Written by contributor Amy Thompson of Progressive Pioneer.
Planning for my daughter’s natural birth began long before her actual due date. Being a researcher by training and nature, I read voraciously. Everything from Taking Charge of Your Fertility to Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Consequently I incorporated natural methods into my prenatal regimen, the actual birth, postpartum healing and even the recovery from an unexpected hospitalization three weeks after the birth.
In addition to prenatal vitamins (I take Rainbow Light) I was religious about my daily green smoothies and fresh, raw juices as well as fish oil and calcium. I’m a big tea drinker so I replaced my normal red tea with raspberry leaf.
I knew that preparing for a natural birth is not unlike preparing for a marathon. You can’t cram all the work in at the last minute; your body needs time to build up its strength and reserves of important building materials. A healthy body and healthy baby increase the chance of an intervention-free birth. I even went to the gym regularly, at least until those last, body-morphing months.
We saw a wonderful midwife throughout my pregnancy. As my due date passed and we were looking 42 weeks square in the eyes, we had to confront the fact that as a VBAC (my first baby was cesarean) a certified midwife could legally attend me at home only up until 42 weeks, then it was off to the hospital. Even with unexpected events such as this, there are natural methods to try first.
A few days before the 42 week deadline, my midwife stripped my membranes and gave me a tincture of blue and black cohosh, and herb that stimulates labor. The nice thing about a natural induction such as this is that your body will not go into labor if the baby truly is not ready, but if it is, it will give you just the nudge you need. More conventional methods can often induce the arrival of a baby that’s not quite ready to greet the world.
My midwife compares the herbal induction to giving your car a jump start; after the jump it can drive on its own. Other methods of induction, such as pitocin, she says are more like the tow truck; it just takes you where it wants you to go!
Once my labor got going we employed several natural techniques:
- Hypnobabies hypnosis. The major benefit of this for me was that it enabled me to remain calm and confident throughout the experience, due to the positive affirmations I listened to in the preceding months.
- Calm, supportive birth partner who’s in it for the long haul. In my case, my husband served as a perfect birth partner. A doula can serve the same role, and is often very helpful in addition to a husband or other attendant. Research shows that rates of interventions such as forceps, episiotomies and c-sections are much lower in births attended by doulas. Women also report less pain and more satisfaction with their birth experiences.
- Coconut water. This is nature’s Gatorade. I drank it throughout the birthing and recovery and loved it. It helped keep up my energy when I didn’t want to drink or eat anything else. Coconut water has the same electrolyte balance as our blood and is a wonderful aid to recovery.
- Water. Not to drink, but to birth in. I will never birth without a pool again. The birthing pool was definitely the most helpful thing. For the last few hours I stayed in that pool and my daughter swam into the world, a peaceful and gentle transition to life here on earth.
- A birthing ball. One of those yoga balls is the perfect thing to sit on while leaning on the edge of a bed or your partner’s arms. Another indispensable item.
Besides an angelic mother-in-law who ran my house for a week while I slept and recovered, there were a few other things that greatly aided my recovery. Here are a few things you might want to have on hand.
- Arnica Montana. A homeopathic remedy, we use this for all sorts of bumps and bruises as well as recovering from more major events such as surgery or birthing.
- Raw honey. This is a great remedy for first-degree tears. It forms a barrier defending the wound from outside infections and allows skin cells to grow without creating a scar. The sugars in honey extract dirt and moisture, which helps prevent bacteria from growing. There’s even an enzyme that bees add to honey that reacts with the wound’s fluids which breaks down into hydrogen peroxide, a disinfectant! It’s also anti-inflammatory and a pain killer and prevents bandages from sticking to wounds. Mother Nature is a genius.
- A rice bag. Warm this up in the microwave and use it to soothe any sore body parts.
- A good iron supplement, like Floradix. I lost a lot of blood and was pretty weak and tired. The faster you can build your blood supply back up with plenty of fluids (like coconut juice!) and iron-rich foods and supplements, the sooner you’ll feel back to normal.
- Vitamin E oil. Another good healing agent for tears; it’ll really help soften up the tissue and lessen any scarring.
- Mother’s Milk Tea. Like I said, I’m a tea drinker. A nice herbal tea to increase milk production is not only helpful, but soothing and relaxing as well.
A final word about planning a natural birth: sometimes you can’t plan everything. Three weeks after my daughter was born peacefully at home, without incident, I woke up in the middle of the night with major postpartum hemorrhaging that landed me in the hospital with an emergency D&C. Sometimes you just can’t plan for these things – you just have to take them in stride. And so we did with more rest, iron supplements and plenty of coconut juice.
Do you have any special tricks or tips for planning for a natural pregnancy and birth?