If you hope for a vaginal, unmedicated birth, here are five tips to help you prepare and feel supported throughout labor and delivery.
Preparing for childbirth can be overwhelming. Experiencing all the changes in your body, choosing a provider, deciding where to deliver, and what birth interventions you want to pursue or avoid–it’s a lot!
I decided to deliver in the hospital during my first pregnancy, but I also wanted to avoid as many interventions as possible.
But as I researched, I felt most information on unmedicated and low-intervention births was written towards women planning to deliver at home or in a birthing center, while the information about hospital deliveries was educating more on interventions.
So, from my experience, here’s what I learned about preparing for an unmedicated and low-intervention birth in the hospital.
5 tips on preparing for an unmedicated birth
1. Pick your provider carefully
One of the most essential parts of preparing for birth is choosing a provider you are comfortable and confident working with.
They will see you throughout your pregnancy and be an influential part of your feelings going into labor. If there are any reservations or concerns, meet with another provider to try and find a better fit.
This is not only someone caring for you during a very intimate and meaningful time in your life, but they will also (most likely) be the initial person directing the care of your newborn child.
Some questions that may help you determine whether your provider is a good fit for your goals:
- What are your rates of induction? C-section rates?
- How long past the due date are you willing to go before inducing labor?
- Should you be unable to attend my birth, who fills in for you?
- What is your philosophy on birth?
- Will I have the freedom to eat and drink during labor?
- Will I be able to birth in whatever position I am comfortable in?
2. Educate yourself on labor and delivery
There is no time too early to begin learning about the birth process, possible interventions and the risks and benefits of each option, and the policies and procedures of the hospital system you will be delivering at.
A solid knowledge foundation will help you decide what kind of birth you want and how to prepare for it.
Feeling confident in your preparedness for labor will crossover into feeling more confident overall. There are tons of great books, online courses, and in-person childbirth classes that can help to equip you for birth.
3. Build your support system
You will likely have other people with you during labor than your OB or midwife.
Whether that is your spouse, significant other, family member, friend, doula, or birth coach, they will contribute to your birth environmentery and how you feel. The people present at your birth should have calming energy for you, are encouraging, and know how to motivate you effectively.
When you have chosen who you want present at your birth, share your birth plan, goals, and hopes with them. Share what you are okay with, what’s something you’re willing to give on, and what you do not want.
This will allow them to be informed and best know how to advocate for you, should you not be able to yourself.
4. Mentally preparing for an unmedicated delivery
Labor and delivery are as much a mental feat as a physical one. For many, it will be one of the most challenging things your body has gone through, and you need mental preparation to help get you through it.
Journaling about your feelings is a great starting point for checking your mindset on labor. What are your apprehensions about birth? Fears? What are you most excited about?
Start processing these feeling early and discussing them with your birth support people. This is also a great exercise to reflect on and know what areas need more work and where you have made growth.
Throughout your pregnancy, practice your mental strength. Whether this is with meditation, breath work, reciting mantras or birth affirmations, or prayer, start practicing different techniques that can help you to focus and ground yourself when labor gets difficult.
If some words or phrases are incredibly encouraging, share them with your birth team and ask them to remind you of them when you are struggling.
Also, make sure you are protecting your mindset around birth. We live in a society that loves to dramatize and sensationalize birth stories. When we see birth scenes in movies, they are often accompanied by screaming and yelling and significant others passing out.
If those are the birth stories you hear and see, imagining anything different for yourself will be hard.
Fill your mind with positive birth stories (like those told in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth) and be empowered by the stories of other women who have had the kind of birth you desire.
On that same note, don’t be afraid to ask people not to share their traumatic birth stories with you now. You can kindly say, “I would love to hear your birth story. Can I ask you to finish this once I have already delivered?”
5. Preparing your body for an unmedicated delivery
Did you know that women in their first pregnancy who receive chiropractic care during pregnancy have been shown to have up to a 24% shorter labor time than women who did not receive chiropractic care?
You can search for local chiropractors specializing in pregnancy and postpartum.
Studies have also shown that regular exercise during pregnancy can decrease induction rates and reduce the length of time in early and active labor.
Some ways to stay active during pregnancy include walking, cycling, hiking, lifting weights, and swimming. As always, check with your provider before starting a new fitness or exercise routine.
Another great way to keep your hips and pelvis aligned and loose for labor is using a birth ball. In the months leading up to labor, you can sit on the ball and do these range of motion exercises:
- Move your hips in a circle clockwise, and then reverse
- Gently bounce up and down on the ball
- Move your hips in the shape of an “8”
- Move forward and backward and side to side
Some women also find it helpful to sit on a birth ball and use these movements during early and active labor.
Final thoughts on preparing for an unmedicated vaginal birth
As you can see, there is so much you can do to ensure that you are holistically prepared to have the birth that will leave you feeling empowered and supported. Remember to be your best advocate and speak up for what’s important to you.