There was a time when baby called the shots on exactly when and how he would enter this world. And while that’s still the case in many ways, at least today’s moms have more options when it comes to dealing with the pain! Whether epidurals give you the creeps or you’re just looking for a more natural route, consider these alternatives—alone or in conjunction—and develop a birth plan that incorporates your doctor’s recommendations and your own intuition.
Lamaze: Getting back to basics
According to nonprofit organization Childbirth Connection, maternity care in the United States often “overuses high-tech procedures while under using high-touch, noninvasive measures.” In contrast, the folks at Lamaze International teach natural birthing techniques based on six healthy practices:
- Let labor begin on its own. No Pitocin here! Stick to the old standbys—long walks, spicy food and sexy encounters—or simply wait for baby to make his move.
- Walk, move around and change positions throughout labor. The movement will promote healthy circulation and deeper breathing while potentially advancing labor. Certain prenatal yoga moves can also help you relax while you’re waiting for baby’s arrival.
- Bring a loved one, friend or doula to support you. Depend on others to help you through this major event. You may not want a crowd, but a few staunch supporters will be helpful to have on hand when you need them.
- Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary. Hold the tubes and needles, please. Constant fetal monitoring, IV application and other interventions may not be necessary if your labor is progressing healthily.
- Choose the most comfortable position in which to give birth and follow your body’s urges to push. If you’re not tied to a hospital bed by an infant monitor, IV or epidural, you may find that standing or squatting will put gravity on your side and help with baby’s downward progress.
- Keep your baby with you in the hospital and at home. While there’s nothing wrong with utilizing the hospital nursery, many moms have found that “rooming-in” has many advantages. Postpartum depression is less likely to strike, baby is apt to be happier and healthier when he’s enjoying skin-to-skin contact with you, and breastfeeding comes more naturally for you both when you keep close quarters.
A husband likes to feel useful in the delivery room, so a soothing massage can be therapeutic for you both! Doulas and midwives can also provide great muscle-relaxing massages; have your care provider press the heels of her palms into your hip socket areas to relieve some of the pain and pressure as baby descends. Don’t forget to pack your hospital bag with massage oil and clean tennis balls for accelerated rubdowns. Two tennis balls stuffed in a sock make a great massage tool for applying firm pressure to your lower back.
Here’s a fun project for the dad-to-be: Make an MP3 mix of soothing tunes for delivery day. The right music simulates a restful breathing rhythm to produce a calming effect, lessening pain perception and
giving mom something to focus on during contractions. (This works especially well when paired with patterned breathing.) Picking peaceful, soothing music is the key, so no matter what your partner says, the Metallica introduction can wait.
A popular alternative to pain medication, water birth takes place in a warm tub of water (100