Being prepared in body and mind for your labor and delivery can give you the confidence needed to achieve an unmedicated birth. To help you with this goal, we have collected eight of the most useful natural delivery tips to get you ready for a natural childbirth.
Natural Delivery Tip #1: Labor Support
Whether it’s a husband, partner, mother, friend, or doula, having someone that will be a cheerleader and support person is key to a natural childbirth. Labor support will help you focus and stay more positive through all the stages of labor.
A 2017 study about continuous labor support found that, compared with women who had usual care (no labor support), women who labored with continuous support received the following benefits:
- Shorter labors
- More likely to have a “spontaneous” birth (with neither cesarean section, vacuum extraction, or forceps)
- Less likely to have an epidural or use pain medication
- Less likely to have interventions like a c-section, vacuum extraction or forceps (1)
Those are some compelling benefits! It’s definitely worth it to have labor support! If a doula is not your preference or is not in your budget, be sure that your partner is well-prepared to support you. Consider taking a childbirth course together, such as the Kopa® Prepared Online Course, to arm your partner with tips and tricks to help you work through contractions.
How to be a supportive labor partner
Here are several ways your labor support can help (2):
- Be an advocate for your birth plan
- Create helpful distractions by chatting, playing games, and watching movies with you during early labor
- Time contractions
- Bring relief through massage, cold compresses, getting ice chips, and providing anything you may need to bring comfort
- Help change labor positions
- Provide encouragement
Natural Delivery Tip #2: Follow your birth plan
Your birth plan is an outline of your preferences during your labor and delivery. It could include who you want with you during labor, whether you want pain medicines, or if you want the lights dimmed. You can include anything you think will make your labor and birth more comfortable for you. Make sure you take copies of your plan to the hospital, just in case it’s not in your chart.
Keep in mind, though, that a birth plan is not set in stone because you cannot predict everything that may occur during labor. You or your doctors may need to make changes to the plan once your labor begins. But assuming a normal, uncomplicated labor, your birth plan can be a helpful tool to guide your choices and set yourself up for a positive experience.
Natural Delivery Tip #3: Move
Movement helps baby descend
If you wan to help your baby descend during labor, movement and gravity are the keys. Movement helps the baby navigate his head through the pelvis. Some positions will even enlarge diameter of your pelvis, helping baby ease his way through.
Movement makes you more comfortable
Movement can also make labor less painful. It does so by stimulating the receptors in the brain that decrease pain perception. As a result, you are able to tolerate increasingly strong contractions. In turn, endorphins are released and pain perception decreases even more. Ultimately, your movement in response to your contractions decreases pain and facilitates labor (3). It’s a win-win!
Move only periodically if necessary
Some labor situations may prevent you from moving as much as you’d want to. Two common situations are if you have an IV hooked up to your hand or fetal monitors strapped onto your stomach. You can ask your nurse to take breaks from these periodically so you can get up and move. Ask about telemetry (mobile fetal monitoring units). Even if you have an IV or fetal monitors, you can often still walk around your room, down the hall, or bounce on a birthing ball.
If you absolutely can’t leave your bed, there are still a variety of positions you can try to help with labor progression and coping with pain. For example, if you have an epidural and can’t walk, reach for a peanut ball. Lay on your side and place the peanut ball between your legs to widen your hips for delivery.
Natural Delivery Tip #4: Relax
Can you actually relax during labor? Yes! (In fact, register HERE for a free, hour-long class about labor relaxation!) Relaxation interrupts the transmission of pain signals to the brain because it helps you focus on something positive. This type of distraction stimulates the release of endorphins (your body’s natural pain-relieving hormones). It’s also helpful to reframe your thoughts to think of labor sensations as positive, productive and manageable. The goal of using relaxation techniques is to elicit the body’s natural relaxation response, which consists of slower breathing, lower blood pressure, and a general sense of well-being and calm (4).
Relaxation and preparation are essential aspects of a positive birth experience, and learning about different techniques can help you reach that goal (5). Here are some suggestions that may help you throughout your labor:
Touch depends on the individual because you may or may not like it when you are having strong contractions. Having your labor support person experiment with gentle massage, strokes, kneading, and counter pressure can help prepare both parties for when you might need it (4). Other types of touch can include lying in a warm tub or standing in the shower.
