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I knew before I ever got pregnant with my son that I wanted an all natural birth experience. My mom had 3 kids without an epidural so it was something that seemed completely normal to me.
It wasn’t until I actually got pregnant that I learned many women not only got epidurals but were often discouraged from trying to go without. I was told by quite a few women (and even laughed at by them) that there was no way, especially as a first time mom, that I could handle the pain of childbirth.
While it’s true that you never know how things will go and you most certainly can change your mind without shame (science is awesome!) I knew that I wanted to experience a more hands off approach to birth.
My opinion on birth as a whole is just doing what feels right for you and after lots of research I decided to give birth at a birthing center to increase my chances of success. You can read all about Oliver’s birth story here.
This time around I’ll be giving birth in a hospital because of a few risks I have but still work with a midwife and fully intend to go without the epidural again. This is, of course, assuming everything is fine with me and baby girl.
So whether you’re a first time mom with no real experience or much knowledge about birth or are a veteran mom looking to go without the epidural for the first time, hopefully this blog post will give you some insight on what you can do to prepare for a natural birth if that’s something you’re interested in. Plus, these tips can still be really helpful even if you aren’t giving birth sans-epidural.
So let’s dive in!
Let’s just knock this out. You probably won’t eat well all the time. This is just a reality of pregnancy cravings, fast food convenience and the expense of healthy food. But not only does nutrition play a role in your and your baby’s health while pregnant, it can also play a role in the birthing process and your postpartum wellness.
The third trimester is when I really amp up my nutrition to prepare my body for birth.
You’ll need some extra calories in the third trimester but eating a lot of unhealthy foods won’t do you any favors. Do a solid for your future birthing self and focus on eating a balanced diet with 3 meals and 2 snacks.
A really simple example of this would be:
Breakfast – Avocado & Egg on Whole Grain Toast with a Spoonful of Salsa
Snack – Apple & Nut Butter
Lunch – A Smoothie: Plant-Based Protein Powder, Ground Flax, Banana, Frozen Berries, Spinach & Almond Milk
Snack – Popcorn
Dinner – Salmon, Greens/Veggies & Roasted Potatoes
Dessert – Pure Dark Chocolate with Almonds
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
If you don’t know about this diverse tea yet, it’s exactly what you’re looking for in a pre and post-birth beverage.
🌱 Red raspberry leaf tea helps the uterus tone and learn to contract. It’s not meant to be used to start labor and won’t unless your body is ready to go. Some women do increase to many cups a day once they reach 40 weeks. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or aren’t sure about what’s safe.
🌱 Red raspberry leaf tea (thanks to it helping tone the uterus) is incredibly beneficial to take for postpartum contractions and during your period. I personally experienced less painful cramps during my period once I started consuming RRLF from the day my cycle started.
🌱 Red raspberry leaf tea also has properties that can help with hormone adjustment, again, perfect for postpartum and period use.
With my son I started drinking a few cups a week starting at 14 weeks. By the time I hit the third trimester I was drinking it 1-2 times a day and by the very end, I was drinking 2-3 cups a day. However, with this pregnancy I’ve had more braxton hicks contractions so I’ve been drinking it randomly since the start of the second trimester. Now at 32 weeks I’m drinking it daily and will ramp up to 2-3 cups a day once I hit full-term at 37 weeks.
What You’ll Need
I’m not going to act like we’re all perfect preggos and spend our days hitting the gym, especially with other kids at home. But the good news here is that there are some really simple, basic ways to get your body ready for labor.
If you don’t do any other exercise, do squats.
In the third trimester with my son I was doing 100 squats a day. Granted, I was much healthier during my first pregnancy but that really doesn’t matter.
Squats are the perfect exercise to get you labor-ready. They not only help build strength in your legs and butt (which you’ll need in some laboring positions), but they also strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. I have to give a lot of credit for me not tearing with my 9 pound 5 ounce son to how strong those muscles were.
Combine with kegels for an even better workout!
How often do you see this recommended? Yoga is an amazing but slow-paced and relaxing way to stretch out your muscles and relieve those uncomfortable growing pains.
You do NOT need to be “good” at yoga to do it. Just pop onto YouTube, search for a third trimester yoga flow and enjoy!
What You’ll Need
Aside from exercise and nutrition, there are a few more things you can to prepare your body for labor.
Hop in the bath and give yourself a perineal massage! I did this quite often toward the end of the second trimester and through the third with my first pregnancy. Along with squats, it’s another reason why I think I didn’t tear with my first.
Now that I’m much further along with baby #2 and desperately needing baths to relax my muscles and relieve some pressure, I’ve finally been remembering to do this. Although, you certainly don’t need to be in the bath and you could even have your partner help out!
Your perineum (the area between your vaginal opening and anus) will get stretched when your baby’s head crowns and can sometimes tear. While there’s no full-proof way to prevent tearing, these massages can help relax and stretch those muscles to help in getting your baby’s head out with, hopefully, less tearing and more stretching. More and more evidence has been pointing to this being an effective preventative technique.
