Planning For a Natural Childbirth

There are things an expectant mother can to to help prepare herself for natural childbirth. Learn how journaling, self-hypnosis, perineal massage, and other techniques can help.

“I am in awe of anyone who gives birth without drugs. I don’t know how you do it!” – Kim Cohen, a new mother who received an epidural during labor

A woman’s uterus is beautifully equipped to push a baby out without chemical assistance. Yet 75-90% of American women today receive painkillers during childbirth. Many hospitals even consider epidurals routine in the practice of labor and delivery.

Unfortunately, studies show that there can be unwanted side effects to this little questioned procedure. Women receiving an epidural have a higher chance of severe backache and allergic reactions. Their newborns also tend to exhibit a decrease in muscle strength, which can lead to breastfeeding difficulties.

Natural childbirth, on the other hand, is still the healthiest, and often quickest way to bring a baby into the world. It also leads to a swifter recovery, some believe, since there are no foreign agents that your body must fight off. All well and good, but for one small detail: how do you deal with the pain?

Learn Self-Hypnosis

A little relaxation can go a long way. Hypnosis has been a tool in controlling labor pain for over a hundred years. By reducing a woman’s level of anxiety, it decreases her need for anesthesia, as well as reduces birth complications.

“A lot of pain is fear,” claims Dr. Pamela J. Letts, leader of a study examining the effects of hypnosis on pregnant and laboring women. She believes that when women know what to anticipate, they can learn the necessary coping techniques.

Learning self-hypnosis usually involves two or three office visits to a hypnotherapist, who will teach you how to deeply relax using a combination of imagery and body affirmation. The hypnotherapist will probably also emphasize that labor pain is something natural and necessary, and that it is best managed one contraction at a time.

Write In A Journal

Journaling, a technique often used to prevent illness, can also facilitate problem solving and bring you closer to your goal of a drug-free delivery.

Mother of two year-old Brittany, Stephanie Cleary remembered the journals she wrote after her daughter’s birth. “There was so much doubt. I didn’t think I would be able to do it naturally,” she said. “I wish I had written before the birth to address those feelings.” According to James W. Pennebaker, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, writing for 20 minutes a day on four consecutive days each week about topics that worry or frighten you can help.

But if writing alone does not produce the confidence you need to succeed, look into an online journaling workshop, such as Eldonna Bouton’s Paper Dreams. With interactive writing assignments, including topics like “Fear of Failure,” Ms. Bouton’s course is designed specifically to identify personal goals and focus on what is needed to make them reality. Though the class is self-motivating, each participant receives ongoing personal feedback and encouragement.

For more information on classes, contact

Try Perineal Massage

Don’t let the name mislead you. This exercise, performed to stretch the muscles of your vagina so that the baby’s head will come through more smoothly, is about as relaxing as a cold speculum at the gynecologist’s office.

Perineal massage involves inserting one’s thumbs into the vaginal opening and pushing down for two minutes at each of the two, four, and eight o’clock positions, suggests Dr. Eason, of the University of Ottawa. These exercises should begin no sooner than 34 weeks into the pregnancy, and be done for ten minutes each day.

Warm olive oil, towels, and soothing music may help distract you from the discomfort. A partner can be helpful, but do not fret if you must perform it on yourself.

Though there is some disagreement over just how much of a benefit there is to perineal massage, most studies conclude that it does reduce the rate of third-degree tears in the vagina, especially for women 30 and over.

Consider A Doula

A doula, or the Greek word for “helper,” is a woman who provides constant psychological and physical support to a laboring couple. Studies show that her presence significantly reduces length of labor, need for forceps, use of pain medication, and rate of C-sections.

The Doulas of North America suggest asking the following questions to a potential doula to determine whether you are a good match:

What training have you had?
· What is your philosophy about childbirth?
· Tell me (us) about your experiences with birth, personally as and a doula.
· When would you join me in labor?
· Do you work with backup doulas (if you are not available)? If so, may we meet them?
· What is your fee?
· May we call you with questions before and after the birth?

Once you have chosen a doula, she will get to know you and your partner in the weeks before the birth, often visiting your home and helping write a birth plan to incorporate your hopes for the labor and delivery. Many doulas are not only present for the birth, but do a postpartum visit as well.


The body knows what it has to do. After all, it was able to produce a tiny human being! Now, it is time to convince yourself that you can give birth naturally.

There is no panacea for the pain of childbirth, nor one particular thing that works for everyone. But there is strength in knowledge. When you know what to expect and can plan appropriate coping strategies, you have a better chance at success. Good luck!

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