How to Best Prepare for a Natural Birth
Choosing to give birth naturally can be an empowering decision for many women. However, deciding not to have pain relief can also be daunting. But, with lots of support and careful preparation, you will be doing all you can to increase the likelihood of having a natural birth without needing intervention.
Once you make your decision you need to start preparing for the big day. Preparing early is important. So is speaking openly with your maternity care provider and partner about how you would like to manage your labour and birth.
Read on to discover how to give your body and your baby the best chance at a smooth and uncomplicated, natural labour and vaginal birth.
Is a natural birth the safest choice for you?
Most women are capable of giving birth naturally. However, sometimes, vaginal birth is considered not possible and unsafe. When deciding on the type of birth you’d like to have, it’s important to check if there are any reasons why you may not be able to have a natural labour and childbirth. Some pre-existing medical or obstetric conditions make vaginal birth risky.
Some of the main reasons why your maternity care provider might recommend against a vaginal birth include:
- Your baby being in a breech position
- You’re having a multiple pregnancy
- You have eclampsia or pre-eclampsia
- You have placenta praevia (a low-lying placenta)
- You have a heart condition
- You have HIV which is not under control
- You experience a dangerous complication during labour
- Your baby’s heart rate drops or they are in distress
- Pelvic abnormalities
- Unstable mental health or psychiatric conditions
Another important factor to consider when you make your decision is your tolerance to pain. Aim to choose the most secure and comfortable option for you and your baby.
The benefits of a natural birth
On the flip side, if a natural birth doesn’t pose any risks it can offer a number of health benefits for you and your baby. In particular, a natural birth:
- Will allow you to move around into more comfortable positions during labour
- Will help to maximise your feelings of control
- Requires less invasive interventions
- Helps squeeze the amniotic fluid out of your baby’s lungs and reduces the risk of respiratory difficulties after birth
- Shortens recovery time
- Greater likelihood of having a vaginal birth with subsequent babies
- Colonisation of the baby’s skin with your own flora.
Three important things to organise before you give birth
Despite its name, a natural birth actually requires lots of preparation to help everything go smoothly. These are the three most important things to organise well in advance of your due date:
1. Create a birth plan
A birth plan is a written form that outlines your childbirth preferences to your maternity provider. Create your birth plan with your partner and discuss your wishes with your maternity care provider. Make sure you include details about:
- How you would prefer to manage your labour pain
- At what stage of your labour you would prefer to go to hospital
- Whether you want to film or photograph your birth
- If you prefer your baby to be placed directly on your chest and have skin to skin contact following delivery or if you’d like your baby to be bathed first
- Cutting the umbilical cord and options for delayed cord clamping
- Whether you want to bank your baby’s cord blood
- If you would like to offer your baby a breastfeed in labour ward
- What support people you’d like with you when you have your baby
Remember that sometimes things don’t go according to plan. What’s most important is that you and your baby remain healthy throughout your labour and birth.
2. Book into childbirth education classes
Childbirth classes are one important way to help prepare for labour. Typically, classes cover information on:
- The stages of labour
- Options for pain management
- Breathing techniques
- Medical equipment that healthcare professionals may use during a mother’s labour and delivery
If you’re not sure where to go, Parents Centres New Zealand is a good place to start looking. They are the largest provider of childbirth education in the country and have 50 centres across both islands.
3. Pack your bag
When you reach your third trimester of pregnancy, start thinking about what you’re going to need when it’s time to go to the hospital. These are some of the most helpful items to pack:
- Photo ID
- Your insurance details and any hospital paperwork
- Your birth plan
- A loose robe or nightgown
- Slippers and socks
- Some music to help you relax
- Your mobile phone and charger
- Healthy snacks
- Toiletry essentials including maternity pads and breast pads
- Comfortable maternity bras
- A notepad and pen to start recording your baby’s routine and other memories from your special day
- Clothing for your baby and nappies if the hospital does not provide them
- Any medications you may need
- Contact details for next of kin