Even the American Pregnancy Association recommends it! Click here to read their guide on how to give yourself this massage and hopefully reduce trauma to your perineum during the birthing process.
Unless your doctor says you can’t, then you should. *wink wink*
No matter how you go about accomplishing it, orgasms are an awesome way to prepare your uterus for what’s to come by contracting in a way that’s similar to braxton hicks contractions preparing your body for labor (but obviously much more fun).
Sex (and orgasms specifically) can reduce stress, build up your relationship and give you a healthy dose of adrenaline. Plus, it can also help improve body image and I’m sure I’m not the only pregnant lady who wasn’t a fan of her stretch marks and cellulite.
So hop in bed and enjoy some quality time with your partner!
What You’ll Need
Your perspective on birth really does matter.
I completely understand going in with a “we’ll see what happens” attitude. After all, anything really can happen.
But if you want to give yourself a really good shot at going med-free then how you view birth, the entire birth process and your own abilities is vital.
Along with learning all about how an average med-free birth works, especially in a hospital setting, you’ll need to learn coping techniques that go along with each stage (and sub-stages) of labor.
During early labor when things aren’t very painful most women who want to birth naturally will stay home or in a comfortable environment until contractions are getting close together. Make sure you’re close to the hospital or birthing space because you really never know how fast you might progress. During this time it’s best to relax, sleep, shower and eat.
During active labor, when things get pretty serious pain-wise, it’s important to have a list of things your partner and support team can do to help you manage any pain. This might be back massages, water pressure, rolling a ball on your lower back, squeezing your hips, holding you up while you drop your weight, etc. You really never know how this will go. I actually didn’t want to be touched at all during labor!
Transition is the hardest part. This is when you’re hitting 10 cm dilated and it’s almost time to push. This is when women typically say things like “I can’t do this anymore”. By this time it’s probably too late for an epidural anyway but it’s important for your support team to pay close attention to this part of labor. When it happens you should be given words of encouragement and reminded that your baby is almost here!
I highly recommend going into labor with positivity AND with knowledge.
When I was pregnant with my son I didn’t just ignore the other ways birth could happen. I read all about natural birth, read the books and did the exercises. I gave myself the confidence I needed to know for a fact that I could give birth without an epidural.
But I also watched beautiful c-section videos, learned all about interventions and what would happen if I needed to be induced. I had a plan in case birth went a different direction.
I was both very confident that I would give birth naturally but also went into labor knowing that if anything were to go other than I’d planned, it would be okay.
This winning mindset combination helped me achieve a med-free birth with my first baby. Of course I’m proud but it had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with preparing myself in every way.
What You’ll Need
I know you’re a busy bee and life is crazy. But as you start trudging through the third trimester with those fun aches and pains, fuzzy mom brain and trouble taking a proper deep breath, it’s time to adjust your lifestyle.
Getting ready for birth isn’t the time to add more work to your plate, go to more events or start on an intense project.
It’s a time for relaxing, breathing and letting things go.
What do you love to do to relax?
If you’re like me you can read a good book, crochet, take a bath or enjoy popcorn and a movie.
No matter how relaxation looks for you, take full advantage of this less-chaotic time. Even if you have other kids, more babies always add to the stress at first as you establish a new routine.
So spend time with your partner, really take in those moments with your kids and appreciate where you are right now. Even though the third trimester is hard and you’re excited for your little blessing to be here, this is a time frame worth soaking in.
Your mental health going into labor is just as important as your postpartum mental health. So take care of yourself!
I already said this is the time to keep those big projects on hold until after the baby arrives and you’re feeling ready.
But stress can pop up for plenty of reasons before birth, including anxiety about birth itself (which is completely normal).
Along with keeping your life generally low stress, you may also need to address those jitters so now is definitely the time to talk out your fears with your partner, mom, friend or someone who’s been through natural childbirth.
A lot of times our fears around birth are created from movies and scary stories from other moms. But stressing about what could go wrong won’t make your birthing experience any easier.
Write down everything you’re feeling right now and you may be surprised to read back on it after delivering your baby.
What You’ll Need
And there you have it! These are all things I do to prepare for natural birth and am even more conscious of the second time around. This is especially true for my mental health. I’m being much more conscious of any negative emotions I’m carrying around and unnecessary stress I’m putting on my shoulders.
If you’re a first time mom (or first time med-free mom) let me know if you found this guide helpful in the comments below.
I’ll of course update you on how the birth of baby girl goes in April or May (2019).
The last piece of advice I have is to remember that birth is birth, no matter what. It’s beautiful and amazing and gross and insanely cool no matter how it’s done. And the only time birth isn’t “right” is when a mom isn’t respected and treated with dignity.
I hope you enjoyed this because I really enjoyed writing it. And if you want to read more on pregnancy and birth topics let me know.
Thanks for reading!