You’ve decided that you want an unmedicated birth.
You know it is how you want to bring your new baby into the world, but you are starting to feel a little lost and overwhelmed about how to prepare to labor unmedicated. There are many things that can happen during labor and delivery, and while there is no way to guarantee what yours will be like, we can give you a few suggestions on how to help you reach that goal.
Read up on birth and not just the technical stuff. Look for positive birth stories, both medicated and unmedicated. Reading about others experiences can give you a feel for what you might encounter during your labor. Some of our favorite books are The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin and Homebirth in the Hospital by Stacey Marie Kerr MD. Many birth stories can also be found online.
Learn and Practice a Relaxing Technique
This could be deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to name a few. You can even try out Hypnobirthing if you would like. How involved or structured the technique is up to you. The most important part is that you practice. Have your partner practice with you as well. As you practice your mind will begin to build a kind of ‘muscle memory’ that you will be able to rely on in the middle of an intense contraction.
Become Familiar with Interventions
Even the ones that you don’t plan on using. Knowing what is available to you and why it may be offered (or even necessary) will help remove the mystery of them. Interventions can get kind of a bad reputation, but sometimes they are helpful! Knowing how and when to use them could even help you achieve your ideal birth. To really get a good understanding of your options, we recommend attending a childbirth class. Also, keep in mind that natural interventions are still interventions.
Movement is your friend, even though being huge pregnant makes it uncomfortable. The great thing is that you don’t have to cut out a huge amount of time during your day to fit it in. Bounce on a yoga ball while watching TV or do a few squats over your couch. Take a long walk with your partner and enjoy the fresh air. Resisting the urge to lay around will help you keep your muscles strong and flexible making labor and delivery a little bit easier. (Be sure to talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program.)
Ask Your Doctor about Dates
No, I don’t mean due dates! Look into the potential benefits of eating dates! There was a study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that had very positive things to say about the consumption of dates during the last month of pregnancy. What they found was that women who enjoyed a date daily arrived at the hospital further dilated and were less likely to request medication during delivery. The researchers believe that dates were helpful because there is a compound in them that is similar to oxytocin. Oxytocin is a key factor in labor (in fact Pitocin is the artificial form of it). Be sure to discuss this with your doctor before adding them to your menu!
Make a Plan for your Birthing Environment
Whether you are planning a home birth, birth center birth or hospital birth be proactive about what you will let into your birthing environment and what (or who) you want out! Your birthing space, as corny as it sounds, is scared and the more deliberate you are about creating a comfortable space the easier labor will be. A lot of women think that there isn’t a lot they can do about their space when delivering in the hospital, but that isn’t true. With preparation you can turn your hospital room into a spa.
Write Down Your Birth Plan
Whether you plan to give your care provider a copy of your birth plan or not, spend some time writing it down. The act of deciding what you want and visualizing how you hope to deliver can make the whole process smoother when it comes time to have a baby. If you are having trouble make decisions or sorting through all the choices available let us help you!
Gather a Birth Team who Supports You
I saved this one for last because it may be the most important of all. Make sure that everyone you choose to surround you during the weeks leading up to delivery is supportive. It may be hard, but anyone (even if it is your Aunt) who casts doubt on you or stresses you out needs to not be around when the time comes. Everyone you choose to be in your birth space needs to not only understand and support your wishes, but be someone you can draw strength from. You need a birth team that empowers you to meet your goals and helps you along the way.