Let's face it. Childbirth can be downright frightening. If it's not enough that all your friends have given you the gory details of their painful birth stories, every random stranger you meet in the grocery store seems to feel the need to tell you to "Get the epidural, honey. You won't regret it."
Most women in the United States have never witnessed a natural childbirth. Our perceptions of birth are colored by sensational dramatizations of birth on TV that paint a picture of birth that looks more like a medical emergency than a natural event in the cycle of life. Unfortunately, this causes many women to accept unnecessary medical interventions during birth, which has been shown to lead to other birth complications. Ninety percent of infants born in the United States are born with drugs in their bodies. The C-section rate in the United States is 15- 20% higher than recommended by the World Health Organization. And yet after 75 years of hospital birth in this country, no studies have been able to prove that hospital birth is in fact safer than a homebirth with a skilled attendant.
If you are committed to attempting natural childbirth, one of the best ways to kick start your natural childbirth journey is to enlist the support of a doula. Doulas are trained professionals who provide continuous physical, emotional and educational support to mothers before, during and after childbirth.
Research shows that women who give birth with the support of a doula have shorter labors with fewer complications. Their babies are healthier and experience less challenges with breastfeeding. Doulas "mother the mother" during labor, offering them natural solutions for any pain or discomfort such as massage, meditation, water therapy, breathing techniques, positioning, moaning and hypnosis.
Nature has given us the tools to birth naturally. When we trust out bodies, we empower ourselves to experience birth as a normal process in the cycle of life. Even if you don't have the support of a professional doula, you and your birth partner can still use many of the natural labor pain-control techniques listed above.
Taking a natural childbirth class ahead of time can help you learn about effective ways to relax your body and reduce your pain during labor. The Bradley Method, HynoBirthing, Birthing from Within and Lamaze are some of the most common classes available today that teach mothers powerful birthing tools and natural alternatives to pain relief.
Did you know that the birth positions most commonly used in hospital births are also the least effective? This is because the most common positions used in hospital births -- the lithotomy (flat-on-back) or the C-position (resting on tailbone with body curled in the shape of a C) -- are convenient for doctors. But unfortunately for mothers, these positions not only work against gravity, but also restrict the pelvic outlet by up to 30%, putting unnecessary stress on the perineum, and can cause drops in fetal heart rate and other forms of fetal distress.
Poor birth positioning can lead to a variety of complications and unnecessary interventions such as tearing, episiotomy, forceps delivery, vacuum extraction and C-section. When birthing mothers are allowed to move around freely and use effective birthing positions (such as hands-and-knees, squatting, standing, side-lying and sitting) that work with rather than against gravity, the need for medical interventions during labor is greatly reduced and birth becomes a much more enjoyable experience.
One of the most amazing rites of passage during our human life is the experience of childbirth. We live in an age where we are very lucky to have access to medical intervention in the case of childbirth complications. And while it is true that not all births can be experienced naturally, when we empower ourselves by owning our own births and avoiding the over-medicalization of birth, we can help to transform the image of birth from painful and scary to beautiful and empowering.
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