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What to Expect When You’re Expecting A Natural Birth
Different ways to incorporate a natural birth into your pregnancy.
These days, most people are quite familiar with the routines of a standard pregnancy and hospital birth. It’s easy to accept this as the only viable option because it seems that this is what everyone does, and indeed, it is very common to go this route. But it’s also easy to forget that people have been having babies for centuries before drugs and modern technology were available. Now, some women are making the choice to go back to basics and have natural births and pregnancies. This aligns with healthy movements toward being more aware of what we are putting into our bodies: it makes sense that pregnant women would be ultra-concerned drugs and medical treatment while they are caring for two.
Why Go Natural
Many women go with a standard hospital birth: drugs, doctors, and sometimes induction. Women may be under the impression that alternative options are risky or dangerous, or may even be induced out of convenience instead of giving birth when it naturally occurs. It is easy to forget that there are options outside of what one’s friends and family have done and what one particular doctor encourages.
Understanding the reasons and rationale behind natural pregnancy makes it easier to see why it is a viable option. We all know that women have been having children since the beginning of time, and Mothers Naturally - a public education organization provided by the Midwives Alliance of North America - sums up that point of view: “A woman’s body is innately prepared with the strength, stamina, and ability to nourish a sage and natural pregnancy and childbirth. By supporting the body’s own instinctive knowledge, unnecessary medical intervention can often be avoided.”
So what is a natural pregnancy and what does it involve? Natural pregnancies create a healthy and positive environment in all aspects of carrying and delivering a baby. Eating right, exercising, filling one’s mind with positive thoughts about birth and pregnancy, and planning out the birth and care one wants to receive are all ways to incorporate this school of thought.
Midwives and Doulas
Commonly associated with natural births, a midwife or doula plays the role of doctor, nurse, support system and advisor to a woman giving birth. Midwives take a collaborative role with the mother and father in making decisions about the baby and birth. Pregnant women often say that this continual support is what they appreciate most about working with a midwife, who is normally a part of the prenatal, birth and post-birth process. There are even health benefits to using a midwife: the World Health Organization shows that midwife births across the world lead to babies with lower infection rates, fewer C-sections, fewer complications and lower care costs than in traditional births. The countries with the best birth statistics are countries where midwives are the main birthing choice.
This is another aspect of natural pregnancy that many women choose. For many, giving birth at home provides a sense of comfort, strength and empowerment. Instead of spending what might be hours or days in labor at an unfamiliar hospital, woman may find it comforting to spend this time in a familiar and comfortable location — their own home. Sometimes homebirths may include a water birth, which can be a soothing delivery method, and one that’s easier to do at home as opposed to in a hospital. In addition to providing comfort, a homebirth can reduce stress, complications and unnecessary procedures. These births can be as safe as a hospital birth for low-risk pregnancies, with a midwife on-hand.
Health and Exercise
If a woman is interested in a natural birth, she will likely also be concerned about her health, diet and exercise during pregnancy. Physical activity is not only healthy for the mother during and after pregnancy, but it can also make giving birth naturally safer and easier. Women who are not overweight tend to have easier labors and births. One aspect of this is making sure not to gain too much weight during pregnancy. Of course weight gain is an important and healthy aspect of pregnancy, but gaining too much weight can be counterproductive. Being in good shape gets your body fit and ready for delivery, with better energy and stamina. Being active for at least 30 minutes, seven days a week (yes, everyday!) is the best plan. Of course, this also helps keep weight gain in check; decreasing the risk of having a big baby, which is harder to deliver. Not everyone can run for nine months so make sure to keep the exercise within your limits. Jogging, walking, elliptical exercise and yoga can all be very beneficial.
Many aspects of a natural pregnancy are just that — natural! Healthy eating, exercise, less reliance on drugs and prioritizing positivity and comfort all sound like pretty clear benefits. Natural pregnancy or some aspects of it may not be for everyone, so it is important to consult a doctor. Most importantly, do your own research before making a decision. Pregnancies that focus on alternative health, home births or utilize a midwife rather than a doctor can be safe, healthy and enjoyable — for many women it’s a natural choice.