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Unmedicated childbirth takes some planning ahead in terms of selecting an appropriate provider and environment for your birth. Here are a few tips to make the process easier:
- Read up on the childbirth process ahead of time so you'll know what to expect and be prepared. Many women have a general idea that they'd like to try unmedicated childbirth but don't have a specific idea of what that means. The more educated you are ahead of time, the more likely you are to stick it out. Read books about childbirth and take a class that focuses on unmedicated childbirth techniques.
- Choose a method: Consider your options for different childbirth methods. Some popular ones are the Bradley Method, the Birthing from Within Method, Lamaze, and Hypnobirthing. Choose a class that caters to a particular method or one that mixes and matches from different techniques. In addition, think very seriously before choosing a class that is offered at the hospital where you plan on giving birth. Private teachers are not limited in any way as to what they can teach; many in-hospital teachers are. Talk to the teacher first and see if you like his or her philosophy and chemistry. Check out the Park Slope Parents guide to local childbirth instructors.
- Include contingencies in your birth plan. While you may want X, Y and Z, you may end up with P, D, and Q. Be prepared by thinking through all the possibilities and keep your ears open in your birth class when they talk about medical options.
- Have a good childbirth team. Your team includes your partner, your provider (midwife or OB/Gyn) and possibly others, such as a labor doula. For more information about the benefits of doula support, go to www.DONA.org. Park Slope Parents also has a list of recommended doulas.
- Choose a provider who is on board: Make sure your ideas about your birth experience are compatible with your provider's. Ask about his or her attitudes towards fetal monitoring, IV fluids, and labor-inducing medications. Find out what your provider's C-section and episiotomy rates are. Find out the same information about your provider's practice (if you will be delivered by the provider on call) and the hospital or birthing center where the provider delivers. If you've been involved with a provider who doesn't seem compatible, investigate the possibility of switching to a new one. Switching late in the game may seem uncomfortable, but giving birth with someone you have lost trust in is far worse.
- Choose the appropriate birth environment: Part of choosing your provider includes choosing the environment for your labor and delivery. That could be a hospital, a birthing center within a hospital, a free-standing birthing center, or your own home. Research all your options and choose a provider who delivers in the kind of environment that appeals to you. Different providers are associated with different birthing centers or hospitals, so this research is very important to do early. Also remember that all hospitals and birthing centers are not "equal" when it comes to unmedicated childbirth. Some hospitals are more accepting of unmedicated techniques than others. Take a tour, ask questions of different providers and doulas, and ask your friends about their experiences.
- If you wish to have a unmedicated birth, it will usually be easier in a birthing center, whether it is inside or outside of a hospital (or at home, of course). When laboring in either a birthing center or at home, you do the monitoring. You will not be interrupted, whether you are in the tub, on a birth ball, or sitting on the toilet. All labor and delivery wards use external electronic fetal monitoring, and even when administered intermittently, you must still accommodate the machine.
- If you choose to deliver unmedicated in a hospital, it's often a good idea to have additional support, such as a labor doula. You may consider spending as much of your early labor as possible at home or out and about before you check into the hospital. The earlier in your labor that you admit yourself to a hospital, the more likely you are to have medical interventions such as monitoring and labor-inducing drugs. Please see our guide to local hospitals and birthing centers for parents' comments about their experiences.
- Be ready for pushback. There are lots of naysayers who may think you're a hippie, or masochist, or will push an epidural when you say you don't want one. You'll need to speak up for yourself, look to your birth plan, and talk through things with your birth team early. Even then your birth parther may see you in extreme pain and ask you if you want an epidural (remember they don't want to see you in intense pain).
- Be ready to be disappointed (but hope for the best). There's a saying in the OB-GYN world-- "We plan and God laughs." So it is with childbirth. Be open to the fact that your baby might have other plans than an unmedicated birth. Cords wrapped around their neck, intense back labor, and complications may make medicated choices necessary.
- If it doesn't come out as planned, cut yourself a lot of slack. There are lots of ways things can go wrong that are all about birthing a healthy baby. It's okay if you decide an epidural is what you want to do. While it's perfectly fine to be disappointed, try not to dwell on the childbirth and focus on your baby, however it was delivered into the world.
Comments about Home Birth
- "Anyone considering home birth should really think about keeping the number of people attending the birth small. Feeling as uninhibited as possible is one of the keys to a successful natural birth."
- "If you are choosing homebirth, be parsimonious with whom you share that choice. People have VERY strong opinions, and I was shocked to find that some of my friends who I'd assumed would be the most supportive turned out to be the most judgmental and fearsome."
- "For the record, I did tons of research--in hospital birthing centers, independent birthing centers, and through interviews with many midwives and doulas--before I decided on a home birth. My husband and I felt it was the safest of all birthing choices after reading plenty of statistics that stated that the risk of labor complications and the rates of infection and mortality were significantly lower in home births. Women need to know this information, and most doctors won't tell them that."
- "Home birth was the most amazing experience of my life. (And we stuck to that birth plan even after a fire took us out of our permanent home!) If anyone is entertain the option of home birth, I encourage them to continue to research and dig into that incredible choice. There are so many resourses in NYC for home birth and so many great hospitals nearby in the unlikely event of a transfer. It is a wonderful option."
- http://www.lamaze.org (they have come a LONG way and their website is an excellent resource)