How to have a ‘Natural’ Birth
How can I have the best possible empowered birth experience?
How can I have a ‘natural’ birth?
I’m sure to our ancestors that the idea of having to ‘prepare’ for birth would have seemed slightly odd in the era where life and death were interwoven into the fabric of life. In the paradigm of the patriarchy, of the rational mind as supreme and of disconnection from our power as a woman there is a lot to dive into. Advances in the medical profession bought great life saving advances, but it also disempowered and disconnected women from the most life affirming spiritual experiences on offer to humanity.
Not everyone who wishes to is able to have a spontaneous vaginal birth. There are many factors at play, including the position of the baby and placenta, the health of baby and mother, hospital regulations, the legal system and so many more. There is also the ‘business of being born’. This is a long and complex issue.
Not everyone wants to have a ‘natural birth’ for diverse reasons. There are women out there who have all the information they could need and make empowered choices for scheduled c-sections and so on. I respect empowered choice.
For all the women making these choices there are huge numbers who are not able to choose as they do not have the information from which to make an informed choice or are forced to make unappealing decisions. That’s the reality and on my prenatal YTT course I’ve met so many women who are so disappointed the learnings have come ‘too late’ for them, although they are always keen to help other women to have a different experience.
When I was pregnant with my son, I decided with my doctor not to have a birth plan, except for my personal wish to have ‘no intervention’. But honestly, without all my studies I would have had a completely different experience. It is fear that changes everything and confidence in my body and my connection to my then baby that gave me an ’empowered birth’. The outcome of the birth then becomes less important than the experience of the birth. That the birth is ‘woman centered’ and the woman feels comfortable and supported and listened to is at centre stage.
So what can you do to prepare for an empowered birth?
Before the birth
1) If you are required to choose a doctor, choose you obstetrician wisely. Otherwise choose midwife led care.
If you are required to choose which doctor attends your birth, such as in the UAE, (and remember it is YOU who will ‘deliver’ the baby!). Make sure your doctor is ‘active birth friendly’. A doctor who insists you must be in a certain position for delivery, wants to induce without a sound reason = alarm bells. If you are able to join a midwife led system, this is ideal. Continuous care throughout your pregnancy gives you the opportunity to be cared for, respected and honoured.
2) Prenatal yoga to prepare mind and body
Prenatal yoga encourages you to develop a relationship with your baby throughout the pregnancy and encourages bonding. A good teacher will encourage you to tune inwards during pregnancy and follow your intuition. There are pelvic floor exercises to tone your muscles and the asana (postures) help you maintain health and create space on all levels. The relaxation elements, as well as a breathing focus are all birth preparations in themselves.
3) optimal foetal positioning
Staying active during your pregnancy encourages your baby to be in the optimal position for birth and gives you the best chance of a ‘natural’ birth. If your baby is back to back, labour is notoriously more painful and most doctors will not agree to attempt a breech delivery these days. If you find out your baby is ‘breech’, there are many options (see my other blog).
4) educate yourself and read positive birth stories
It’s important to tune in to other women who have had positive experiences. Read books written by Ina May Gaskin. Open your eyes to the range of experiences people are having; even watch ‘Orgasmic birth’ directed by Debra Pascali-Bonaro. In addition, educate yourself about the medical system so you know what you are dealing with (watch the “Business of Being Born” for example).
5) educate your partner
Educates your partner on the basics of birth if they are attending the birth with you. Try a partner yoga birth workshop or some antenatal classes. If your partner understands that supporting you, may mean witnessing your intense experience and not panicking and trying to ‘take the pain away’ it can help a lot. Make sure that they know what contributes to a smooth birth (privacy, minimal interference, your ability to express yourself and what physical positions) are helpful for active birth. Educate them on the pleasure paradigm of birth, even suggesting the power of intimacy during labour.
6) Be aware of how to optimize the undesirable
consider what you would do if you had to have intervention such as reading about conscious/empowered/woman focussed caesarian and managing an induction to get the best result. Ultimately, it is your reaction to events, not the events themselves which matters.
7) consider your own emotional baggage and fear
Previous challenging or traumatic birth experiences can be hard to move on from and requires ‘work’ before the birth. Investigate councilling and other emotional release therapies. This may also apply to your own birth, the stories shared by family members etc. Find outlets to express these experiences or even try something like ‘rebirthing’ which is in the realm of hypnotherapy. Try writing and drawing what fears you are dealing with and voice them in a supportive community or sisterhood.
8) wind down to the birth
A month before the birth, make sure you have the minimal amount of responsibilities. Get help for your other children if you can. Many women stop work a few days before the birth ‘to get more time after the birth with the baby’, but this can be a false economy if this then leads you out of the best birth experience. Birth intervention requires weeks and months of additional recovery on every level. Connect with nature. Tune in. Listen to your body and the baby. Indulge yourself and prepare your mind.
At the birth
9) Being prepared for intensity is easier said than done. Hypnotherapy works for many people or the yoga experience of ‘being in discomfort’ is an excellent support. Let your ‘inner monkey’ do the work – this is a primal experience. Absolutely, totally express yourself in every way, whatever way you need to. Absolutely and completely abandon any feeling of embarrassment regarding your body position, passing poop in the process of labour etc. Travel inside. Laugh. Cry. Use your intuition. Remind yourself to breathe.
Whenever you feel that you can’t cope any more, remind yourself that you are powerful and your body is doing everything it needs to do. Visualise the outcome you desire. Remind yourself the most common time to feel like ‘you can’t do it’ is during the peak and transition stage of labour when you are due to start bearing down. Embody the moment and don’t run away from intensity; be in the intensity. It is serving you and leading your baby out! Sound the experience in the most primal way. Moan, low and long, find your inner animal and wildest woman.
Very importantly, be active, change position, allow your pelvis space.
I swear that acupuncture to open the cervix in the last few weeks was effective and truly supportive. Highly recommended in late pregnancy. Martine at the Koster Clinic in Dubai is truly magic and I’m sure globally there are many wonderful acupuncturists supporting pregnancy.
And of course hiring a doula (birth support) is also a wonderful option.
Ultimately, remember the huge hit of oxytocin waiting for you after a drug free, intervention free labour. It’s spectacular! Intervention, drug free birth (Caesar) and my induction baby (Ananda) were the most empowering experiences of my life. Embrace it with all your being and remember the end product – your baby!!!!!
Ina May Gaskin – Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
Janet Balaskas – Active Birth
Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation – Pam England, 1998