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‘Wait, I have to get this out of me??’
Yep, I was the same. I knew thousands of women had done it before me.
I knew that the midwife had approved me for a homebirth. I knew that my own risks were low.
But somehow the more my belly grew, the more I just couldn’t imagine how I was physically going to get that baby out!
You’ve come to the right place. Here I will be sharing the top ten essentials when it comes to planning a non-medicated labour.
That’s right, no more searching around the internet for what contractions feel like, if your waters have really broken or you’ve just peed yourself…just kidding. Sort of.
Why go natural?
First of all it’s worth mentioning that every birth is individual – we can’t be prepared for everything. It’s our baby that has her own plans!
We can, however, do what we can to do our research about possible outcomes then we won’t be surprised last minute in any symptoms on the day. You’ll just take it in your stride!
Most women choose to go natural and drug free to avoid the side effects a pictocin or epidural may produce to the unborn child.
Some mummies may feel they want their birth this way for their own personal experience too, as it can be a hugely rewarding sensation.
Or it could be a mixture of the two, either way, read up about the effects of medication before birth, to make the decision for yourself.
As this article focuses on natural birth, I’ve written out my top ten actionable tips you can take on board to help you prepare both physically and mentally.
You can do this!
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1) Open mind
As I mentioned earlier, childbirth is a very individual (or dual!) process and all decisions should be taken with great consideration.
Inform yourself about all the possible eventualities that could happen during your special day. I found personally that the more knowledge I gained about the ups and downs in labour, the more ready I felt.as if I were preparing for a competition like when I was younger.
When I was younger I used to be an athlete competing at national level.
On the day of the race and often at least once before, I used to walk round the course and observe all the challenges and setbacks I could meet along the way. When it came to the race I would remember the sharp corner or the ditch to avoid.
Think of labour the same way: it’s helpful to know about the stages of labour before jumping in head first to something new and unknown.
I don’t say that to scare you, but rather empower you. Knowledge is wisdom.
Also check out and practice where possible ways to prepare yourself mentally for a natural labour, you may end up not using any or inventing your own on the day and that’s ok too, at least the techniques are at the back of your mind if you need them!
2) Shut out the negative
Chances are you’ve probably been given the runover from a neighbour, an aunty or even an old friend on how their birth planned out.
Chances are it probably wasn’t so positive.
Shut it out.
Seriously, I don’t know where people get this habit from – I mean obviously it derives from wanting the best for someone, but it just ain’t helping.
If you want to commit to a natural birth, you’ve got to be a bit selfish and just switch off/stare vaguely into space the next time Auntie Liz wants to share her horror story.
Or just state politely that you prefer to hear positive comments as remember – your mind is a wonder during labour.
‘Your body is not a lemon’Ina May Gaskin
The more you spend your pregnancy listening to positive labour stories, practice visualising how you would like your own day to be, or even watching natural birth videos that inspire you, the more you’ll feel ready.
(I know this latter isn’t for everyone, I really liked it and got teary-eyed when the babies made their entrance)
3) Create the ambience right for you
This is possibly the most important one on this list. And also the most personal.
While some might prefer to share their day with a doula, partner, two birth assistants, the older children and rest of the family on skype – and shout out to those who do – some women may find they just can’t concentrate in that kind of environment.
I was one of those. In fact, I would say that it was the main reason I wanted to birth at home. I wanted to feel comfortable. I wanted to make myself that yummy veggie meal at three o’clock in the morning that took me over an hour to eat. I wanted the comfort of my own bed once it was all over…
Whether you’re birthing at home, in a centre or a hospital, it’s important to create the environment best suited for your needs.
When you’re birthing naturally, you usually depend on the ability and the right to move into different positions to alleviate the pain.
Look for a place that will let you take your favourite music, that may have supports to hold onto or a birthing ball. Most will let you have what you need, so don’t be afraid to ask.
4) Stay in Shape
We’ve all heard that famous expression: Eating for two. Recent research has actually proven that we were mistaken. Oops! Better put that extra serving of lemon meringue back in the fridge.
What I found helped me during pregnancy was eating how I normally would, except that I would eat even healthier. That didn’t mean I would skip the chocolate, which became my indulgence (who can blame anyone when you can’t just wind down with a glass of your favourite Sauvignon?)
