Here’s where I give credit where credit is due: these 6 natural childbirth tips are from Lamaze International
. Even more specifically, they’re adapted from The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence
You can read these 6 tips for safe, healthy and natural childbirth from Lamaze at their website
. Each tip has its own web page with instructional video along with a downloadable PDF complete with study citations, medical association endorsements and expert quotes. You can also find the natural childbirth tips in Spanish on their website as well.
The stories I share below are my own, but the statements about the health and safety benefits of the natural childbirth tips are summaries of scientific research, not opinion. Because I'm not a medical professional, however, I encourage you to speak with your own health care provider about these natural childbirth tips, especially the parts about refusing childbirth interventions.
6 Natural Childbirth Tips
Natural Childbirth Tip #1: Wait for labor to happen when it happens
It’s not at all uncommon today for women to want to induce their babies, but letting labor start on its own is the first thing you can do to try to have a natural childbirth. Plus, it's the safest, healthiest choice for both mom and baby unless there’s a medical justification for induction (i.e., you have high blood pressure, gestational diabetes or a uterine infection, baby’s growing too slowly or you’re over 42 weeks gestation).
Inducing labor doubles your risk of having a c-section, which, in turn, has its own risks for mom and baby. Babies born to moms who have induced labors have a higher incidence of jaundice, shoulder dystocia, low birth weight and admission to NICU.
Natural Childbirth Tip #2: Move during labor, including walking and changing positions
Although we see images on TV and in movies of women giving birth on their backs, the truth of childbirth is that women have traditionally moved around and labored in various positions, from squatting to hands and knees to draping over the back of a bed. Walking during labor, staying upright on a birth ball, and changing positions during labor all increase your chances of having a natural childbirth and they all add up to positive things for both mom and baby.
Studies show that women who move during labor and change positions during childbirth have a reduced need for Pitocin, shorter labor and reduced pain and discomfort. There’s also plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that changing positions helps baby get into better position for birthing.
Natural Childbirth Tip #3: Have support with you, whether it be a midwife, doula, partner, friend or family member
Continuous support from an experienced labor partner makes a huge difference in birth outcomes. From my own experience, I can attest to this! I could not have had such a wonderful natural childbirth experience if it hadn’t been for my midwife, whose presence, guidance and encouragement helped me through the moments of labor and birth when I was afraid.
Fear causes our bodies to release adrenaline (the fight or flight response) and during labor and childbirth, adrenaline cancels out your body’s experience of oxytocin. Oxytocin is critical to a healthy, pain-free birth. The more fear you have, the more pain you will feel, the more likely your labor will “stall” and the more likely your risk of medical intervention. With a doula, midwife, or other experienced and trusted labor partner, you’re less likely to need a c-section, vacuum extraction or forceps—three outcomes that all increase the risk of injury to your baby.
Natural Childbirth Tip #4: Unless medically necessary, refuse interventions and invasive procedures
I use the word “refuse” because if you’re giving birth in a hospital, it’s very likely that a number of interventions and invasive procedures are part of the normal hospital childbirth protocol. No matter what your birth plan states, you’re likely to find that your hospital includes one or more of the following procedures as part of low-risk childbirth:
- continuous electronic fetal monitoring;
- routine IV insertion;
- breaking the water (amniotomy);
- encouragement to have an epidural;
- not allowing you to eat or drink during labor;
- routine administration of Pitocin;
Before I went into labor, I had discussed these things with my midwife and she gave me the ok to refuse the IV and epidural. She knew I was low-risk and supported my wish to have a drug-free childbirth that was as natural as possible. When I got to the hospital in labor and refused the IV insertion, however, the nurse attending me was none too pleased. She retaliated by telling me that the fetal monitor showed my baby was in distress and she made me stay strapped to the bed, scared and in pain, until my midwife arrived and chewed her out for lying to me.
This is not to say that hospital births are “bad” or “negative,” simply that there are hospital protocols in place and the nurses and staff are trained to follow those protocols. They’re trying to do their jobs, and do them well, and thus, they care more about following their own hospital procedures than they do your birth plan. You need to know this in advance if you’re hoping for a natural childbirth. Your best bet is to talk with the nurses before you go into labor, ask them what hospital protocols you can refuse and then have an advocate (your labor partner) there with you when you check in to handle the conversations with the attending staff. The reason that you want to refuse the interventions, unless they’re medically necessary, is because with each one, your chances of harm to the baby or you increase. There’s no scientific evidence showing that any of the above interventions lead to safer, healthier babies or mothers.
Natural Childbirth Tip #5: Birth upright, on hands and knees, or squatting; on your back is the worst position
Again, we’ve all seen TV images of women flat on their backs pushing out babies, but do you realize that that’s the WORST possible position to give birth?
Not only does the weight of the baby and your uterus compress the blood flow in your body (which can cause the baby to not get enough oxygen, leading to a higher heart rate that then prompts a c-section), but the prone position also shrinks the opening of your pelvis. You have less room to push out your baby. Women who give birth in other positions tend to have shorter, less painful pushing stages and a slight decrease in their risk of episiotomy, forceps and vacuum extraction—which all adds up to less risk of injury to your baby.
Natural Childbirth Tip #6: After baby is born, keep baby with you for skin-to-skin contact and nursing
Sometimes, separation of the mom and baby after birth can’t be avoided. Despite my birth plan and my wish to hold my daughter immediately after her birth, meconium (stool) in her amniotic sac resulted in her being taken away as soon as she was pushed out and her mouth was suctioned to prevent any meconium from going into her lungs when she took her first breath. Barring any medical reason for the baby to be whisked away like that, though, it’s safest and healthiest for the newborn to be placed directly on your naked chest, so you two have skin-to-skin contact and the chance to begin breastfeeding right away. Studies show that babies who have skin-to-skin contact with their moms immediately after birth breathe better, have more stable blood sugar, and have an easier time breastfeeding (and breastfeed longer).
What did you think of these 6 tips for natural childbirth? Did anything surprise you? What were your own experiences giving birth? I’d love to hear your comments.
Here’s to your safe, healthy, natural childbirth. I wish you all the best!
Thanks for reading, sharing and have a happy "labor day,"