Birth is birth.
The point is to get. it. out.
I think it needs to be prefaced that having a natural birth experience, does not mean you are all superior to women who do have to have interventions or decide they want medication during birth. Birth is not a competition. There is no one right way to have a baby, and some women don't even get a choice. This post is not intended to belittle or shame women who have a different birth story or preference. My hope is simply to alleviate some of the fear and stigma around having one.
With that said, I have had BOTH birth experiences. My first birth, with my daughter, was a natural birth and I had a wonderful experience at a birth center. I planned on having a natural birth with my second child, but long story short, I ended up having him at the hospital. Since my son was overdue and almost ten pounds, I got an epidural and absolutely loved it... I've had two great birth experiences. I still prefer a natural birth, because I believe you heal faster and it can be better for the baby. So it just goes to show that it really just depends on what atmosphere you want, length of labor, and the quality of your support.
I wasn't even thinking of about a natural birth with my first child. I started out going to a hospital for my prenatal appointments. I wasn't happy with my interactions with some of the staff at each prenatal visit. Wasn't childbirth supposed to be a little more quiet, reverent, & special? That's what I really wanted for my first birth at least. I really wanted a intimate & private setting. I took the advice of a few friends and ventured out to find new options. I found out about the birth center in my area and started studying natural labor.
At the birth center, natural birth with our first born.
Natural labor is often shorter than those with medications. Pain medications can interfere with your body’s natural way of laboring and can slow down contractions, which prolongs the process. Since medication causes you to not feel the contractions, you can't feel your bodies natural reaction when it comes time to actually push. Without medication you can feel the rhythms and timing of your own body. Contractions are like intense tidal waves that you can't stop or control.
There are so many additional benefits to having a natural labor, here are at least a few things that I found helped me through my first labor.
\\ Evening primrose oil
Evening primrose oil comes in affordable liquid capsules which can be taken vaginally or orally. It's important to wait until at least your 38th week of pregnancy and to start with a lower dosage. You can simply pierce the top of the capsule and then insert one into your vagina, (as far as you would a tampon,) then just make sure you have a pad on before going to bed. There are not a lot of studies yet to back this up, but at least in the crunchy world, it is thought to help thin out & dilate the cervix. There's an acid found in EPO, which is believed to act as a prostaglandin that helps to soften the cervix. When your cervix is softened, it triggers contractions which can lead to a hopefully quicker and less painful labor. Always check with your doctor or midwife to see if this is something that would benefit your individual pregnancy.
\\ Red raspberry leaf tea
I loved drinking this stuff during the final stretch of my pregnancy. Some people find the taste a little bitter so I would just add a teaspoon of organic raw honey. There are significant amounts of vitamins & major minerals in it that help improve your overall immune system, and boosts all the supplements needed for breastfeeding. Red raspberry tea leaf is known for its benefits to help strengthen & tone the uterine wall for birth. There are plenty of studies indicating that Red raspberry leaf can help make labor move along faster, reduce pain, and reduce the chances of complications and interventions during childbirth. Most health practitioners advise to wait to drink red raspberry tea until your 3rd trimester because it is believed to cause contractions. As with anything else these days, there are always possible side effects so always check with your healthcare provider for your individual pregnancy.
\\ Lavender, synergy blend essential oils
Every pregnancy is different and affects mama in new ways each time. My sense of smell with was so extremely heightened during both pregnancies, that certain scents that I usually enjoyed, really irritated me while I was pregnant. Lavender was definitely not one of them. Lavender essential oil was my favorite go-to for aromatherapy in labor and postpartum. It is one of the most versatile essential oils for labor and It helps ease the muscle tension caused by contractions and the scent is so relaxing. You need as much peace as you can get during labor. Rose, Orange, Myrrh, & Jasmine are other oils that are helpful during labor & childbirth.
\\ Coconut water
Nowadays, birth centers and and midwives agree that it is important for mamas to stay well hydrated and energized for the toll of labor. It takes an incredible amount of energy to bring your baby into the world and you will need all the strength you can get. Liquid energy is probably a little more realistic during labor because it is easier on your body and you will probably not want to chomp down on a whole double bacon whopper with cheese in between contractions...trust me. (Save that for after the delivery! You'll be starving.)
Coconut water is great for all the electrolytes, potassium, & magnesium that it contains.You can also blend coconut water into a fruit smoothie for an extra boost. The birth center that I delivered at, offered fruit smoothies for mamas with long labors. Who wants ice chips anyway?
\\ Exercise ball
I'm telling you... the exercise ball is probably my most recommended product during pregnancy... (That and maybe my body pillow.) It helps open up your pelvis for birth and to stretch the inner thighs, which can get really tight if you're not consistently working out during pregnancy. They help to strengthen the lower back muscles and ease back pain by relieving pressure, which you'll need! During labor it can help move the baby down into the correct position for birth too. These things are practically indispensable if you are having a non medicated delivery, as it allows you to rock & sway with each contraction. (I used it in the hospital as well but it's much harder when you're hooked up to IVs and such.) Before I hit transition (final stage of labor,) I would get on my knees and hold on to it for dear life and roll with each contraction. Using gravity and the swaying motion, provided so much needed relief. It's awesome because you can also use it for postpartum exercise, especially if you're not ready to go running or if you have a hard time finding time to go to gym alone once the baby comes.
Every pregnancy, labor, and birth are uniquely and completely different. Even if you have your heart set on having a natural birth experience and things just don't end up that way, it's OK. You need to have peace and be comfortable on one of the biggest days in your life.
A medicated hospital birth with our second child.
You don't have to be afraid of having a natural birth. If you desire a medication free experience, don't believe that it's only reserved for the essential oil loving, crunchy moms. Don't believe the lie that you don't or won't know how to do it. I'm not going to downplay labor and pretend that it isn't painful, because it is. You are probably not going to look like an angelic goddess silently birthing in the tub, surrounded by dimly lit candles and peaceful spa music. You will sweat, groan, and be strongest you have ever been in your life. Your body was created to do incredibly powerful things. You'll be surprised with yourself with the amount of strength your body is capable of. Whether you end up in the hospital, go to a birthing center, or have your baby in a bath tub at home...You were made for this.
Your baby will come.
Did you have a natural labor? I'd love to hear what things helped you through your labor! Below are some other resources that helped me when I was making the decision to choose natural birth.