What is a natural birth?
Natural birth is a term that seems to be thrown around a lot, but basically, it means a vaginal birth with little to no medical intervention. Some women who choose to give birth naturally opt for doulas or midwives rather than doctors. Some women choose to give birth at a birthing center or at home. (But be sure to look into this option extensively if you are considering a home birth.) Natural birth can look different depending on what your preferences are. But no matter where you give birth, or who is aiding you, follow along below for all the tips so you know how to mentally prepare for natural birth.
Check out this article from “What to Expect” all about natural birth.
Why do some people give birth naturally?
There are many reasons why a woman may choose to give birth naturally. Here is a list of common (and not so common) reasons:
- Some people feel that natural birth may be better for their children.
- Mothers may want to fully experience all of the pain and sensation of labor.
- Medical reasons may prevent someone from getting an epidueral.
- Moms may be afraid of large needles, and therefore don’t want the epideural.
- Some moms choose to go through labor and delivery without pain medication for religious reasons.
- Epideurals or other pain relief may not be available due to how the labor progressed.
- Moms with a history of back pain may be worried about getting an epidural, since the shot goes into your back.
- Past labor and delivery experience may shape a mother’s desire to give birth naturally rather than with medications. (I had a friend like this. She got an epideural with her first child and had an incredibly hard time pushing because the pain medication was seemingly too strong. She had an all natural birth with her second, and was very pleased with the change.)
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Viewing Birth as Natural vs Medical
“Medical beliefs imply that birth is a liminal and dangerous process that should be controlled by medical professionals with the latest technology and that women no longer need to endure the pain of childbirth. Natural beliefs imply that birth is a normal, natural and safe process that should not be interfered with unless absolutely necessary and that pain is an intrinsic part of childbirth that should be accepted.”–Preis et. al.
I found this article and quote incredibly fascinating. Some people believe that birth is dangerous and interventions along with professionals are necessary in order for it to go smoothly. However, mothers that choose to give birth naturally often view birth as a beautiful (and yes painful) process that is part of life.
If you fall into the natural beliefs model, you will be more likely to go without pain medication. But the beautiful thing is, the choice is yours! And there is no wrong choice. Having an epidural (or any other form of pain relief) is completely up to you!
My Own Story
I am blessed to have an amazing husband who really championed me all throughout my pregnancies. When we went to birthing classes, he was so involved and doing his best to help me. We practiced weird birthing positions, swaddled and changed the diaper of a baby doll, and watched a rather graphic video of a woman giving birth.
Before the classes, I really didn’t know if I wanted an epidural or not. But after seeing my husband working hard to make me comfortable (even as we were just pretending!) and talking to other friends and family that gave birth naturally, I decided I wanted to give it a try.
I’ll save my whole birth story for another day, but I have had two babies without pain medication. Although it was far from easy and I shed some tears, said a few (very rare-for-me) curse words, and thought my head was going to explode, I loved it! I am proud of myself for not using medication. Both of my labors and deliveries were what I wanted!
*But if this is not something you want, that is FINE! Most of my friends and family have chosen to get medicated during labor and delivery. And that makes sense because it hurts! If you don’t have a strong conviction that you’d like to give birth naturally, then don’t!
How to Mentally Prepare for a Natural Birth: 18 of the Best Tips
Okay, so if you are pretty sold on having a natural birth, exciting! You got this, mama! I feel like 90% of the battle is a mental one. So I’m glad you are reading this guide on how to mentally prepare for natural birth. I think it will help you out! Below are 18 different tactics I used in order to give birth naturally to both my children. (And I’m planning to do this with any future kids I have, too!)
Know Your WHY
I think this might be the most important part of mentally preparing yourself for what will certainly be a painful experience. Knowing WHY you want to have a natural birth will help you stick with it when you are feeling defeated. (And honestly, there will likely be more than one time that you want to get that epidural!)
Your “why” might be because you’ve read about the benefits of giving birth naturally.
It might be because you want to put your body to the test and prove to yourself (and others) that you can do it. (Honestly, after I gave birth naturally my husband commented that he had not realized just how strong I was!)
You might choose a natural birth because you want to be fully present and in control while giving birth.
Maybe your first baby was difficult despite having medication, and you want to try it without this time.
I don’t know why you want to have a natural birth, but you should try to nail that down for yourself.
