You’ve made the decision to try and deliver your baby naturally, and for you, there is no going back. There is more to a natural childbirth than simply eliminating drugs. A supportive team, the right OB-GYN, family doctor and hospital are all things to consider when deciding if the natural road to labor and delivery is the right direction for you to take. So what makes a childbirth natural?
Typically, “natural” means that a delivery is achieved with low intervention and without any pain medication including medicines given through your IV (such as pitocin), an epidural or nitrous oxide (a gas that can be inhaled).
Charissa Newton, certified nurse midwife at Premier Health’s Center for Women’s Health and Wellness in Mason, says one-on-one support and education are some of the musts during your natural childbirth decision.
“One-on-one support during labor has many benefits to the mother and the family, and has even been shown to reduce cesarean section rates among first-time moms,” says Newton.
A solid education will not only help you, it will help your support group as well.
“Education is one of the biggest things a family can do to prepare for natural childbirth,” Newton says. “A great childbirth class that focuses on natural childbirth can help provide valuable resources and tools for the mother and support person.”
No matter how gung-ho you are about going for the goal, education plays a huge role in your focus. Most hospitals offer childbirth classes for moms who want to skip the epidural and focus on deep breathing, natural pain relief and the use of other calming mechanisms. It’s important to stay flexible with your plan because anything can change along the way. Although your doctor will make sure your natural childbirth desires are met, your baby’s safety will never be compromised.
“Doctors are happy to support an unmedicated birth and welcome well-meaning doulas and nonpharmacologic pain relief,” says Jenny Demos, D.O., OB-GYN at The Christ Hospital. “We want our patients to have the beautiful delivery that they desire. We just are not willing to compromise safety to do so. But we are willing to work with you to get what you want.”
MIDWIVES VS. DOULAS
Midwives and doulas are wonderful to have if you want an unmedicated birth.
A midwife is a healthcare provider who will care for you before, during and after your pregnancy, according to Newton. They also work wonders when it comes to providing prenatal care and the support you need whether you have your baby in a hospital or birthing center.
“Midwives view labor and birth as a natural process unless medical intervention is necessary, and they are supportive of natural childbirth,” she says.
Doulas provide non-medical care that includes plenty of physical comfort and emotional support. Women typically hire doulas during pregnancy, and can develop the relationship before delivery day so full support is in place.
“A doula would be an additional resource to the family besides the healthcare provider for prenatal care,” says Newton.
You do not have to have a midwife of doulas for a low-intervention birth, but low-intervention means your delivery expectations are low-risk.
“There are multiple midwife groups in the Cincinnati area who have physician back ups if needed,” says Demos. “Seeing a midwife is an excellent option if you are low-risk.”
If your pregnancy is deemed high-risk, a natural birth may not be the best option for you. Speak to your obstetrician about your labor and delivery options.
PREPARING FOR AN UNMEDICATED BIRTH
Having a baby with no medication will be some of the worst pain you will ever experience. It is also the most beautiful pain once the healthy baby arrives. Women who don’t want pain go for the drugs, but others don’t want meds transferred to their newborn.
Knowing that you have done all you can to prepare yourself for a natural birth will give you strength you didn’t know you had.
Take all of the natural birthing classes your body and mind can handle. Hearing other ideas and experiences is extremely helpful.
Next, create a birthing plan. Include everything you hope for in the optimum experience.
“The plan should outline anything that is important during labor, birth and postpartum,” suggests Newton. “Keeping in mind the plan may need to be altered or changed, depending on what the mother actually finds helpful during labor.”
Practice breathing techniques you learn in childbirth classes daily.
“Some comfort measures and methods should be practiced during pregnancy and before labor, such as breathing techniques, hypnobirthing methods, helpful positions during labor, or even finding appropriate music,” Newton continues. “Staying healthy and active throughout your pregnancy can also be helpful with natural births.”
Finally, finding the right provider is a must. The right one should have the ability to attend your natural childbirth plus the experience to support it, according to Newton. They should provide all of the support you need.
“The most important thing is that you should feel comfortable with your provider,” says Demos. “You have to trust them and be confident that they have your best interest at heart.”
A LOW-INTERVENTION DELIVERY
You diligently wrote out your birth plan. Check. Found a provider you adore. Check. Now it’s time to lock in the location where your sweet bundle will be born.
“With a supportive birth team, a woman can have a natural childbirth anywhere, including in a hospital setting,” says Newton. “A supportive birth team includes not only the chosen family support, but also the OB provider, nurses and other hospital staff.”
According to Demos, all hospitals in the Cincinnati area are equipped with the means to care for low-intervention deliveries. At Christ Hospital, (both the Main and Liberty locations), they have showers, tubs and wireless monitoring. And, if you are interested in a home-like setting, some birthing centers such as Natural Beginnings Birth Center at Atrium Medical Center, offers birthing balls, an inflatable birthing stool, large open shower with sprayer, jacuzzi birthing tub with shower sprayer, roomy beds to birth in any position, aromatherapy, digital art display and many lighting options. They are also the only birth center in the Cincinnati area that offers water birth.
Although many birthing centers offer a program of care that is focused on your pregnancy and the wellness of you and your baby — plus they offer the supportive setting with the available tools and resources that are beneficial for natural birth (birthing balls, stools, tubs, spacious rooms, etc.), not all birthing centers are created equal, according to Newton. Some only have the availability of resources to aid in a natural childbirth, but do not have the supportive team and wellness model.
“When choosing a birth setting, the family should ask important questions about the support of natural childbirth within the setting and the availability of things to aid in natural childbirth,” Newton suggests.
Laboring in your own home in Ohio and Kentucky is legal, however, it is not recommended in case something goes wrong during the delivery.
“In a hospital setting, the ability to intervene within minutes can provide you with excellent outcomes,” says Demos. “In the unfortunate circumstance that something really serious occurs, neonatal staff, anesthesiologists and your friendly OB-GYN are all on the same floor as you. ACOG [the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists] does not recommend home births due to the increased risk of bad fetal outcomes.”
If you have a midwife, know that certified nurse midwives are not legally allowed to attend home births in Ohio, and in Kentucky they must have a permit issued by the state. Be sure to check with your doctor before going forward with this decision.
GO FOR IT
No matter what the outcome, it’s your pregnancy, your body and your baby.
“I always tell patients, we do not give out awards to anyone for delivering a baby without an epidural,” says Demos. “It’s OK to change your mind halfway through if you decide that this is no longer what you want.”
Be open, be flexible, and most importantly, be in the moment with your support team and your new baby!