Tips for Having a Natural Childbirth

I already wrote up my birth story, but I wanted to have a different post where I summarized the advice I’d give someone planning a natural childbirth. (Disclaimer: I do not consider myself an expert on this subject at all, despite having read a bunch about it. But this is what I would have wanted to hear.)

  • My first, general piece of advice is that I would recommend doing a lot of preparation, whatever that looks like for you. I did quite a bit of prep, and I think I used a pretty large proportion of it.
  • Strongly consider hiring a doula. I had Will by my side for pretty much the whole process, and he was amazingly helpful, but even so I ended up calling friends who had more experience with labor, including one who was a doula, multiple times during labor. I specifically wanted the support of people who had lots of experience with natural childbirth.
  • If it’s getting really hard, or you’re not progressing much, try calling someone. I did that a few times, and found it really helpful. (To anyone reading this who knows me: call me if you want–I’d be happy to talk!)
  • Sit down with your partner and make a list of things you’ll want him to say to you during labor. Will and I did this, and it worked really well. Most of what he said to me during contractions was straight from this list. We had phrases like, “you’re already doing it,” and “your body knows what to do.”
  • Some sort of hypnosis beforehand seems like a good idea, though I don’t know how much difference it ended up making for me. It seemed like it was helpful early and not that relevant later, but I did like it. I don’t have experience with Hypnobirthing, Hypnobabies, or the Bradley method, but I would consider doing one of those classes for next time.
  • Do whatever you can to be totally relaxed, and enlist someone to point out any tension you’re holding in your body. The pain was much more okay when I was relaxed.
  • Use vocalizations that promote relaxation. I think this one is really, really important. Any time I made a tenser, higher-pitched sound, the pain was immediately much worse. Vibrating my lips in what my midwife called “horse lips” instead ended up making a huge difference for me.
  • Use visualization, especially to channel recurring unhelpful thoughts. You want to be out of your analytical mind as much as you possibly can, and visualization helps here. If you keep thinking about wanting to escape the pain, or wishing it were over, or wanting someone else to know hard it is, or whatever else, channel the underlying desire into some sort of visualization.
  • Being able to change positions, move, and labor in water if it feels right will likely make a huge difference. I had back pain during labor, and lying on my back was awful. A number of other positions worked much better, and the tub was great for taking the weight off. I found it relatively easy to listen to what my body was telling me about what positions to be in because I got immediate and strong feedback signals–some positions hurt a lot more than others.
  • It helped me to remember that labor doesn’t happen very often, and that it’s one of the pretty big human experiences, and one I wanted to have first-hand. Appreciation and gratitude and excellent mental postures to use whenever you can, and they promote physical relaxation.
  • Practice using pain relief techniques beforehand, maybe by holding an ice cube. In my birth class, we also held our arms up long enough that it hurt, and practiced a position that bends the toes in a way that is often painful (that one didn’t work as well for me). The sensations weren’t at all similar, but I think I would have had a harder time relaxing into the pain if I hadn’t practiced.
  • Remember that usually, giving birth is hard, especially the first time you do it. Let it change you, and invite the possibility of learning something from it.
  • Get a midwife or doctor you trust and can get to know pretty well, and also consider giving birth at home. I know this wouldn’t work for everyone, but I do think more people would choose homebirth if they looked into it. I may expand on my reasons for recommending homebirth in a later post, but the gist is that you’ll have a lot more control over how things go, both during and after the birth, and possibly feel much safer and more comfortable. I would definitely plan another homebirth myself, barring a medical reason not to.


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