Having a child can be one of the most joyful and rewarding
experiences in a person's life. So many decisions must be made prior to
the birth of the child, and one of the most important decisions you
will make is determining what kind of birth you would like to have for
your child. The United
States has one of the highest cesarean rates among
industrialized countries, and the decision to have a natural birth will
minimize your chances of needing a cesarean. A natural birth will benefit both the baby and mother because you can be sure that there will be no side effects from the use of medical drugs. The baby will be more alert and able to latch on to the nipple immediately after being born instead of being drowsy from the epidural given to the mother.
Drugs can effect adults differently, some are more susceptible to the effects than others. The mother may feel nauseated and drowsy and will lose feeling in the lower half of her body for a critical period of time. It is more difficult to push the baby out yourself when you cannot feel the muscles you would use to push the baby out of the birth canal. In addition, an epidural will cause labor to slow down which may then cause the doctor to recommend giving the mother pitocin. Pitocin should help speed up contractions; however, it may be too much for the mother to handle. Pitocin can cause more intense contractions than the mother would otherwise experience. The following article highlights a
few steps to take if you decide to have a natural birth.
Step 1: INTERVIEW midwives and doctors to find one who respects your wishes and who listens to what you want. This person needs to take the time to answer your questions and concerns about your birthing experience. This is extremely important because you need to feel safe and respected in order to be calm and relaxed during labor. You need someone who will fight for how you want your labor to go because when you are actually in labor, most of your concentration and focus will be on managing the pain.
Step 2: SIGN up for childbirth classes. This will help you connect with new parents and provides a support group for you to ask questions before and after your birth. I would recommend taking a Bradley class which uses the Bradley method. The Bradley Method is about husband-coached childbirth and teaches you about the stages of labor and various relaxation techniques you can use during labor.
Step 3: PRACTICE relaxation techniques. Relaxation will help your
body because you will be relaxing your body instead of tensing your
muscles to fight the contractions. Remember that contractions are good
because they are helping to bring the baby into position and push the
baby out. Since every person is unique, different techniques will work
for you and by trying out each type you can decide which works the best
or you can just use all of them. Four different categories of relaxation are listed below:
Environmental: Make sure that your environment relaxes you. This is absolutely key. Birthing centers and some hospitals have great birthing suites with warm colors and heavy drapes to block out light. You could bring a few candles with you and some of your favorite music. I would recommend artists such as Enya, Secret Garden, or Dean Evenson. Also, try to let your partner know to make sure that people aren't constantly running in and out of your room chatting to one another. This can be extremely distracting when you are in labor and trying to focus on relaxing your body.
Mental: Even a little amount of mental stress can be the source of physical tension. Think of something that is pleasant or relaxing to you whether it be the ocean, a pristine lake at the base of a mountain, a favorite vacation spot, or just welcoming your baby home. If it is a place or a person you would like to think about, bring a picture with you to your birth so you can get in the right mindset. It can be very helpful to have someone else paint this visual picture for you.
Emotional: Emotional relaxation is based on how you feel at a given moment. The more you learn about what to expect during labor the more confidence you will feel when you begin to have contractions or when your water breaks. Hopefully, you will feel confident, safe, secure, and be able to depend on your partner to help guide you through the stages of labor.
Physical: Focus on relaxing each body part independently. You may
not even realize you are holding tension there until you focus on that
part and let it go limp. If you have back labor have your partner
firmly press on your lower back with his palms. This can significantly
reduce your pain; however, if he presses on the wrong spot it may
increase your pain. I would have him press lightly at first and then if
you give the okay he can press harder. You can also put 2 tennis balls in a bag and use them to place pressure on your lower back. Position the tennis balls so that they are on either side of your spine. Massage is another example of a technique that will help relax you. Start by having your partner rub your neck and shoulders, then arms and hands, then legs and feet. Your partner should be able to tell where you are holding tension. Have him verbally tell you to relax your hands if he finds tension there because you may not be aware that you are tensing. This will help your body's muscles relax so that you are not fighting labor. It is important to practice because our natural reaction to pain is to tense our body. The more you practice the easier it will be for you to relax your body on command. I have found that the most important aid is a jacuzzi tub. The warm water is very soothing and will help reduce your discomfort significantly.
Step 4: WRITE a birth plan. Every birth story is unique, but plan for the birth you want (your idea of an ideal birth). Be very detailed in your birth plan and give it to your doctor or midwife so that you can discuss it at one of your prenatal appointments. Make sure that your doctor or midwife will inform you and your partner of any deviations from the plan and explain why. Unless there is an emergency, they should always keep you and your partner informed of all the options available.
Step 5: TRUST your instincts. This applies all throughout the pregnancy and during the postpartum period. If you are craving fruit, then eat plenty of fruit. Don't let others make you doubt yourself by telling you how much protein you should be eating, etc. Just try and eat healthy and follow your cravings. If you are hungry during labor, then eat. Your body is expending a lot of energy and working hard to give birth to a beautiful baby. You will also be thirsty and will need to drink plenty of water. If you want to change positions or walk more, then do it. Your body can help guide you into the best position because it will feel more comfortable. For example, lying on your back during labor is not an efficient way to give birth because you are not using gravity to aid you, and the weight of the baby would be uncomfortable on your organs. With regard to postpartum healing, you should feel better (or very close to it) by 6 weeks. If you are not better and are experiencing any kind of pain, make sure you go to your health care provider.
Note: In some cases, your birth experience may not be what you had written down in your birth plan. Cesarean sections are needed in 5% of births, and can help save a mother and/or baby's life. The most important part of your birth plan is to have a healthy baby.