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What is Natural Childbirth?
Natural childbirth is the experience of labor and delivery without the help of conventional drugs and conventional medications. When you choose natural birth, it means that you choose not to have any ‘synthetic’ pain relievers such as epidurals and minimal interventions (continuous fetal monitoring or cesareans) during the birth process (which can sometimes ‘numb’ the experience).
Natural childbirth allows the woman to lead and control the labor and delivery process with the guidance and encouragement of a labor assistant. Most women who choose this path of letting nature take its course are aware that a little bit of pain and discomfort are an intrinsic part of giving birth. With the right preparation and support, women who experience natural birth often feel extremely empowered and a deep sense of accomplishment – and contrary to popular belief – natural birth does not mean having to endure extreme fatigue and pain.
Help for Natural Childbirth
Preparing for natural childbirth
Once you have made the decision to give birth naturally, you need to start preparing for it. Early prenatal care is essential and includes following a healthy diet, exercising and having regular appointments with your midwife or birthing assistant. Create a birth plan, a written statement which sets out your wishes or preferences for labor, delivery and the postpartum period.
Enlist the help of a midwife or doula to help and coach you through natural birth. If you choose a doctor or obstetrician, you will give birth in a hospital, and it is essential that you discuss various interventions such as IV or electronic monitoring which may occur. It is likely to be easier to give birth at home or at a birth center (facility with a homely environment) instead of a hospital.
Attend childbirth classes which uses the Lamaze or Bradley technique by teaching women controlled breathing and visualization techniques. Educate yourself by reading, attending workshops, or watching DVDs to learn more about preparation for childbirth and delivery. Various pain management techniques can help you work through labor pain. Choose a technique that suits your needs and makes you feel comfortable.
Two of the oldest and most popular childbirth philosophies are the Lamaze and Bradley method. The Lamaze technique advocates that birth is a normal, natural and healthy process and teaches women to make informed decisions about their birth experience. It offers a neutral approach to pain medication together with medical and surgical options and allows the couple to use the information in a way that works best for them. The Lamaze method teaches women patterned, controlled breathing techniques and active concentration to distract them from the pain of childbirth. They are also taught about labor, birthing positions, the postpartum period and breastfeeding. In addition, Lamaze partners learn coaching techniques and how to offer support and encouragement.
The Bradley method (also called Husband-Coached Birth) emphasizes a natural approach to birth and discourages the use of ‘artificial’ medication. It encourages the active participation of the baby’s father and believes that women have a more positive birthing experience when their partner is present.
This method also promotes good nutrition and exercise throughout pregnancy, and using deep-breathing and relaxation techniques to cope with labor pain. Although the Bradley method does support an extremely natural birth experience without medication, it also helps to prepare for unexpected complications such as an emergency C-section.
Other pain-management techniques
Other pain-management techniques include:
- Hypno-birthing (hypnosis)
- Breathing and visualization techniques
- Massage touch and counter-pressure
- Hot or cold therapy
- Hydrotherapy or taking a bath or shower
- Changing position such as walking around, showering, leaning or rocking on birthing balls
- Distracting yourself by performing an activity such as watching a movie
- Listening to soothing music or guided imagery
Often, women who had previously decided on natural birth as part of their birth plan may not be able to deal with labor pains and request pain medications. Sometimes a complicated labor requires medication or perhaps a C-section needs to be performed. It is understandable that you may be disappointed for not being able to deliver naturally, but remember that giving birth with or without medical intervention is still a gratifying experience. A woman should never feel guilty if she finds that natural birth is too much for her.
Natural and holistic remedies have also proven to have a therapeutic effect on women in labor. Carefully selected herbs such as Stachys officinalis (Wood betony), Blue Cohosh (Papoose Root or Squaw Root) and Verbena officinalis (Vervain or Wild Hyssop) are natural pain-relievers and encourage relaxation during childbirth. Other powerful herbs include Pulsatilla vulgaris (Pasque Flower) and Raspberry leaves (Rubus idaeus) stimulate regular contractions and prevents swelling and bleeding after birth. In addition, many herbs can help stimulate each phase of labor, including the deliver of the placenta or afterbirth