If you want a natural birth, where you feel empowered and in control it is very important to prepare yourself by learning ways to handle labour without the use of drugs.
We refer to these as the tools of natural birth, and it is always good to have as many on hand as you can so if one isn’t doing the trick you have others to try!
One on one midwifery care
Midwives that work in one to one care get to know you and your birth wishes. They can help create a supportive environment and will be with you though out your whole labour and birth. The research shows that having your own midwife gives you the best chance of having a natural birth without sacrificing safety.
Midwives working in this practice of care, believe care should revolve around the needs of the women, rather than around hospital policy and time lines, or their own personal preferences. They are also more likely to encourage natural pain relief methods and will try to make the birth environment quiet and supportive.
There is sufficient evidence now to show that the midwifery view of birth, and the care women receive from people with this view, differs from obstetric view in ways that benefit mothers and babies; midwifery care produces equally good, or even better outcomes, and lower intervention rates for mothers and babies than obstetric care — Goer 1999
The word “Doula” comes from ancient time of Greece, which refers to a woman who is trained and experience in assisting a woman in labour. Also known as a slave or servant to a woman in labour. The role of a Doula is to support a woman in labour where ever she chooses to birth.
A Doula provides continuous physical, emotional, and educational support that begins prior to the birth when a woman is pregnant, leading on through to the birth-day and for a duration after the birth.
Research of 11 controlled studies of over 1000 women by Marshall Klaus, MD and John Kennell, MD, indicated that the presence of a Doula at birth makes big difference resulting in the following statistics:
50% decrease in the need for a caesarean delivery
A 25% decrease in length of labour for first time mothers
A 60% decrease in requests for an epidural
A 40% decrease in the use of artificial oxytocin use
A 30% decrease in the use of forceps
A decrease in the use of pain relief medications (narcotics)
Staying at home as long as possible
Once you arrive at hospital or a birth centre, you enter a world of time frames and policies. If you are not in established labour the pressure of entering such an environment can slow down and even stop your labour. If this happens to you and you given the option to go home, then go home. Women who arrive at the hospital too early have a greater chance of receiving unnecessary intervention that could result in a caesarean. Employing an Independent midwife or doula can help as they can advise when the best time to go to the hospital may be.
One of the most important things to make labour easier and to lower intervention is to have the freedom of movement. When women are in an environment that allows them to move around freely they will usually adopt several different positions, particularly during the second stage of labour.
Being able to move can assist babies to get into the right position to enter the world naturally. Many women are told they require an emergency caesarean after having an epidural because the baby is not in the right position. What they don’t understand is that if they where able to move then there is a good chance there baby would have turned into the correct position preventing the need for the caesarean.
By taking up the squatting position you can enlarge the pelvic opening by as much as 20 to 30%. Due to the fact that many Australia women don’t spend much time squatting, this is a good thing to practice during your pregnancy to help strengthen you thigh muscles. Deep squatting is not recommended in 2nd stage of labour due to perineal tears. It is best to take up a supported squat, either holding onto your birth partner(s) or onto an object to avoid this problem.
In women the coccyx, or tailbone, is hinged in order to increase the dimensions of the pelvis during labour. Lying down, leaning back or sitting on your backside means the potential size of the pelvic outlet is reduced by up to 30 percent.
Gravity helps in an upright position and you are far more in control. When you lie down, the muscles of your uterus have to work harder as you are pushing your baby up hill. This can cause fatigue and may deprive your baby of oxygen.
Lying on your back with your vagina exposed was introduced to make it easier for care providers to get a better view. Being in this position can cause many women to also ‘seize up’ because they feel so exposed which results in the biggest cause of intervention, failure to progress!
Giving birth in an upright position you can expect a shorter labour, you are less likely to request drugs, tear or need to have your labour speeded up. Women in an upright position also report feeling more satisfied and in control of their birth experience.
Pregnant women should not be put in a lithotomy position (on their backs) during labour and delivery. They should be encouraged to walk about during labour and each woman must freely decide which position to adopt during delivery. – World Health Organisation recommendations
There is a lot of information out there on the benefits of using water in labour. Water can help with pain relief or even for the actual birth, by using a shower, a bath or a birth pool. Water can also help soften the skin of the perineum helping to prevent tearing.
Labouring in a shower while in the hospital is also a great way to create some peace and privacy, and allow you to relax and focus on giving birth.
Heat Packs/Hot towels
Heat packs or hot towels on the lower back and on the front can be fabulous. It’s best to have your own so that you can use them at home and then take them to the hospital with you.
Calm birth – hypnosis
Hypnosis for birth teaches a woman and her partner how to release all prior programming about birth, establishing confidence in how to trust her body to birth naturally and normally, and trust in its ability to do the job it is designed to do methodologically.
Research shows that hypnosis can be an effective form of pain relief for labour and birth. Hypnosis is also a good way to deal with anxiety and stress, promoting relaxation, emotional well being and an enhanced sense of control.
A qualified practioner is the best person to provide guidance.
Homeopathy is a gentle natural system of medicine which is based on treating the individual with highly diluted substances given in mainly tablet form, which trigger the body’s natural system of healing. Homeopathy have remedies for pain relief, to encourage your baby to move into a prime position for being born, resolve breastfeeding problems and promote healing.
A qualified practioner is the best person to provide guidance.
Your need to be massaged during labour most likely will vary during the different stages. During early labour and sometimes during active labour, you might just enjoy being stroked. During transition, constant low pressure on your back might be just the thing or just having someone supporting your body may be all that is needed. You might also just enjoy having someone hold your hand, foot or head. What ever you require, don’t be afraid to ask.
If you relax your face and jaw this can help relax your crevices and vaginal area. Many women say they found it helpful to sing or just make sounds when in labour.
TENS stand for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and is a small, battery powered device which sends a pulsed electrical stimulus via pads placed on your back. The manufacturer or the TENS say it works by releasing natural pain killers (endorphins and encephalins), blocks out pain messages to the brain and provides a sense of control over labour pain and gives an alternative focus.
Aromatherapy is the use of concentrated oils – Please consult a practitioner for advice.
Clary sage – strengthens contractions. This stimulates the uterus and MUST only be used once you are already in labour.
Lavender – to aid relaxation.
Waterbirths: A Comparative Study. A Prospective Study on More than 2,000 Waterbirths
This research from Switzerland shows that: “waterbirths demonstrate fewer episiotomies, higher rates of intact perineum, lower blood loss and lower use of painkillers. Moreover, neonatal infections do not occur more frequently.”
Waterbirths compared with landbirths: an observational study of nine years.
Landbirths show higher rates of episiotomies as well as third and fourth degree perineal lacerations. Waterbirths show a higher rate of births “without injuries”, first and second-degree perineal lacerations, vaginal and labial tears. After a waterbirth, there is an average loss of 5.26 g/l blood; this is significantly less than landbirths where there is an 8.08 g/l blood loss on average. In 69.7% waterbirths required no analgesic, compared to 58.0% for landbirths. Water and landbirths do not differ with respect to maternal and neonatal infections. After landbirths, there was a higher rate of newborn complications with subsequent transfer to an external NICU. During the study, there were neither maternal nor neonatal deaths related to spontaneous labor.