It’s been a while since my last post in this natural pregnancy series, but now that I’m about a week away from my due date for our second baby, I’ve been focusing my efforts on preparing myself both mentally and physically for labor and delivery. The most important thing I learned from my first natural, unmedicated birth two years ago is that preparation is key – the mind plays such an integral role in labor, and the mind/body connection is stronger than at any other time in a woman’s life!
So today I’m sharing some tips for making your natural labor and delivery as manageable and medication-free as possible. 🙂
Read a Good Book
Pick a good childbirth book early in your pregnancy and commit to reading it over the coming months. My absolute favorite book is Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. This book seriously changed my life and my entire view of childbirth and the awesome capabilities of the female body. Half the book is filled real-life birth stories that are meant to encourage and inspire (and they do!), and the other half is filled with loads of information on what to expect during childbirth and tips for managing pain during labor. If you’re worried, apprehensive, or just don’t know what your options are, this book does a great job of clearing the fog.
I’ve also heard great things about the book, Birthing From Within, though I haven’t read that one yet.
Take A Natural Childbirth Class
I would avoid the general classes offered at hospitals, and instead go for a more specialized class meant for women who are planning a natural labor and delivery. With my first birth, I took a 6-week class that was taught by midwives at my birth center. Other options include Bradley method classes, Hypno-birthing, or Lamaze classes.
Consider Hiring A Doula
The term doula literally translates to “woman who serves” and that’s exactly what a doula does – she helps the woman with whatever she needs during her labor and delivery. A doula is a professional birth support person and acts as your advocate during birth – which is especially useful if you’ll be delivering in a hospital! You can learn more about doulas and find one near you by checking out Doulas of North America (DONA).
Natural Pain Relief and Relaxation Techniques
Apart from the information that you’ll learn in your childbirth class (ie: hypnobirthing, meditation, etc.), other techniques include breathing exercises, massage, getting into the bath tub, listening to music, etc.
Something very important to keep in mind is that you need to be able to move during labor. Lying down on your back without moving is the antitheses to labor progression, so make sure you’re up and/or moving most of the time. You need gravity to do its magic and help the baby move down into the birth canal, and you need to be able to change positions quickly to help open up your pelvis when necessary.
You can walk around, dance, sway from side to side, sit or lean on a birthing ball, hang onto your partner for support, get into a squatting position or a hands-and-knees position (great for opening up your pelvis), or take a hot shower, letting the water hit your back to relieve pain and pressure.
One of the best things I learned from Ina May Gaskin’s book is the proper way to breath through a contraction. The whole process of labor should be seen as an “opening up” of the body, and that means all the openings of the body including the mouth and throat. Some women make lots of noise during labor and some are calm, serene, and quiet the entire time. If you’re one of the loud ones (like me ;)) the best way to breathe through your contractions is with a deep, low, throaty moan, as opposed to a high-pitched scream. The deeper moan allows your mouth and throat to be relaxed and fully open, while the high-pitched scream constricts the throat. Try practicing your moans beforehand so you get the hang of it!
Stay Hydrated and Well-Fed
Hospitals generally don’t want you to bring food/drink to your labor and delivery, so if you can’t (or don’t want to) sneak them in, make sure you load up on them before you leave for the hospital. Labor is exactly that – LABOR – and you need all the energy you can get to help you through this marathon of childbirth!
Besides plain water, I love drinking cold coconut water during labor because it’s an excellent source of electrolytes and potassium, and it prevents dehydration. It’s basically the all-natural form of Gatorade and other sports drinks. I also like to keep some organic fruit juice on hand as well.
As far as snacks, protein bars, granola bars, nuts and seeds, oatmeal, fruits, and yogurt are all good choices. Just make sure you’re not eating anything spicy or difficult to digest since many women may throw up or feel nauseous during the transition phase of labor. My midwife for my first birth told me to think back to what I ate during my first trimester, when morning sickness was abound, and eat those types of foods.
Use Essential Oils
This is the only area that I didn’t pay much attention to the first time around, but I’m definitely going to use this time. For essential oils during labor and delivery, I consulted none other than my friend, Amanda at Natural Living Mamma, who has a great post that covers all the bases. I’m focusing mainly on the more common oils and ones I already have on hand.
Lavender is my favorite essential oil because it’s very soothing and can help relieve pain. Amanda suggests adding some lavender and water to a crockpot on low heat and keep several wash cloths in it. Then have your partner wring out a wash cloth and apply it to your belly with every contraction.
Peppermint oil added to a bowl of water and applied with a wash cloth to the neck can give an energy boost and help you cool down during labor. Peppermint oil is also great for relieving pain from back labor. Mix some peppermint oil with a carrier oil (olive, coconut, almond, etc.) and apply to the back and hips where the pain is. Another interesting use for peppermint oil is to help if the baby is in a posterior position; apply the peppermint oil with a carrier oil to the lower back. For my first pregnancy, Yusuf was posterior so I’m definitely keeping this one in mind!
Clary Sage can reduce pain, increase circulation, and cause more effective contractions. Either apply it with a carrier oil to your back to relieve pain, or apply a couple drops directly to your ankles to encourage a healthy labor.
Amanda has a whole list of other ideas for using essential oils during labor and delivery, including speeding up labor, fixing a breech position, and minimizing tearing! Check out her awesome post here for more ideas.
What are your best tips for a natural labor and delivery for expectant moms? What would you add to this list?