Natural Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum Healing

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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.

Prenatal Regimen

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.

Birthing Day

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.

Postpartum Healing

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?

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About Amy

Amy writes daily about natural family living, attachment parenting, organic gardening, and cooking on her site, Progressive Pioneer. She and her family try to live simply and be as self-sufficient as possible while living smack dab in the middle of the city.

Comments

  1. I have also experienced natural childbirth… three times. (I LOVED it!) It IS super important to prepare our bodies and minds for natural childbirth (my favorite vitamins were from Sounds Formulas–I use their pre- and post-natal formulas), but to be prepared for the unexpected. After 2 of mine I also had bleeding issues (less traumatic than yours). This time, about 7.5 weeks postpartum, I started taking Raspberry Leaf in pill form–cheaper than the tea, plus I’m not a tea drinker. And if we have a fourth, I’ll be taking it immediately after giving birth to help tighten things up.

  2. What a great list of suggestions. I love floradix and it really helped after losing a lot of blood due to a placental abruption during our homebirth. Coconut water is another excellent idea.

    I think your point about taking things in stride is so important. All you can do is take care of your body (and the baby’s) and God handles the rest.
    Shannon´s latest post: Confessions of a Type B Mama

  3. I really enjoy reading articles about women approaching birth from a more natural perspective. My first four births were hospital but my last four were home births! I am amazed at how much more wonderful and enjoyable my home births were compared to the hospital. I am much more relaxed at home, therefore, no desire or need for any pain relief. I have taken many of the things you mentioned for pre-natal and post-natal care. I am a tea drinker too and enjoy different relaxing and nourishing teas. I noticed the more I exercised during the pregnancy the better I felt in labor. After delivery I faithfully take my omegas, B-12, and chlorophyll (for iron) and my recovery is smooth. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • You’re right, I think exercise is really key; I’m struggling to get back into it once again, but I know I’ll feel great once I’m back in the groove:) Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Another great thing to do is take Alfalfa the last trimester. The midwife I work with swears by it, and I totally am a believer after my last birth. It is full of all kinds of good stuff, and is naturally high in vit K, which is what clots the blood. I have a history of hemorrage, and barely bled after the birth of my 3rd child! And I was done bleeding after only a week. You can take it in pill form, and I am researching if a herbal tinture would be just as effective (the pills are HUGE, and I had a problem swallowing them!).

  5. what a great article. I didn’t have a home or natural birth. my water broke at 33 weeks so I was in the hospital on bed rest for a week and then they induced me. I didn’t even get to finish my natural birth class! :(

    well, the TWO epidurals didn’t work but I did use a doula and she was fabulous. I wanted an epidural because I know me (I think that is the most important thing about birth and/or dealing with pain, now YOUR body and know how you deal with it and don’t let anyone else dictate how YOU should) and I know I shut down and clamp up (they couldn’t get a needle out of my arm once when I was a youngster) and I knew though I practiced mental imagery and meditation and such that might not be enough and if I could get the pain blanked out for even a minute, I would have my baby.

    the nurse and dr argued with my doula about giving me it, as “other people were further along” and then the anest. was an ass. and it didn’t work, and then they had me sit up and it still didn’t work but doing that (I couldn’t much before with all the monitors) shifted the pain and made me focus on something else and I went from 1cm to 10cm in 5 minutes. freaked them all (except my doula) out.

    so my advice
    1. get a doula
    2. know yourself and trust yourself that you know your body and how you deal with pain
    3. don’t let people push you around and get a good advocate – my doula was great! but remember you have to be your own advocate too
    4. and finally, for me, the safety and life of my child was more important than any of my other plans so whatever measures they had to take for him was fine with me and my birth plan was out the door.
    Nina´s latest post: how we spend our days

  6. This is all so very helpful! Learning more about a natural child birth is very inspiring and uplifting! Congratulations to you and your family.

  7. Thank you for this wonderful post. Although I was pretty successful at maintaining a natural pregnancy, the birth and post-natal times didn’t work out the way I had hoped. In retrospect, I realize that the biggest problem was that I seemed to have lost my voice and couldn’t stand up for myself in the hospital and with my doctor. The next time around, I am definitely going to find a midwife and doula, and I am going to make sure that I am comfortable with both of them.
    Cindy´s latest post: Avoiding Toxins in Lunch Boxes for Kids

  8. I’m interested in knowing what you put in those green smoothies you made during your pregnancy . . .Thanks!

    • The basic recipe is a few handfuls of spinach, a handful of fresh or frozen blueberries, a banana and enough water to make it drinkable (about a cup). You can mix it up with all sorts of different fruits and greens. I think grapes and beet greens go well together. I love spinach, almond milk and peaches. Mangoes are a yummy substitute for blueberries etc. Have fun!

  9. Yeah mangoes are awesome! :). And wow some teas you got there I always found teas to be interesting since you know there are so many types that I did not know about I don’t know I just think it’s interesting. Oh and btw this might be off-topic but have you guys heard about the fruit or super-fruit I should say called Camu Camu it’s a fruit that is grown in the amazon rain forest in Peru it’s said to have 30 times more vitamin C than oranges with other many vitamin.. benefits, yyeah and I guess it’s better than acai berry not sure if you guys seen the hype around that not long ago in the news. Anyway whatever I guess, take care :)_
    Jett´s latest post: Baby Websites

  10. Oops sry I made ‘some’ mistakes in my last comment, my bad :). Anyway bye bye again.

  11. Various people in every country get the loans from various creditors, because it’s fast and easy.

  12. Oh my goodness we are so much alike. I planned for a natural , drug free birth and it worked. I did a lot research,drank green smoothies, and took fish oils daily. I love being healthy. thanks for sharing.

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