Educate yourself at an independent childbirth class, that is, at a class outside the hospital. Learn ALL our options, not only how-we-do-birth-at-this-hospital. Obtain information on homebirth and water birth. Find out about the benefits and risks of both routine interventions and not routine interventions. Get informed about what the medical literature has to say about the safety of natural, normal, intervention-free birth and about the importance of mother and baby having uninterrupted contact. Remember that YOU and your family must live with the consequences of any decisions you make.
Eat healthy, nutritious foods. Your body knows how to grow your baby and it knows how to birth your baby. It is YOUR responsibility to provide your body with only the most nutritious foods. Avoid excessive amounts of sugar and other harmful, nutritionally poor foods. The size of your baby and the health of your body and organs and tissues are all dependent on the diet you provide. Remember, you are in training for a healthy delivery.
Exercise. Walk, swim, or do yoga. Stretch. Do your Kegels. Birth is a marathon and you are in training. Prepare!
Select a supportive caregiver. Find out how the caregiver does birth. Make sure the caregiver is selling what you want to buy. Define natural birth. Many people define a natural birth as one in which a baby emerged from a vagina, even if there were several interventions. What do YOU mean by natural birth? Know statistics: the cesarean section rate at your hospital, the episiotomy rate of your caregiver, the VBAC rate of your caregiver, the percentage of your caregiver’s clients who have unmedicated deliveries. Ask for references. Talk to women who have had their baby with a particular attendant and find out if they got what they expected. Statistically, women get the doctor they hire only 20% of the time. Is your caregiver on call for you? Who is their backup?
Choose a midwife. Midwives have consistently better outcomes than obstetricians and provide more holistic, woman-centered, family-friendly care. The United States ranks 27th among industrialized countries in infant mortality (indicating the health of babies born here). The countries that consistently rank among the best in terms of infant mortality are those countries that rely on midwifery care for all healthy, normal pregnancies.
Hire a doula. Having a doula at your birth cuts your risk of cesarean by 50%. A doula provides continuous emotional support for a laboring woman and her partner, regardless of the length of her labor. In hospitals, doulas provide respite for partners during long labors (even during short ones) ensuring that the laboring woman will not be left alone even when partners have meals, take a break and rest. At home, doulas are like an insurance policy if labor proves to be long. Remember, labor for a first-time mother can be 24 to 30 hours. Doulas provide labor support so midwives can be well-rested and sharp at delivery when their skills are most critical.
Choose your birthplace carefully. The World Health Organization says that home is safer than a free-standing birth center which is safer than a hospital. Women birth best where they feel safest. Where is safest for you?
Surround yourself with supportive people. Seek out positive, powerful birth stories. Watch POSITIVE birth films and movies. Avoid high-drama television birth stories. Choose your birth team carefully. Be sure that everyone at your birth wants what you want at your birth. Prepare your team and be sure they believe in your goals and in your ability to achieve your goals.
Examine your beliefs about birth and about yourself. Are these beliefs accurate? Do they reflect the truth. Do they reflect who you are? Adopt beliefs that are conducive to the kind of birth you want.