Choose a Support Person
When you are in the middle of intense pain (and you will be!), you will need someone there to cheer you on. It is incredibly helpful (necessary?) to have someone in your corner, helping you reach your goals.
Additionally, there were points during my labor where I didn’t even want to make decisions about standing up, walking, or sitting. It was SO NICE to have my husband there for me, encouraging me, and guiding me when I needed it.
Your support person might be your husband or partner, your mom, a midwife, doula, or best friend. You just need to be sure this person is prepared to help you through the crazy journey that is childbirth!
Create a Visual of Baby
I took one of the ultrasound pictures we got of my little one and framed it. I put this picture of the baby in my line of sight so I could focus on getting to meet the beautiful baby that I was looking at. That was SOOOOO motivating! I absolutely loved having the visual representation of my baby so I could keep pushing to get her out.
Get Yourself a Verbal Mantra
It was really helpful for me to have a motivating mantra I could say to myself over and over again. (I also had my husband say it to me.) I liked being able to slow down and focus on the words, taking them in as I worked through the pain.
I stole my mantra from my cousin because it was perfect for me. You can steal it from her too if you want.
I repeated to myself over and over and over and over again, “I am strong. I am capable. My body was made for this.” The saying really helped me to remember why I chose to give birth naturally and to talk myself up about my ability to do it.
Take a Natural Birth Class
I took a standard birthing class first, and that was helpful. But then I heard about a class specifically for women who wanted to give birth naturally. I am so glad I got to take that class because it had tons of helpful information on natural birth.
The best part of the natural birth class was all of the different positions we talked about. During labor, you are going to want to move around. And having specific ideas about positioning was really helpful.
Practice Your Natural Breathing
Every time I have seen a woman giving birth in the movies, she is always doing some sort of crazy breathing. I kind of scoffed at that for a while, but then I gave birth naturally, and I stopped scoffing.
Having a breathing technique helps you to put your focus on something other than the pain. There are different types of breathing in labor, so choose what works for you. Check out this post from the American Pregnancy Association all about patterned breathing.
Labor Where You Are Comfortable
With my second baby, I started contractions in the middle of the night (2:32 am) and they weren’t too bad at first. But I went into the hospital around 9:30 am anyway. They checked my cervix and I was only 4 cm, so the wonderful nurse told me to go home so I could labor where I was more comfortable. I didn’t go back until 9:30 pm and I’m so glad I got to labor at home for those 12 HOURS instead of being stuck in the hospital the whole time!
I am so glad she told me to go home! Instead of walking the hospital hallways over and over again, I got to go on a walk outside. I got to sit in my living room, and I got to do things my way.
With my first child, I walked the hallways for a long time, and let me tell you, that was rough. It was so much better to have fresh air and to NOT be stuck in a sterile, colorless hospital. Being home where I could walk around my neighborhood or relax on my couch was so preferable to the hospital.
Basically, labor at home for as long as you can. Staying home and working through your contractions is so much more pleasant than doing it in a hospital.
Find Labor Positions That Work for You
No matter where you are, find positions that you like to get through contractions. I used a whole bunch of different positions during both of pregnancies that really helped me get through it!
I loved using an exercise ball to keep me moving. I bounced on the ball when a contraction would come. I also really enjoyed walking, because it just kept me distracted, and I liked being active rather than just sitting there.
My husband also did awesome with letting me “dance” with him to my playlist while he squeezed my hips (the nurses called it “counter-pressure” and it was great!). For me, it was a welcome distraction.
And when things got really intense, I labored on my side. And that was so much more comfortable for me! But it was only comfortable for my first pregnancy, not my second. So every labor and delivery is different.
Know your options so you can find what works best for you!
Choose Snacks Wisely
Once you are in labor at the hospital, they will likely limit what kind of snacks you can have. I think my only options were ice chips or mildly flavored popsicles.
But if you stay at home, you can choose your own snacks. And be careful what you put in your body because it might come right back up. (Yes, some women throw up during labor.) You will likely want something that will give you energy and is easy on your stomach.
Read Other Birth Stories
A huge portion of how to mentally prepare for natural birth centers around your expectation of what the birthing process entails. If this is your first time having a baby I highly suggest reading other birth stories, so you have a realistic idea of what goes on.
It gave me some insight and helped me set realistic expectations. For instance, I had no idea HOW LONG it could take to have a baby! I’m so glad I read other stories so I could go into the hospital knowing that I might be there for a really long time. (It is not uncommon to take 24 hours to have a baby. Is that crazy or what?)
