Should I Try Natural Childbirth?
Natural childbirth is a popular choice for many women who desire a vaginal delivery without pain medication or medical intervention.
Who may be a candidate for natural childbirth?
You may be a good candidate for natural childbirth if you:
- Want to avoid the side effects of medications
- Desire to decrease the chances for medical intervention
- Have an uncomplicated pregnancy
- Are comfortable using techniques other than pain medications and epidural to manage the discomfort of labor
When should I choose not to have natural childbirth?
If your doctor believes you are at risk for complications, natural childbirth may not be suitable for you. In women with a high-risk pregnancy, natural childbirth may not be safe and you should discuss this with your doctor so your delivery is safe for you and your baby. Pregnancies are typically categorized as high-risk if the mother has a known medical condition that may interfere with the development or delivery of the fetus, such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, uterine fibroids and more. Some factors that may indicate need medical intervention could be:
- Pregnant with more than one baby
- Have a baby in the breech position
- Developed preeclampsia or gestational diabetes during pregnancy
- Are preterm or less than 37 weeks pregnant
- Are overweight
What is an epidural?
An epidural is the common form of pain relief given to women during labor and delivery. An epidural blocks pain by eliminating most sensation in the lower portion of your body. Anesthesiologists administer an epidural by inserting a needle and small catheter into the epidural space of your lower back where nerves come out of your spinal cord. A local anesthetic that blocks most pain sensation is infused through the catheter. The nerves in your uterus and lower body become numb in about 15 minutes. An epidural does not make you drowsy or alter your overall level of consciousness, like IV pain medications do.
What are natural pain management techniques?
There are several pain management techniques you can use to help manage the discomfort during labor and delivery. Drug-free ways to manage pain during labor and delivery include:
- Walking – Getting up and moving around can help distract you from laboring pain and assist during the delivery by letting gravity help the baby descend in the birth canal.
- Massage therapy – Massage can be used to help reduce tension in the muscles. There are various techniques that can be used for massage therapy, so be sure to find one that works best for you and your body.
- Reflexology – Reflexology involves strategically applying pressure to various parts of the body, with a big focus on the nerve endings in the feet. The applied pressure can help reduce pain and relieve tension.
- Aromatherapy – Certain essential oils have shown benefits to soothe you during labor. Lavender, for example, has been shown to help reduce anxiety. Try using warm and hot compresses to help stimulate the essential oils. It is important to note that not all essential oils should be used by pregnant patients. Talk to your provider to discuss which ones can and cannot be used.
- Breathing exercises – Breathing techniques can help focus your mind and can help loosen muscle tension.
- TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) Device – This device can help prevent pain signals sent to the brain. Stimulations from the device can be altered based on the laboring patient's pain levels to remain consistent throughout the laboring process.
- Acupressure - Help ease pain by pinching the fleshy part of your hand between the thumb and index finger.
- Hydrotherapy – The immersion in warm water during labor.
No matter how well you prepare yourself, your labor journey may be full of unexpected twists and turns. The particulars of each expecting mother's health and pregnancy will be looked at on a case-by-case basis to determine what is best for her and her baby. It is important to realize that some patients who desire natural childbirth may require medical intervention in order keep the baby and mother safe. If this situation occurs, this does not mean your provider is ignoring your wishes, it simply means they want to ensure that you and your baby are both healthy.
Learn more about Dr. Jill Bader at Louisiana Women's Healthcare.