There are many ways to birth - many choices to make and potentially many topics to learn about that you may never have heard of before becoming pregnant. The pregnant woman with an OBGYN who is birthing at a hospital without a doula or anyone to guide her may have a totally different experience than a pregnant woman who is guided through the various decisions she has the right to make.
Natural birth isn't for everyone, and that's perfectly fine! This Natural Parenting Series, however, caters to those who are desiring a natural lifestyle beginning with pregnancy through birth and parenting. One of the pillars of Attachment Parenting is "prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting" and I believe this is something that is taken too lightly in our society. I always use the analogy of a wedding. How many months or years do you spend planning every detail for your Big Day? You research different types of flowers, songs, colors, menus, etc. in order to make the right decisions and hopefully get your desired outcome. I personally believe that the amount of time spent preparing yourself and learning about pregnancy, birth, and parenting should mirror that, if not exceed it.
There are so many choices to make surrounding birth. It may not go exactly to "plan", but the purpose of planning is so that you research and learn about each topic so that you can make an informed decision for yourself and your baby.
I've tried to narrow it down to a top 5 (it was hard and there's plenty more topics!), so here they are:
1. In-hospital or Out-0f-hospital?
In our American culture, the typical birthing practice is choosing an OBGYN and hospital and preparing for a hospital birth which may or may not include an epidural and going with the flow of what the doctors thought was best for you and your baby. Thankfully, the tide seems to be turning and more women are learning that they do have a say in what happens during childbirth. With more options such as birth centers, midwives, homebirths, even naturally minded OBGYNs and hospital procedures, the possibilities are now endless.
The first and most important decision you will make is where you will birth. Although insurance plays a huge role for some families - I had to have a hospital birth due to insurance - it's best to know what to look for if you're wanting a natural birth.
Here are some questions to consider when making your decision:
-What is the OBGYN's cesarean rate?
-What is the hospital's cesarean rate?
-Are there multiple hospitals the choose from where the OBGYN has access? Is one more preferred over the others?
-What are the OBGYN's and hospital's policies regarding more natural birthing choices (pain meds, labor and pushing positions, comfort measures, etc)?
-Are there any local birth centers?
-Are there any local homebirth midwives?
-Can you hire a doula? Are they allowed at your birthing location?
For a detailed study on out-of-hospital birth, see here.
2. Pain relief or no?
Childbirth is hard work and it can be painful, but your body was absolutely made to do it! That being said, the pain may not be for everyone and that's totally ok! There's options, should you want some relief.
You may also go into childbirth wanting no pain meds and change your mind in the midst of it. And that's perfectly ok too! With natural parenting, the tendency is to gravitate towards a med-free but, but we aren't naive and know that in the midst of childbirth, things may change. Whatever your stance, however, you should research each of your options so that you can make an informed decision should the need arise.
Some different options are listed below, but keep in mind that not all birthing locations have all options.
To read more about pain medications during labor, check out Evidence Based Birth's blog here.
3. Comfort Measures
There are many different non-medicinal comfort measures that can help relieve pain and keep you focused. Some you can do yourself, some your birth team will assist with. Some include:
-Hot or cold packs
-Birthing ball, peanut, or bar
-Wearing your own clothing
4. Labor Positions
If you've ever seen a birth scene in a movie, you've witnessed how many hospital OBGYN's prefer their patients to give birth - on their backs with their feet in stirrups (or that position), pushing from an almost laying down position. While this position may work for some (I've seen it!), it typically is not instinctual and may work agains gravity and the body to bring baby earthside. It helps to know your options so that you can move around and push baby out the way that feels most comfortable to you.
Some positions to consider and talk with your provider about:
-Hands and knees
-Anything that feels right in the moment!
Here's a fun article on how giving birth lying on your back became the norm!
5. Choices for Baby
Aside from the many choices you'll have to make for yourself, you'll need to make some pretty big first decisions for baby the moment they are born. If you don't specifically have your desires laid out, some of these things will automatically be done as protocol. It's always best to research and make your decisions before baby is here.
Some are controversial, so I'll just leave a list and some links here:
-Erythromycin (eye ointment)
-Hep B vaccine
-Hat usage on baby
-Vernix - wash off or leave?
-Breast or formula
-Rooming in or baby to nursery?
-Delayed cord clamping
There are numerous other choices that are yours in childbirth, but above is just a scratch on the surface to get you started. Please feel free to reach out if you want assistance creating your birth plan. Remember, knowledge is informed consent. Things may not go according to "plan", but at least you'll know your options.
Allesanda received her Bachelors in Behavioral Science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in December 2013. She now lives in North Texas with her husband and three children. As a maternal support practitioner and educator of family sleep and eco-friendly living, she blogs about family sleep, wellness, nutrition, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, holistic health, and parenting.