You might also read stories of women who wanted to have a natural birth, but due to complications, they were unable to. Although this isn’t what you are hoping for, I found it helpful to know that this might be the case. (For instance, I had a friend who really wanted a natural birth, but she literally puked with every contraction. That was just not sustainable, so she got an epidural, obviously.)
Talk to Your Medical Team About Your Intentions
Having a medical team that is experienced and/or excited about natural birth can be super helpful. This starts with your physician or midwife but definitely includes your nurses. After all, the nurses will be there with you for much longer than the doctor. If you opt for a doula, you would certainly want to talk with them about it too! If your team knows you want to go unmedicated, they can help a ton by providing alternative ways to cope with your pain. They will have ideas for you, and they will cheer you on. And honestly, when you are in the throes of labor, you need all the help you can get!
Think About What to Wear
You are going to want to be comfy during your labor, so be sure to be thinking about what you want to wear. Obviously, the thing you wear might end up ruined (or at least need a REALLY thorough washing), but it’s worth it to be comfortable.
I think a nice robe is great for a lot of reasons! For one, it gives you coverage, but you can also get skin to skin easily once your baby is born. You probably won’t want pants or even underwear because you will have frequent cervix checks and they will end up being a nuisance, which is another reason the robe is perfect. This robe is perfect because it’s super soft and grows with you during pregnancy.
Focus on Each Contraction
I remember someone saying (I don’t remember if it was my wise cousin or my amazing husband) that reminded me that every single contraction was getting me closer to meeting my baby.
Every ounce of pain you have is PRO-DUCT-IVE. I loved thinking about that, too. Even as you have pain with each contraction, you are reaching toward a goal: meeting your sweet bundle of joy!
Some pain is awful and purposeless, like when you break your leg from a bad fall. That pain is terrible and there is no positive outcome because of your broken leg. It just hurts. But, when you give birth the pain is for a purpose. The pain is getting you a baby. That is incredible!
Make a Playlist
Having music to focus on during labor is so great. For me, it was the perfect distraction! I had a blend of music that I knew would make me laugh or smile and songs that were about children and motherhood. I also threw a few songs in that made me feel so strong, and those were empowering for sure. (Think “Roar” by Katy Perry, “Born this Way” by Lady Gaga, and “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child.)
Chat with Women Who Gave Birth Naturally
I had a few friends and family members that had already had the experience of giving birth naturally, so I sought them out to hear what worked for them.
I found that women who purposely went into birth with the intention not to use pain medication were proud of themselves and very willing to share. My wise older cousin was passionate about natural birth (without being pushy), and gave me a confidence booster with her words of encouragement.
And like I said with the reading of birth stories, it’s really helpful to know that it likely won’t go perfectly. It will be hard and painful, but it will also be beautiful and magical.
Chat with Women Who Did NOT Give Birth Naturually
It’s also great to talk to a friend who went with a medicated birth. Some women I talked to said they could not imagine themselves going through birth without an epidural, and some said they wished they would have skipped it.
I found it useful to evaluate my own reactions to their stories. As I listened to women who gave birth naturally I kept thinking, “that sounds awesome, and I want to do that”. When I heard women talk about the fear they had of going without, I just didn’t feel that way. (Completely fine if you are all in on pain medication for birth, it’s just not how I was feeling.)
Go to the Facility Where You Plan to Give Birth
If you are trying to get mentally prepared for childbirth, it might help you to be able to visualize where you are going to give birth. You might want to do an at-home birth (but check to make sure that’s allowed in your state), or a birthing center, or a hospital. The choice is yours (unless it’s illegal, I suppose).
Anyway, if you know where you are going to be, you can picture yourself working through labor and having a successful delivery. And knowing what things are available for you to do while in labor is helpful too. Some places have baths, showers, birthing bars, exercise balls, walking paths, and more.
Mentally prepare by picturing yourself in the space, working through contractions the way you have practiced.
Know What You Can and Cannot Do
Some states (like mine, Nebraska) do not allow home birth. So make sure to check into what is available in your area when it comes to options for giving birth. You don’t want to prepare a whole birth plan only to find out that you can’t do that.
Whatever you decide to do during your labor and delivery, know that you got this mama! Check out my article with all my favorite parenting tips. I hope you find it helpful!