Sounds easy enough, right?
When I talk to first time mothers to be I often find that they like the idea of natural birth, but just want to wait and see what happens and if they "can" have one. Yes- and if you are trying to lose ten pounds, are you going to go to your favorite chocolate store, on an empty stomach, hang out for a few hours, and just see how you feel about consuming 4000 calories?! Not possible!! You have to put yourself in a position of power and safety. In our current obstetric system, the fact is, most women are not going to get anywhere near a natural birth without a LOT of preparation on their part. This is a totally natural, everyday event- but it is not viewed that way in this country nor is it seen that way by many obstetric surgeons. It is viewed as a disease and treated as such. The expecting mom must prepare herself mentally, physically, and emotionally for the life-changing event of birth. Here are a few tips that might help.
1. Take a good natural birth class-
I teach the Birth Boot Camp classes (we also have online natural birth classes) so I am biased toward that method and I feel like it covers pretty much everything that you might need to know. There many other methods out there and some might work better for some women than another. If you are sure you want a natural birth, check out the childbirth class you are looking at and the teacher. Bradley keeps track of their medication rates and c-section rates, as do individual teachers. Some classes are going to prepare you for a natural birth. Some, (particularly hospital classes) are going to prepare you for typical interventions. They vary a lot in length also. You probably will not get all the info you need from a brief one day or one month class.
Yes, yes, I know, that takes so much time, and you're broke, and it is a long drive to your teacher. Do not let yourself make excuses. A good class is worth it. Why? Your birth will change you forever. I promise you this. If it goes well you will start your mothering career out with confidence, a partner that admires your hard work and worked right along side you, and an alert and healthy baby that got the best start it could have in life. If it is a horrible and traumatic experience you will possibly, feel depressed and less confident in your mothering abilities and face a longer recovery. Many mom's who have traumatic birth's are injured and exhausted from the ordeal for many months. It takes many, many weeks to recover from surgical birth or a bad tear, sometimes even months. This is no fun when trying to deal with the 24 hour demands of a newborn who needs you even when you need sleep. Let us not forget also, that the first birth is going to effect our subsequent births. Not only may you have negative memories and emotional baggage to work through, if your birth ended in cesarean, it is incredibly difficult to v-bac in this country right now. Many Ob's and hospitals simply refuse to do it. Even many midwives are nervous about it. So, your first birth is important and worth the effort.
So- spend the money (or find a newer, less expensive teacher, or one who is willing to do trade or take payments) and take the time to take a good class. It takes time to make the good habits and lifestyle changes that you need to to be prepared for a natural birth. It also takes time to forget all the wrong things you have learned and to grow in confidence. Mom- if you are gung-ho and have read everything- still take a class!! It will give you a network of support in a world where very few mothers are knowledgeable about birth, it makes your husband learn, and it gives you time to incorporate relaxation, exercise, and diet into your life before you become high risk.
2. Read good birth books-
There is no excuse for not getting this information because it is out there. I have a list of my favorite books on my blog and many are available at the library or can be borrowed by you childbirth educator if you can't buy them.
3. Eat right
Becoming 'mysteriously' high risk (usually climbing blood pressure) is a very common reason for induction and everything that goes along with it. I have a link to the Brewer diet which will almost magically help you stay healthy, grow a healthy baby, and stay low risk. If you take a Bradley class you will learn about this in every class and get lots of tips. Most Americans eat like crap and do not even know how to eat right. This is worth learning and I believe it makes a huge difference in the health of the pregnancy and baby. You will probably not get this info from your care provider. I actually had a MD tell me that the only thing you needed to prevent birth defects was folic acid!!!! This is simply not true. A high protein diet (80-100 grams per day), rich in green vegetables, fruit and health whole grains will make you feel better, look better and grow a baby that is getting what it needs. Many of us are under the impression that the baby will "get what it needs" no matter what we do. The baby can't get something that is not there, and you will become high risk if you eat badly enough.
4. Carefully choose your care provider and birth place-
Take the time to research your OB or Midwife. Ask them specific questions. (Again, a good class will help you know what to ask) What is your c-section rate?- they usually know or at least should! Legally, hospitals have to publish their c-section rates so you can access that info. (Be careful as you read though, they often make the c-section rate look lower by not including repeat section, or c-sections for "good" reason. The overall rate is usually higher.) Ask around about them. Just because your sister loved Dr X does not mean you will. Many women like to schedule their births by induction or c-section or just like to be told what to do. They may love him, but you may hate him. Even with a midwife, check credentials, ask around, and pick one you like. This person is going to share an intimate memory with your family. I also like to have a midwife that gets along with my husband so there is no tension in the room when I am trying to have a baby!
Check out your place of birth too- For example, I lived very near a beautiful hospital in Dallas. It was in a wealthy area, and very clean and organized and well decorated. The staff was nice. They had a 95% induction rate, and a 50% cesarean rate (highest in the state) and everybody got continuous fetal monitoring, delivered on their back in stirrups, was not permitted to move, and had an IV. I do not know how many women I talked to who had their babies there because they just did not think it could happen to them. It can happen to you. Chances are, it will in our current system. If you are going to a hospital just because it is convenient, then you should seriously consider how convenient major abdominal surgery is. It is worth it to drive a ways for good care from somebody you trust who is practicing evidence based obstetrics.
Just a little plug- midwives have about a 10% transport rate for home births while the epidural rate in most hospitals is near 100% and the c-section rate is over 30% nationally. Where you choose to have your baby and who helps you have it is one of the biggest factors in determining how your baby will be born. It is not too late to switch providers until the cord is cut. Your birth is worth it and so are you and your baby.
Relax and believe!-
I know, I just scared you to death. But- your best friend is just being able to relax through labor and believe that you can do it. The belief that birth is painful and scary is so ingrained in our society that we really need to work through that. Even women who have had no bad experience with birth have internalized a lot of these negative ideas. As a culture we do not value women and their unique gifts- learn to value them and grow in confidence. And- practice relaxation every day!
Hope this helps- there is much more to know- but the info is out there- go find it!