • Subdued lighting
  • Lowered voices
  • Permission to go deep within
  • No expectation of rationality – no questions that need thought, no idle chatter
  • Not causing a woman to feel self-conscious or under observation (how easy would it be to sleep with a stranger in a white coat prodding at your nether regions?)

If you’d like to hear more about this you can join the wonderful Emily McElarney at our Preparing for Birth Workshop Saturday 5th November.

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