Aromatherapy is a simple comfort measure that can help you relax. Bringing your favorite blanket with a comforting smell, or using a diffuser to dispense essential oils such as lavender can create a tranquil environment. Aromatherapy during labor can help decrease pain, manage anxiety, and lead to greater satisfaction with your childbirth experience (4).
As with touch, sound depends on the individual. Some mothers like soft, calming sounds, while others like their favorite loud 1990’s music playlist. Some may even want silence. Using calming white noise, music, or a relaxation script can help distract you from your active labor and put you in a zone to focus on releasing tension from your muscles.
There are simple things you can do to create a peaceful birth setting, even in a hospital room. For example, dim the lights, place pictures of loved ones or a peaceful outdoor scene on a nearby table, and arrange movable objects in the room to your liking. Often, finding one main focal point somewhere in the room can give you a target of control. During labor, you can focus on that one spot and breathe through your contractions.
The fear of labor pain increases stress hormones in your body. Unfortunately, our natural reaction to pain is fear, which leads to increased tension. And tension, in turn, can lead to a longer labor. Keep tension at by remaining in control of your emotions during labor.
With guided imagery and visualization, you’re able to recall or imagine a pleasant, enjoyable and relaxing experience. You may listen to an audio file or a script that your labor partner reads out loud to you to experience guided imagery. Unguided imagery may involve doing something like mentally scanning your body for sensations of pain. Once you find those areas of tension, you can replace those sensations in your mind with feelings of comfort, heat or cold. MRI studies have found that guided imagery changes the way that the brain perceives pain (4).
Natural Delivery Tip #5: Breathe
Patterned labor breathing is when you breathe according to a set number of breathing rates and depths during the contraction. This includes deep abdominal breathing and slow-paced breathing. It also includes more advanced techniques like modified paced breathing and patterned paced breathing.
Breathing techniques in labor can help decrease tension in your body and keep you focused on something other than pain. As a result, it stimulates the release of endorphins, which are natural pain relieving hormones (4). The goal is to find breathing patterns that have a calming and relaxing effect. Your breathing should be at a comfortable rate and should not cause you to feel short of breath or light-headed (5).
Unfortunately, despite their effectiveness, most modern childbirth classes don’t include patterned breathing in their curriculum (think old school Lamaze!). Many teach slow abdominal breathing but are unfamiliar with the more advanced techniques that are helpful during the late stages of labor. But don’t worry! Kopa Birth® is an exception to this and teaches all the original Lamaze techniques.
Natural Delivery Tip #6: Stay at home as long as you can
Your home is probably your most comfortable and relaxing space, so try to stay there through at least early labor. With your labor support person, you can have the freedom to move around, eat and drink, and do whatever you need to do to help your labor progress. When your contractions are consistently four to five minutes apart and have lasted for at least an hour, it may be time to check in with your provider and consider heading to the hospital.
Natural Delivery Tip #7: Ask Questions
You can speak up! If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask! For example:
- Do I need the IV?
- Can you bring me a birth ball or peanut ball?
- Can I get in the shower?
- Do you have a warm blanket or extra pillows I can use?
Because you have both options and opinions, it’s important to voice concerns, if needed. Your labor support can also be an advocate for your progress. Don’t forget that if something doesn’t feel right to you, it’s okay to raise your voice and run your thoughts by your nurses, doctor, or midwife. They want to see you succeed!
Natural Delivery Tip #8: Prepare for the Unexpected
Even if you physically and mentally prepare yourself to give birth naturally, occasionally unexpected events may prevent a natural childbirth from happening. It’s important to be flexible and have an open mind, even if that means choosing an epidural. It may sound trite, but the most important thing is the health of you and your little one, and holding your baby is the ultimate reward for all of your hard work!
As you draw closer and closer to your due date, remember that you have many tools to help you feel ready and empowered to meet your baby! Knowledge is power, and by utilizing these 8 natural delivery tips, you will be on the right path to accomplish your goal of a natural childbirth.
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!
(1) Childbirth Connection. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://childbirthconnection.org.
(2) The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/.
(3) Lamaze. (n.d). Retrieved from http://lamaze.org.
(4) Evidence Based Birth. (n.d). Retrieved from https://evidencebasedbirth.com/
(5) American Pregnancy Association. (n.d). Retrieved from https://americanpregnancy.org.