I am going to divide this up into 10 things that you can do during pregnancy to prepare for a natural birth and 10 things that you can do in labour to cope with a natural birth.
First up, 10 things you can do in pregnancy to prepare for a natural birth!
1. Educate yourself – BEYOND the hospital antenatal classes.
The hospital antenatal classes are more about orientating you to the hospital than providing you with a deep understanding of what is going to happen during labour.
They will cover basic information like when to head to hospital, what to pack in your bags, pharmacological pain relief options…it is a stock standard, one size fits all approach.
If you want to feel better prepared and more in control of your experience, it is imperative that you and your partner take your understanding of birth far beyond this.
Whether this is through attending an independent childbirth education class, reading, listening to podcasts, watching birth videos, doing the work will help you have a positive experience.
2. Talk to women who have had natural births.
Or listen to podcasts profiling natural birth (Australian Birth Stories is great). Or watch YouTube videos of natural births. You can learn so much from others.
3. Build your birth team. You want to ensure everyone is approaching birth from the same point of view, has the same goals, and that everyone is there to support YOU!
Evidence shows that the best model of care is a midwifery continuity model of care…this means you see the same midwife (or a small team of midwives) throughout your pregnancy, they will be there at your birth, and they will also provide postpartum support.
The reason this model of care provides both clinical and emotional benefits is because you and your birth partner are able to form a trusting relationship with your midwife throughout your pregnancy so by the time you are in labour, you feel confident you will be supported.
It is worth checking what models of care are offered where you are planning to give birth.
And you can access my Ten Question To Ask Your Caregiver download here.
4. Use affirmations throughout pregnancy to create a positive mindset and form positive beliefs.
Yes, your body does the work of labour…but you need to get your mind in the game!
Working with affirmations instills confidence in yourself…and in doing that, reduces fear, and therefore limits tension and pain.
If you want a positive birth experience, you need to define what your version of a positive birth is and then, through targeted affirmations, keep reminding yourself of what you want!
5. Reframe pain! Labour is INTENSE! But that pain is power and it has a purpose. You need to learn how to work with it…not fight it.
I found that having an understanding of what my body was actually going to be doing during labour really helped to lessen my expectation of pain. Which brings me to the next point!
6. Make sure you and your birth partner understand the process of birth…the hormones, the stages of labour, what your uterus is doing, how the pelvis opens, the role your baby plays.
Birth is a huge unknown! And we are typically afraid of the unknown! You can make it feel a lot less unknown but understanding what is going to happen. And no, what Hollywood shows is NOT how birth happens!
7. Optimise your baby’s position.
It is really important and really empowering to understand how your baby is positioned during pregnancy.
You can ask your care provider to help you feel for your baby and to recognise landmarks that indicate their position. Or you can look up Belly Mapping on YouTube and the videos will take you through the process.
The ideal position for your baby to be in prior to birth is with their head down and with their body along your left side.
If your baby is NOT in that position, you can do daily exercises at home, get acupuncture, or see a chiro or an osteo to encourage your baby to turn. If you are seeing a practitioner, be sure you find one who specialises in pregnancy.
8. Perineal Massage.
This is NOT about pre-stretching your perineum! You perineum is designed to stretch and when it needs to stretch, it will! The idea with perineal massage is to understand what sensations feel like in that part of your body…what does pressure feel like, what does stretching feel like. If you become comfortable with those sensations during pregnancy, you will feel more confident when it comes to pushing during birth.
Perineal massage has been shown to reduce tearing and to decrease the likelihood of having an episiotomy.
9. Be patient at the end of your pregnancy.
I know it is hard…you want to have your baby, your caregiver wants you to have your baby, everyone around you wants to have your baby. But an induction is a major intervention and is often the start of a cascade of further interventions. As long as you are well and your baby is well, it’s best to wait for labour to start on its own.
10. Take a hypnobirthing class!
Yes, this one is shameless self promotion, but a hypnobirthing class with me will cover EVERYTHING above, and MORE!
I think hypnobirthing has become more mainstream, but in case anyone has remaining doubts, it is NOT about having a drug free labour or an all natural birth (although it does support you in achieving that if that is what you want), it is NOT about having a silent labour, it is NOT about being hypnotised in labour.
It is about feeling prepared, feeling empowered, feeling excited, and having a POSITIVE experience.