We recently shared an article on the importance of becoming informed about your labor choices. At the end, we promised to write a follow up article on our success tips for achieving an unmedicated, natural childbirth. We are happy to share our ideas with you in this post! If you are planning for an unmedicated, natural childbirth, or are still deciding your plans, we encourage you to read on and let us know what questions you have.
Childbirth is one of the most intimate, spiritual and primal events that a woman can experience in her lifetime. It is beautiful and visceral. And, despite how today’s media portrays childbirth, it can be empowering and even calm!
If you are hoping to have an unmedicated, natural childbirth, it’s important to be informed about the factors that can either support, or interfere with, your plans. That’s why we pulled together these eight strategies so that you can best prepare your mind and body for the physical and mental processes of labor.
Eight Strategies to Prepare for an Unmedicated, Natural Childbirth
1. Eat a nutritious diet.
Regardless of how you plan to give birth, eating a healthy diet is paramount to the health and future health of your baby and YOU. It’s especially important for supporting an unmedicated birth. Eating foods that are high in quality and nutrients, and avoiding processed foods and sugar provides you with the following benefits:
- Gaining only the amount of weight that your body requires for pregnancy, and nothing more, making active labor more manageable
- Reduced risk of developing gestational diabetes (meaning less risk for induction and c-section as a result)
- Reduced risk of developing high blood pressure, or preeclampsia
- Access to the nutrients your baby requires for proper growth and development
- Higher energy levels
- Greater nutrient and vitamin stores for your body to utilize after baby’s needs are met
- Improved microbiome and gut health – important for your immunity and your baby’s
2. Move your body and build your strength.
Walk often and do activities to help build muscle strength. This helps your body grow stronger and better able to support the growing weight of your baby. It also helps during labor as you take on various positions during contractions and the pushing stage. If you already exercised prior to pregnancy, you can likely continue your exercise, potentially with just some modifications. Talk to your doctor or a fitness professional with prenatal experience to find out what’s safe. If you didn’t exercise prior to becoming pregnant, start by walking – gradually adding distance each week. You can search online for pregnancy-safe exercises and programs for beginners to help you focus on building strength when you’re ready.
3. Maintain good posture.
One thing that my medical providers never told me during my pregnancy was the importance of maintaining good posture, especially as you enter the third trimester. I learned this through my own research by accident and hope to help other women with this important info. It’s common to slouch when we sit, especially in late pregnancy when we just want to curl up on the couch and relax! The problem with allowing our spine to curl in a “C” shape is that it encourages baby to fall into less-than-optimal positioning. This can lead baby to become breech. The closer you are to your due date, the larger your baby is and will become less likely to turn on their own without intervention.
Many providers are unwilling to support vaginal delivery due to safety risks and will instead suggest delivery by c-section. To support optimal positioning for your baby naturally, it’s important to maintain good posture while standing AND sitting. This includes sitting in the car or on the couch, where it becomes easy to slouch. Keep your spine elongated and straight. While it’s important not to create the “C” shape with your spine, it’s also important not to over-arch your back. Doing so places stress on your lower back thanks to your heavy belly, and can lead to back pain and discomfort.
4. Prime your mind.
Labor is a very mental experience. It is extremely helpful to visualize your positive, successful labor. Make a list of birthing affirmations and say them to yourself. Do these things every day, as often as you can. Truly believe in the words you’re telling yourself and the picture you’re creating. Whatever you picture, you CAN manifest.
5. Create your birth plan and avoid interventions, if possible.
Your birth team needs to know your labor preferences, otherwise they can’t help you achieve them. Read our post about creating your birth plan. Read this post about common interventions and their risk in preventing unmedicated birth. Then, once you’ve made your plan, share your preferences with your medical provider to be sure they are supportive of them. Share it with your spouse or significant other and any others who will be in the room with you. Print two copies to take to the birth facility with you and give them to the nurse or anyone on staff supporting you.
6. Determine how you’ll cope with labor contractions.
Be sure you have tools and strategies to help you manage feelings of pain and discomfort. There are various childbirth classes intended to help women with unmedicated birth, as well as books and other online resources. I personally benefited by watching natural childbirth videos. I’m a very visual person and watching other women breathe through contractions, witnessing their partners and birth team support them during labor and finally pushing their baby out helped me gain confidence in my own ability to birth my baby.
7. Identify your support team.
Decide who will support you and be in the room during the birth of your baby. Some people desire to only have their spouse or significant other. Others wish to have their mom and/or sister there, while others plan to have many people attending. Whoever will be in the room with you, be sure that their presence won’t cause you to feel self-conscious or uncomfortable. You also want to ensure that each person understands what role you want them to play. Let them know how they can support you and be sure they are aware of the preferences in your birth plan.
Also, it may be a good idea to set expectations with anyone attending your birth that you may ask them to leave if you think it will help you focus during labor, and not to be hurt if that happens. This is your childbirth experience and those who love and it support you want you to have the best experience for you and your baby. Don’t feel bad if you plan to have people attend and then end up preferring a more intimate space with just you and your significant other.
8. Stress less, rest and relax more.
Stress is problematic during pregnancy for many reasons. One of them is that chronic negative stress can lead to greater chances of going into labor early, which can thwart your chances of achieving an unmedicated birth. A recent article in The New York Times noted the drop in premature babies that many hospitals have seen since COVID-19. Could it be because many women started working from home, were no longer running from place to place and as a result, experienced less stress? Prolonged stress has also been shown to have potentially negative effects on the baby, like low birth weight, cognitive and sleeping challenges later on. Stress and anxiety can also lead to you making choices that go against the other strategies in this post, like quality nutrition and moving your body.
Speaking of moving your body, this suggestion to rest and relax more doesn’t mean “be sedentary.” It means taking regular breaks to go on short walks outside, or do activities that bring you joy. It’s being intentional about reducing external stressors and things that cause you overwhelm. Many women have big to-do lists of things to get done before the baby comes, but how many of those tasks truly have to get done before the baby arrives? What tasks could you delegate to others who are willing to help? It also means focusing on quality sleep and rest. Sleep becomes difficult in the third trimester, so find other pockets of time during your day to nap or rest. Your sleep is crucial for supporting your baby’s development, maintaining your energy levels and for your own body’s restoration.
We hope these eight strategies help you prepare for an amazing natural childbirth experience! We think they are so important for supporting the unmedicated birth you desire. And, if you’re a mama who has given birth without medication previously, we’d love to hear what other tips you have for our fellow mama warriors!