A natural, unmedicated vaginal birth is an entirely achievable and reasonable goal for about 85 percent of pregnant women, according to Healthy People 2020. The other 15 percent have health complications that put them in a high-risk category where they’ll need certain interventions, such as a Cesarean section, to make birth safe, either for mom or baby. We know, however, that even though 85 percent of women are in the low-risk category for a vaginal birth, only about 67.2 percent of women in the U.S. have vaginal births according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The other 32.8 percent have C-sections.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 61 percent of women having a singleton vaginal birth have epidurals. The other 39 percent either have an unmedicated birth or use a little pain medication. Some of these women go “natural” because there’s no time for an epidural or it wasn’t available. Many others, however, are like Elena and didn’t want or need it.
If you’re hoping to go au natural try following these seven tips:
1. Get a solid prenatal education
Seek out classes that include how labor and birth work and natural labor pain management techniques, such as breathing, self-hypnosis, relaxation and other coping mechanisms. Your hospital probably offers an evening or weekend course, but that might not be enough information, especially if they have a high epidural or C-section rate. Instead, research independent educators. Try a few different classes or styles until you find one that feels like a good fit.
2. Pick a health care provider who’s into natural birth
Some are, some aren’t and your chances for achieving your goal are increased if the people taking care of you are on the same page. You might also want to hire a doula and, if you’re delivering in a hospital, ask for a labor nurse who’s into natural births, too.
3. Don’t gain too much weight
Labor tends to go more smoothly for women who aren’t overweight. They have fewer complications and require fewer medical interventions.
How much weight should I gain? Use our tool to calculate your BMI.
4. Go for a low-intervention pregnancy
Women who “go low” during pregnancy set a precedent for going low-intervention during labor, too. If you don’t have any particular health problems, opt for fewer rather than more tests, treatments and interventions during your pregnancy. Obviously, some tests are important for every mother, but many are entirely optional.
Whenever tests or procedures are recommended, ask why you need it, if it will change or improve your health or if you’d be just fine without it. If your doctor or midwife provides compelling reasons why you need certain interventions, then get them. They’re there for good reason, but not every patient needs everything.
5. Spend early labor at home
You can move around, get in the tub, eat and drink and go for walks. When your contractions are consistently less than five minutes apart and getting stronger for at least a couple hours no matter what you do, then you can check in with your provider. If you go to the hospital and you’re not very far dilated, go home.
6. Use water
A shower, bathtub, birthing pool and hot compresses are Mother Nature’s tools for easing pain and helping you relax. Spend as much time as possible in water.
7. Use your prenatal education
Breathe, meditate, relax, move, change positions, get a massage, listen to music, whatever it takes.