Although the percentages are shifting annually, 70% of women are giving birth vaginally. How they choose to go about it varies: Some will prepare with classes from Lamaze or the Bradley Method, some plan to opt for pain relief from the start, and others choose to explore a different method like HypnoBirthing or water birthing. Today we’re going to talk about the un-medicated versions.
This method, developed by Dr. Fernand Lamaze in 1951, incorporates childbirth education classes (averaging six weeks), breathing and relaxation techniques and techniques in how to respond to pain (including walking, using a birth ball, changing positions and massage). It’s all about giving a woman confidence to make choices that are right for her during pregnancy and birth. There is no one hard line here for or against any choices; drugs/no drugs… you be the judge.
Lamaze International recommends that you enroll for these classes 6-8 weeks in advance of your seventh month of pregnancy.
The Bradley Method
If you like the thought of natural childbirth (read: no drugs) and you like studying, this is the one for you. Over a course of 12 classes (which is supplemented by a 125-page workbook), parents-to-be learn how to give birth naturally, ways to handle pain by working with their bodies, tips on staying healthy, how to create a birth plan, and training for the couch and/or doula.
If you’re going this route, it’s suggested that you begin your Bradley class series in the fifth month of your pregnancy.
Looking forward to giving birth naturally but not keen on pain medication? Say hello to HypnoBirthing. Another natural childbirth choice, HypnoBirthing is a form of self-hypnosis that reduces pain and stress during labor through guided imagery, affirmations, and special breathing techniques. It teaches the mom-to-be how to calm, control, and relax her body (without being in a trance), allowing endorphins to replace the hormones that cause pain.
If you’re a person who’s all about your bath (or is just on the adventurous side), you might want to consider bringing your baby into the world through a water birth. Seen as “the gentlest of gentle births,” mamas-to-be hop in a tub of warm water, usually heated between 90–100 degrees. Advocates of water births cite the physical relief for the mother and the easy transition for baby since the temperature of the water is similar to the mother’s body temperature. Sometimes a tub is used just during labor to help moms relax and ease their pain.
You’ll first want to check if your hospital or birthing center offers water births. Or you can have this experience at home by renting a tub. Of course, if you choose to stay at home, you’ll want to have someone with you who is experienced in assisting with water births.
Be sure to check with your OB/GYN first regarding complications that could arise.
Photo courtesy of Gina Corcoran-Crosley, women’s rights advocate, activist, doula and childbirth educator, who blogs as The Feminist Breeder. Read about the water home birth of her third child, Jolene, follow her on Twitter (@feministbreeder) and read her updates on Facebook. Her birth was documented by Erica Hagerman (@mouthlikeamother) who writes the blog Mouth Like a Mother.