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Eight Rules for Planning a Natural Birth
Natural childbirth is defined as labor and childbirth without medical intervention. It sounds so peaceful, so soothing and so perfect, yet in the moment it can be filled with such challenges, such discomfort and such pain. Don’t get me wrong, a natural child birthing experience can be a beautiful and euphoric event, a time that will never be forgotten, a unique triumph filled with joy and loving memories.
Now, be forewarned, you can watch all of the child birthing DVD’s you can stomach, go to all the birthing classes you have time for, and hire the best birthing coaches you can afford, but until you go through the experience firsthand then there’s very little that can prepare you for the range of emotions you will encounter.
Below are some rules to consider if you are planning a natural childbirth. These rules were developed from personal experience after going through the natural birthing process with each of my two sons. And although these rules are not etched in stone, they will provide food for thought if you are weighing your natural birthing options.
Rule # 1 Decide Beforehand if you are Going to Go Natural
Read books, talk to people who’ve been through it, do your research online, and watch natural birthing DVD’s. Prepare yourself as much as possible on what this experience entails. Because it’s such a surreal event, deciding “on the fly”, when you’re 6 centimeters dilated is not the best time to determine if you’re going to go natural or get an epidural. In the heat of the moment, you’ll most likely opt for the drugs. If you make the decision beforehand, you’re less likely to change your mind and you’ll be better prepared for the intensity that comes along with labor and birth.
Rule # 2 Choose the Right Practitioner For You
You want the person who is going to deliver your baby to be supportive of you and your decisions. Choosing the right individual is vital to your overall experience. Whether it’s a doctor who specializes in high-risk births, an obstetrician, your family doctor, or even a midwife, the right practitioner is key to your overall delivery success. They will see you through your entire pregnancy and be familiar with your needs and desires. When it comes time to select the right person interview as many candidates as you can, get referrals, do your due diligence along with a good background check. If it sounds like you’re seeking to hire the most qualified candidate for an extremely rare job, then I’ve done this rule justice.
Rule #3 Decide Where You Will Deliver
Will it be at home or at a birthing center or a hospital? More and more women are choosing to deliver at home because giving birth in a familiar setting is less stressful and far more comfortable for them. A birthing center is a home-like setting that offers a place for low risk women to deliver with little medical intervention, in particular pain-relieving medications. A birthing center uses doctors, midwives and doulas to help parents have a more natural birth.
If you choose a hospital then it’s important to pick a hospital that you feel comfortable in. Is there a shower in the room? What kind of ratings have the maternity ward received? How far is it from your home? You should interview the nurses and take a tour of the facility where you will give birth. When it’s time for delivery then you want to know your way around as much as possible. Whichever place you choose to deliver make sure it’s the best choice for you.
Rule #4 Find a Birthing Class
Bradley is the class used most when planning a natural childbirth. It’s also called the husband-coached birth. The Bradley method prepares the mother to deliver without pain medications and prepares the baby's father to be mom's birth coach. Although this method prepares you to give birth without medications, it also prepares you for the possibility of unexpected situations, such as an emergency cesarean. Additionally, you’ll be trained on pain relieving techniques, along with learning about different positions and various ways that you can deliver your child.
Rule #5 Consider Hiring a Doula
Husbands are great coaches, but they can get tired, especially during a long labor. No one knows the birthing process better than an expert in the field. A doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. They offer pain management and relaxation techniques, and even aid in the breastfeeding process. Another benefit of a doula is that she can give the dad breaks to rest and nap, if need be, while labor continues. You can discuss with your doula what specific type of support she will provide.
Rule # 6 Have a Birth Plan
A birth plan is a way for you to effectively communicate your preferences for your birth to your practitioner, and your birth team. The birth plan will guide you step-by-step on the entire process and help you to prepare for the unknowns. This plan should be given to all people involved in your birthing process: your doctor, the nurses, etc. Below is the birth plan that I used for my oldest son. Please customize accordingly.
SAMPLE BIRTH PLAN
I'd like the option of returning home if I'm not in active labor.
Within proper safe circumstances, I'd like to be able to progress at my own pace and have minimal medical interventions.
Please don't offer me any pain medication.
I'd like to move around and switch positions as I choose.
I'd like to wear my contact lenses, as long as I don't need a C-section.
I'd like to eat light snacks and drink clear fluids to maintain my energy/hydration levels.
I'd like to use the shower, breathing exercises, hot/cold therapy, acupressure, and massage as comfort measures.
If interventions become necessary, please take the time to review pros and cons with us.
Unless medically necessary, I'd like to avoid an episiotomy.
Within safe limitations, I'd like the pushing stage to be free of time constraints.
If available and if I desire, I'd like to use a squatting bar.
I'd like to be coached on when and how long to push.
I'd like my husband to possibly help catch our son and cut the umbilical cord, after it has stopped pulsating.
I'd like to hold my baby and breastfeed immediately after the birth.
I'd prefer not to receive oxytocin to deliver the placenta or at any time.
I would like my husband to be present at all times. If the Anesthesiologist gives permission, I'd like our doula in the operating room also.
Providing that he is stable, my husband would like to hold the baby after he is dried off.
I'd like to breastfeed as soon as possible.
Please delay non-critical measures so we can bond without interruption.
I'd love to have all newborn procedures take place in my presence, and have the baby stay in my room. I'd like my husband to remain with him if I can't be there.
The three of us would like to stay in a private room, with a cot provided for my husband.
We'd like our son to be circumcised at the hospital.
I prefer to feed on demand, breastfeeding exclusively. Please don't offer a pacifier.
If available, I would appreciate a meeting with a lactation consultant.
Rule # 7 Make Sure Your Bags are Packed
At least 8 weeks prior to your due date, your bags should be packed and ready to go if you need to rush to the hospital or birthing center. Even if you’re planning to deliver at home you should pack a bag just in case you need to be hospitalized. Your bag should include: snacks, water, a comfortable change of clothes, pajamas, nursing bras, maxi pads, socks, slippers, magazines, toiletries (face wash, lotions, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc), camera, a take-home outfit for the baby, and diapers. 8 weeks may seem far in advance, but don’t get caught off-guard by the unexpected.
Rule # 8 Forget the Rules if There’s an Emergency
If your child or your health is in jeopardy, or other extenuating circumstances make the situation too critical to continue along the natural path, then forget the rules and do what you can for your health and your baby’s. If anyone’s health is at stake, then medicating should be the new rule to ensure a safe delivery.
Bringing a life into this world is a miraculous feat, no matter what type of birthing process you choose. The experience I went through is not meant to be a hard and fast mandate, but guidelines to pursue if you are deciding to take the natural child-birthing course. These 8 rules are intended to shed light on the natural birthing process and hopefully help you discover which path is right for your family.