Guide to Natural Childbirth

Laboring Woman in Tub helped by doula nurse
Photo © Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Your Choice of Practitioner

Who you choose to attend you in labor is a very important decision when considering a natural birth. You want to find a doctor or midwife who is open to natural childbirth techniques, but beyond tolerating these techniques, you want people who will actively encourage and suggest them during labor. When interviewing possible providers, start by asking questions about previous clients, natural birth experience, and primary cesarean rates.

Where You Give Birth Matters

You have three main choices when deciding where you want to give birth:

While not everyone will have access to a birth center or a home birth because of where you live or because of medical conditions, these are potentially safe options for low-risk women with qualified providers. If you have a choice of hospitals, this is an important topic. Not every hospital is as patient friendly as you would imagine. Have you toured the hospital? Did you ask them the tough questions? What do others who have recently given birth say about the hospital? What does your gut say?

Preparation for Childbirth

There are a plethora of childbirth classes available to help you prepare for your upcoming childbirth. These classes include:

In childbirth class, you will learn a lot of the things that you can do to prepare your body for labor. You will learn about relaxation, labor support and how to manage contractions. You will also learn about breastfeeding, common interventions in labor as well as pain medications, c-sections, and even vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). I recommend taking all of the classes you can, including ones on epidurals or having a second baby.

Natural Childbirth Labor Support

Having someone there to support you helps you feel loved and cared for during your labor and birth. But it can also give you some added help when it comes to managing pain and feeling more comfortable. You can have your family, friends and loved ones support you.

Many women use birth doulas to help them in labor. Using a doula can reduce your need for pain medication, make labor shorter and more comfortable and provide a whole host of other benefits. A doula doesn't replace your family, she brings only her knowledge and skill sets to help you all cope with labor. You define her role.

Positions for Labor

Movement in labor is important. Rocking, swaying, walking and other movements all help you deal with the pain of contractions. Learning about how different positions and various movements will help guide your labor by making it faster, easing a back ache, slowing it down, etc. is key to comfort. This is often taught in childbirth classes, make sure the one you take covers it.

Physical Remedies for Pain

There are also lots of ways to cope with discomforts in labor by using physical methods. Some of these just come naturally and some are employed by your doula or taught in a childbirth class. Here are some of the more common techniques for pain relief in labor:

Relaxation and Breathing

Relaxation and breathing are somethings that many people think about when it comes to labor and delivery. They are certainly something taught in many childbirth classes. There are so many techniques, that even if you don't like some, there are others to try. Here are some basic relaxation and breathing techniques:

Water Birth

The use of water in labor is nothing new, but water birth is something that has been slow to be adopted in hospitals. The use of a bath tub or shower in labor can produce some of the best pain relief available without an epidural. It is safe, simple and effective as a way to cope with labor. You may need to do some preplanning if you want to labor in or give birth in water at a hospital, but you'll find that the benefits of water birth are worth it.

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Article Sources
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  • Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. Gaskin, IM. Bantam; 1 edition.
  • The Labor Progress Handbook. Simkin, P and Ancheta, R. Wiley-Blackwell; 2 edition.
  • The Official Lamaze Guide. Lothian, J and DeVries, C. Meadowbrook; 1 edition.