This article gives information to NZ parents on promoting natural childbirth and advice on how to keep the birth as natural as possible.
Promoting natural childbirth
There is so much we can do to increase our chances of having a natural birth as we prepare for the birth of our baby! In fact, even if your pregnancy has been complicated by a pre existing medical problem, or the pregnancy itself has been problematic, the advice and tips given in this article will promote your health and well-being during your pregnancy and birth – whatever the outcome.
It’s your birth and it’s your baby. Your midwife and other health professionals are there to support you at this special time – discuss your options during pregnancy, attend birth education classes, let them know your wishes at your antenatal well being checks and consider writing a birth plan.
Nutrition in preparation for a natural birth
We are what we eat and your nutrition in pregnancy plays a vital role in how you feel during your pregnancy and how well you cope with the birth. When men and women are training to run a marathon, one of the factors that they discuss and study at length is their nutrition – what to eat before hand, as well as how to maintain their energy levels during the event.
Many women feel sick during labour, so all food and drink intake has to be light and easily digestible. In addition to this, if the labour is complicated then women are advised not to eat, sipping water only! Hardly the energy intake of an athlete! (In such cases they will often have an intravenous infusion set up to increase their fluid and electrolyte intake).
Our registered Dietitian and Nutritionist has prepared great articles on Nutrition in Pregnancy – see below for links through to these informative articles.
When the birth is imminent, ensure that you have suitable foods in the house to eat in early labour and in established labour, if it is appropriate for you. Ideal foods include pasta, potato, kumara, jam or marmite sandwiches, avocado – these are all high energy foods but they will not create extremely high blood sugars that leave you feeling tired and hungry soon afterwards. It’s essential that you take plenty of fluids in labour, as dehydration causes the contractions to slow down. Jugs of iced water are usually very popular, but you may want to look at other options, such as dilute juice.
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Posture and natural childbirth
Labour and birth are all about gravity and simple engineering! Student midwives spend many hours memorizing the dimensions of the female pelvis and the baby’s head, but essentially the fact is that most babies will fit through the birth canal much easier if they are ‘head down’ and facing mum’s back (in midwife speak this is occipito anterior or OA). This is best achieved by remaining gently active in pregnancy – and most importantly maintaining a good posture in pregnancy and birth. Baby will not be comfortable lying with his back against yours (occipito posterior or OP – which is not good) unless you are slumping your back on comfy sofas and being sedentary!
During the birth mum needs to be upright and preferable bending forwards slightly to enlarge the pelvis to its maximum –
- Standing with something in front of her to lean on, such as a wall, her partner or a piece of furniture
- Kneeling with elbows leaning on a beanbag, or the back of the bed
- Supported squat, but note this is difficult for most Western women to maintain, unless they have been practising throughout the pregnancy.
- When tired, lie down on your side with your bump actually touching the bed. This will at least make your body neutral to gravity.
Maintaining upright positions in labour has the same effect as cycling downhill rather than uphill – much nicer!
Water in labour
Lao Tzu many years BC wrote ‘Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it’.
Water plays a vital role in natural labour
- to sooth and support
- to provide buoyancy
- to refresh
- to ease pain
Whether by means of a bath, a shower or a birthing pool, water is highly effective in supporting and calming.
Feeling safe and secure during labour and birth
In order for labour to progress normally a woman needs to feel safe and secure. If a gazelle is labouring in the savannah of Africa and senses a lion approaching, her contractions will pause to enable her to make a safe getaway. Contractions will then resume when she feels safe again. Likewise if we, who are also mammals, do not feel safe and secure our labour may be long and protracted, it may stop and start and our contractions may not be efficient. For this reason many choose a home birth, but for many more the idea of being at home would not induce a feeling of safety and so this primal need for safety and privacy needs to be incorporated into the philosophy of the hospital or birth centre.
How can safety and privacy be achieved to promote natural birth?
- The presence of support partners
- The support of midwives and professional staff
- A feeling of privacy and calm, achieved through single rooms and staff discretion
- Candles and soft lighting
- The use of water and other methods of natural pain relief, such as massage.
- Music to soothe and calm
These are only a few simple measures that everyone can take to promote their own chances of a natural birth. There is also much professional support and advice available from your own individual midwife, as well as natural therapists, whose treatments promote normal birth.
Nutrition in Pregnancy is full of great advice to maintain a healthy pregnancy
To understand the role of the Midwife, click here
Doulas are becoming more common throughout the Western world. Click here to learn more about the role of the doula.