Choosing a natural birth can be the most empowering and transformational experience in a woman’s life. In our culture, childbirth is viewed as a medical event and an emergency waiting to happen. We only have to turn on the TV and we witness birth being portrayed as a major emergency, and thank goodness those doctors were there to save the mother and baby. As well as this, when we ask our mothers about their births, we're bound to hear more horror stories. Forceps, stirrups, the dreaded episiotomy. Shaves, enemas, being bound to bed, not allowed to get up, let alone even sit up. Nothing to eat or drink. Husbands were not present. Is it any wonder that we are so fearful of birth?
Fear guides many birth experiences and results in the overuse of interventions and medications. As a result many women feel out of control and disempowered by their birth experience. It doesn’t have to be that way.
The following suggestions will help you prepare to have the best birth experience possible:
1. Understand the process of birth If you understand what is happening with your body during labour, you will have more confidence in the birthing process. Knowing that everything is as it should be, is the key to “letting go” and allowing birth to happen normally and naturally.
2. Good nutrition Good nutrition is essential to good health. The food we put in our mouths today will build the cells of tomorrow. In pregnancy, the food we eat also builds our baby, so we have an added responsibility to ensure that nutrition is optimal.
3. Exercise Birth is a physical event. Staying fit can minimise pregnancy discomforts and ease the birth process. Walking or swimming and prenatal yoga are very beneficial to the health of you and your baby.
4. Relax Your body instinctively knows how to birth your baby and it releases hormones that help you through birthing. Fear, tension and anxiety can interfere with the natural process by inhibiting labour hormones and increasing fight / flight hormones. I recommend Calmbirth to all women who plan a natural birth.
5. Address fears and concerns We are constantly bombarded with negative images and stories of childbirth. Over time these messages can become ingrained in our way of thinking. It is important to recognise our attitudes and beliefs and understand how they shape our experiences. Any negative thoughts or beliefs about childbirth can be explored prior to giving birth.
6. Care provider
Your choice of care provider has a great impact on the sort of birth you will have, despite points 1 - 5 above. Having a supportive care provider throughout pregnancy and birth is critical in positively influencing the outcome of your experience.
Birth is natural and women have done it for centuries. But in today’s society, a birth without preparation may not be the one you envisioned. You have all the resources available to help you prepare for the birth experience you desire.
Melissa Maimann is an eligible midwife in private practice in Sydney. One of the first eligible midwives in Australia, Melissa offers a range of care options for women. Visit Melissa's website to learn more about her services.