If, like I did, you need some inspiration on how to get all the nutrients you need to your body during those nine months, check out these 51 recipes to make for dinner when you really don’t want to cook by Beth the DGAF mom.
My main problem was finding a healthy snacks alternative, as, let’s face it: when you’re pregnant you can become hungry at any given time.
Whip up some flapjacks or chop up and freeze some fruit for a smoothie – and make sure to take some with you to your appointments or outings!
5) Prepare your body
Find some prenatal classes in your area, if you can. These can range from prenatal exercise, yoga to preparation for waterbirth.
These are not only a great opportunity to get fit, but also a way to meet other mums-to be and share the journey of pregnancy together.
Having a close knit community during this special time can really help ease the hardships that come with pregnancy side effects and make you feel like you’re not alone in this.
If you don’t have the opportunity to take live classes, you’re too busy or you would prefer your privacy while shaking your bump around, not to worry!
There are loads of workouts online that you can choose from. Personally I tended to prefer something a little more lively and upbeat so I enjoyed these African dance workouts.
The great thing about these videos is that you can choose the right workout for you according to your trimester, so you can adapt as your bump grows!
Walking, though it may seem very basic and low key, can help – especially when you’re reaching the end and feel to heavy to do other physical activity. Just 30 minutes a day can really give you a boost and keep you in shape. Read more here.
It really saved me to just get some fresh air (though it was summer when I was feeling huge so the air was not so fresh, hence the hibernation indoors….)
It is not advised to take up physical exercise that you didn’t do before being pregnant. Rule number one: listen to your body. You don’t want to overdo it – as long as you can still talk throughout your workout and your heart rate doesn’t go through the roof, you should be ok.
Just remember to check with your doctor if it’s ok for you to exercise and as long as you get the thumbs up, away you go!
6) Make a birth plan
I’m doubting myself now as I could have put this higher up on this list, considering how important it is to me. This is what really convinced me that giving birth at home was something I truly wanted for our family.
But what’s a birth plan? A birth plan is basically a written or typed letter where you state how you would like your birth, and what would make you the most comfortable.
I highly recommend doing it as you get to clarify however you have studied and imagined what your labour should be like – remember every woman is different and what worked for somebody else, might not work for you.
If you’re wondering what to include in my birth plan and would like to make one, you can check out this post.
– How you would like the room set up (or the house if you’re birthing at home)
This might include pictures you’d like to hang up, colours you’d like to see if you’ve been working with visualisation, an aromatherapy diffuser on incense if that would help you focus.
I just had a few lavender drops on a handkerchief that my partner made for me and it really helped me in the late stages of labour when I was getting tired and sore to relax my muscles.
Instructions on where to set up the birth pool, if you’re having one.
If you’re birthing at home, a table or box set up with all the equipment you’ll need for a home birth.
Whatever works best for you. I remember worrying a lot about the type of music to put on my playlist, music to dance to and music to calm me down – but in the end, ironically, I didn’t want any sound but my own breathing. Still, the playlist was ready if I would have needed it.
Having all these things written down before means that you won’t have to think about it when you’re trying to focus on your own sensations and ‘getting in your bubble’. You can read the post and get your Free Editable Birth Plan here.
7) Get the right support
Here’s the thing: most women recommend getting a doula as an absolute must-have. I personally don’t have any experience with a doula myself so I wouldn’t know: that was, however, because I had complete confidence in my birthing team .
That was the midwife who’s specialised in home births for years and my partner who knew exactly what I needed to hear in the exact moment, even supporting my body weight at the final hurdle because I just didn’t have the strength to hold myself up – even in water! (I had back labour).
We all worked together to encourage me to keep going (yes you can encourage yourself!) when I found it tough and I really felt I could be myself around them both enough to let go and let my body do the work, which is essential during labour.
I had worked with my midwife throughout my pregnancy which meant we had built a special connection and she is a woman that can make giving birth feel like a piece of cake thanks to her calming tone of voice and her number one phrase she would repeat to me:
‘I don’t teach women how to give birth because I believe that all women already know how to give birth’.
At the time I didn’t believe her, and while I’m glad that I sought extra birthing preparation, I now understand what she meant.
All my nerves disappeared from the moment I had my first contraction as the excitement washed over me that in a few hours I would hold my baby in my arms. Suddenly I felt like I knew what I was doing.
