You have made the decision that you’d like to have an unmedicated natural birth. But you know that the time will come when it becomes challenging to hold to that plan. So let’s talk through what you need to know and do to be prepared and have the best chance at that unmedicated birth you’ve been hoping for!
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Table of contents
- 1. Know What Natural Birth Means to You
- 2. Know Why It Matters to You
- 3. Start Physical Training Now
- 4. Be Flexible (literally)
- 5. Practice, Practice, Practice for a Natural Birth
- 6. Know What Labor & Natural Birth Look & Sound Like
- 7. Don’t Fear the Pain
- 8. Relax Your Mouth and Jaw
- 9. Learn About Interventions
- 10. Know That a Babe in Arms is Success
If you are studying up on how to achieve the natural birth you want, I would encourage you to also read our post, 8 Natural Delivery Tips for a Natural Childbirth. It’s a companion article to this one, and it shares some really great wisdom to help you plan for your natural birth.
1. Know What Natural Birth Means to You
“Natural childbirth” means different things to different people. I prefer the more precise term unmedicated childbirth, but natural birth is the more popular term, so I use that as well. As you plan for the upcoming birth of your baby, pause to consider what it is you hope to achieve.
First and foremost, we know you want to have a healthy baby, a healthy mom, and a safe birth experience. All other plans should and will default to that main goal during labor. With that in mind…
Do want to avoid any medical intervention, or are you OK with common interventions like IV placement and fetal monitoring? Do you want to avoid an epidural or narcotic medication but would be okay with something like a TENS unit or nitrous oxide to help with contraction pain?
Know what natural birth means to you so that you can start talking now with your OB or midwife to help support your desires.
2. Know Why It Matters to You
Just as you should know what you want, it’s important to know why you want a natural birth. Inevitably, there will come a time in your labor when things become challenging. It’s very normal facing the decision about whether to get some help managing the pain of contractions. Knowing why it’s important to you will allow you to focus on (and your team to remind you of) that inspiration.
We’ve worked with thousands of mamas who have experienced natural birth, and here are some of the reasons they share:
- “I chose it because our bodies are literally designed to do this. I work in healthcare and know modern medicine is amazing. But the human body is fascinating. I wanted the opportunity to see it work.”
- “I wanted to see the full extent of what my body could do and I really did! “
- “Complete control over my own body.”
- “Baby is not sedated from medication so more easily seeks the breast and has success with breastfeeding.”
- “My biggest reason was the recovery. My recovery was so much better for my natural birth than my two medicated births.”
- “I chose to prepare for a natural unmedicated birth because I don’t like feeling numb and don’t like the way opiates make me feel. That said, when i needed up delivering via c section I definitely appreciated modern medicine in the form of a spinal and TAPP blocks. I labored up until that point without any medications.”
Know why it matters to you so that you can keep that in mind when labor becomes challenging.
3. Start Physical Training Now
Labor is a marathon, and it takes a lot of energy. And when you get to the pushing stage, it requires strength to push effectively and bring your baby into the world. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you take up an exhausting training routine or enlist in military basic training. But exercising and keeping fit during pregnancy helps you be better prepared for labor. (Not to mention that regular exercise helps improve your energy and mood, helps fight constipation, improves sleep, and reduces your chances of certain pregnancy complications, like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.)
Most pregnant women can safely exercise, and should aim for moderate exercise about thirty minutes a day on most days (1). Just talk to your doctor or midwife to get the go-ahead, since he or she knows your specific situation best. Then start learning about exercise basics, benefits, and safety, move on to learn about training your core muscles, and don’t forget about those Kegel exercises! Having energy to get through labor and arriving at the pushing stage with enough strength to push effectively increases the chance of having a natural birth.
4. Be Flexible (literally)
We talk about being flexible, meaning that birth is unpredictable and you can’t plan ahead of time how everything will go. But let’s talk about literal flexibility. Many of us, especially those with desk jobs, spend a lot of time sitting. This can lead to the muscles in and around the pelvis being tight and inflexible. A tight pelvis can make it difficult for baby to descend. Prenatal yoga is an excellent way to increase flexibility. There are many online resources, and you may even be able to find prenatal yoga classes in your city.
