Natural childbirth has many definitions. Some people define it as an unassisted childbirth, or a birth where you or your partner, with no medical training, deliver your baby. While this may happen if birth proceeds rapidly, an unassisted childbirth should never be your goal.
Natural childbirth can also be defined as a vaginal childbirth, even when pitocin and an epidural are given. But for the most part, it is defined as an intervention free birth; there's no IV, no antibiotics, no pitocin and no pain-medicine.
Some couples aim for a natural birth because the common medical interventions involved with childbirth carry health risks and side-effects for women and their babies. Many interventions actually increase the odds for more interventions; each intervention can lead to another until a cesarean is needed.
The following tips will help on your journey for a natural childbirth.
- Learn about common interventions at hospitals. The best place to do this is at a childbirth class. You can take a childbirth class from your local hospital or hire a private childbirth educator to come to your home.
- What interventions do you want, if any? Do you want pain medicine, like an epidural? If you don't want any interventions, at what point would interventions become all right?
- Learn coping techniques for labor. If you don't want any pain medicine, you will need coping techniques to get through labor. Coping techniques are very varied and work differently for each woman and each birth. Common coping techniques include breathing, massage, heat/cold pads or compresses, hydrotherapy (bath/shower), massage, birthing positions and mediations/imagery.
Less common coping techniques include hypnosis (such as hypnobirthing), aromatherapy (no candles or incense allowed in hospitals), acupressure, and birthing ball techniques. Bradley and hypnobirthing classes are aimed for natural childbirth and teach couples many labor coping techniques.
- Find a birthing coach. Most women have their partner as their birthing coach, but a mother, sister or friend can substitute if your partner is unable or unwilling to be a coach. Your coach should be supportive of your goals, including whether you want a natural childbirth.
- Consider writing a birth plan or a birth wish list. A birth plan is a communication tool that explains what you hope for your birth. Your birth plan should be flexible since birth can be unpredictable.
- Consider hiring a doula. A doula is a professional birthing coach, who provides physical, emotional and informational support. Studies have shown that births with a doula have fewer birthing interventions, including the need for pain medicine. Most hospitals do not have doulas on staff, so you will have to hire and pay for this woman yourself.
- Consider having a home birth. If your pregnancy and birth are low risk, you might be able to have a home birth. At a home birth, you will have a natural childbirth, and your chances of getting interventions you don't want are lessened.