So don’t freak out if you haven’t done your perineal massage for the day, you’ve got this!
8) Move around and change positions
I briefly brushed over this point earlier when I talked about what you might want to include in your birth plan. Let me say it again:
Gravity gotta do it’s business.
I guess this is why it’s so important to feel comfortable cause you gottta do your thing. This is about you and baby working as a team on the day you’ve been anxiously (and sleeplessly in most cases) you’ve been waiting for the last few weeks…
It might be useful to research some positions beforehand so you don’t have to think about looking it up on Google when the time comes. Ha!
Some gravity-aiding positions could be standing up leaned over a surface, crouching down ( I found this particularly useful during the early stages of labour), the frog position or simply all fours.
If you’d like more inspiration check out this post.
Or visit the Spinning Babies website that gives you an in depth description of baby positioning, baby mapping and some useful techniques for when you feel like you’ve hit a wall.
9) Use a Birthing Pool
Really. I cannot recommend this enough. There is something so comforting about the warm water, especially if you’re having back labour.
Think about it, have you ever been sore after sweating at the gym (or a crazy dance class, as you prefer) and just got in the tub to wash those muscle troubles away?
Maybe, like me, you don’t have a bath tub. I know, it’s sad. All those moments I’d love to soak for half and hour with some scented bubblebath…
That doesn’t mean you can’t hop in the shower – use a stool if you really need to sit down! Though I doubt you’ll feel like sitting down unless it’s on your birth ball.
Not only does the heat do wonders to those tired super-mummy aches and pains, you can also feel like you’re in your own ‘bubble’ when you’re in the pool. No one is focusing on…you know. Those sacred parts.
If you feel a water birth sounds right for you, you can read this post about water birth and you can get your birthing pool here. Bear in mind it is expensive so if you’re going to have more than one child then save it for the next!
Or you can do as I did and loan one, and just change the liner which you can get here.
I used one that was passed along by a group of women in my area, obviously changing the liner for hygiene reasons. I really liked the thought of following in the footsteps of other like-minded women!
However, if I were to give birth again, which is likely – I wouldn’t hesitate in buying it. You can always re-sell it. It’s money well spent.
10 Rest during Early Labour
Okay, this is a biggie too. Maybe you’ll get lucky and start feeling those first contractions mid-afternoon while watching your favourite series. Or you might just slip into bed and the first one arrives and leaves you doubting ‘Is this is it?’
Either way, birth can be pretty long. Especially the first time round.
When I was at home researching every detail under the sun, I came across Ellie Lindquist’s video on her personal tips to natural labour. This was a big point she mentioned and boy am I glad I listened.
You probably won’t be able to actually sleep, in fact it’ll be more like dozing off but try and rest as much as possible in between contractions. You’ll be excited, which is completely normal – just try and put those nerves into a quick bite to eat and get back under the covers while you can.
As Ellie says ‘Birth is a marathon, not a sprint’. But take this lightly, cause you won’t be watching the clock when it’s time, I promise.
11 Breathe through contractions
I’ll be honest, I used hypnobirthing to help me out. But I’ll probably write another post about that. That doesn’t mean I was imagining balloons in the air or magical gardens – and that’s fine if you do – but what I most got out of it apart from the immense relaxation, was the breathing technique.
There are tons of videos out there that will explain it to you and even courses you can sign up to but if you want to have an idea try this:
Get yourself comfortable. This could be in a sitting position if you’re a yogi, or just lying in bed before going to sleep.
Now, close your eyes. Not now, or you won’t be able to read the rest!
Bring your focus on your body. All those areas where you may be holding tension, let go and release.
When you feel ready, take a deep breath in and count to 4. Without pausing in the middle and almost like a continuation, start to release that breath slowly to a count of around 7 or 8. Repeat as many times as you want or until each time you do it, it becomes something natural.
In the beginning, you might want to use the counting as a guideline, as you get used to it you’ll find your own rythm. When those first contractions arrive try and remember this as it will help your body to relax and focus on it’s job – releasing our own body’s natural painkillers, endorphins!
And there you have it! I hope I’ve helped you feel more confident if you’re considering a natural birth. It certainly helped me to read up when I was feeling anxious.