Squats are one of the best ways to stretch and strengthen your pelvic muscles. Try holding on to the handles of both sides of a door, squat deeply with knees wide for one minute, and then using the doorknobs to help yourself stand. (The doorknobs aren’t an essential part of the squat, but they’re a good way to support and stabilize yourself.) UT Southwestern Medical Center has a great resource with some stretches and exercises to train for labor and delivery.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice for a Natural Birth
A good natural childbirth class is going to teach you a variety of coping tools… from breathing to moving to relaxation techniques. And it’s great to know those things! But knowing them isn’t the same as being able to use them. Watching someone else play basketball (or even having them describe the process of shooting the ball) will not make you able to do it properly. Only practice will do that. Similarly, using guided meditation to relax your body isn’t as easy as you might expect, and trying to do it for the first time when you’re in pain and overwhelmed will be very difficult.
Practice the things you learn in your childbirth class. If it feels a little silly at first to practice breathing techniques or practice getting into labor positions, that’s okay! Acknowledge that it feels awkward, have a chuckle about it, and keep on practicing!
6. Know What Labor & Natural Birth Look & Sound Like
There are a wealth of birth videos online. You can learn a lot about the process from reading, such as the stages of labor, what’s happening in your body, etc. But the sights, sounds, and intensity of natural birth don’t come through the written word.
Why does it matter? Because birth is powerful. Labor typically starts out with short, mild contractions and ends with long, strong contractions in a phase known as transition. And when you’re experiencing those intense end-of-labor contractions for the first time, it can be a bit overwhelming if you’re not expecting it. Watching good birth videos can give you a sense of what transition looks like and feels like, and helps decrease that all-too-common fear of the unknown.
7. Don’t Fear the Pain
It may seem like absurd advice for me to tell you not to fear the pain when you’re going into something that will, in fact, involve pain. But pain does not have to equal fear. It’s understandable…we’re usually afraid when we’re hurt because it means that something is wrong. But in childbirth, pain is an expected part of the process, and it means that progress is being made. If you understand and accept it instead of panicking and trying to make it go away, you’ll increase your chance of having a successful natural birth.
Learn more about contraction pain, why it happens, what it feels like, and why pain does not equal suffering: Contraction Pain: How Painful is Childbirth?
8. Relax Your Mouth and Jaw
You may be wondering relaxing your face matters. The baby certainly isn’t coming from there! But whenever you’re holding tension in your body or are clenched up anywhere, you tend to have a clenched jaw. And tensed-up muscles fight against the labor process. Intentionally relaxing your mouth and jaw can help you relax the rest of your body.
Read More: Are you looking for ways to practice relaxation for labor? Check out the section on Deep Relaxation or the section on Breathing Techniques in How to Have a Natural Birth: The Ultimate Guide.
9. Learn About Interventions
You may go into labor thinking, “I want a natural birth, and I do not want any interventions.” But then what happens if you’re in labor and things aren’t 100% smooth sailing, and your doctor or midwife recommends something like induction or continuous fetal monitoring? Is the intervention really necessary or not?
In the heat of the moment, it can be confusing to know what to do. The more you study and understand about potential medical interventions before you go into the labor, the better able you’ll be to make a decision about what’s right for you and your baby during labor.
10. Know That a Babe in Arms is Success
Okay, technically this isn’t a tip to help you have a natural birth. But it’s important. Remember that no matter what you thought you wanted things to look like, birth is unpredictable and may not go anything like you expected.
Please don’t feel like you failed or did anything wrong if your birth requires intervention or if you decide that the best way to get through it is to take advantage of an epidural or medication. Have grace for yourself and the experience! Yes, it’s okay to feel some disappointment if plans change — you’re allowed to have feelings about something not going the way you hoped — but every kind of birth is valuable and there’s no right or wrong way to bring baby into the world. You made it to the finish line, and your sweet new baby is the prize!
Kopa Birth’s online birthing classes allow you to prepare for a natural hospital birth from the comfort of your own home, 24/7. Enroll today in our free online childbirth class and start preparing for your natural birth!
- Aron, E. A. (2006) Pregnancy dos & don’ts: the smart woman’s pocket companion for a safe and sound pregnancy. New York, NY: Broadway Books.