Melissa Wills had an epidural during her first pregnancy. But, she opted to deliver her second and third babies without the use of medication.
While she experienced the joys of childbirth with all three of her children, she said that joy was intensified when she chose the natural route.
“With the unmedicated births I experienced greater joy and personal strength,” Wills said. “The bond between my husband and I also grew as he coached me through contractions, pushing, and the fear and doubt I had in myself. In essence, unmedicated birth enables women and their families to have all of the ‘feels’ of the miracle of birth.”
In addition to being a mother who has experienced natural birth, Wills is also a labor and delivery nurse at St. Elizabeth’s Family Birth Place in Edgewood.
Both Wills and certified nurse-midwife Sr. Kay Kramer – also at Edgewood – offer these tips for women considering a natural birth:
Choose a provider who has experience with and will support natural birth.
Be willing to ask your providers about their experience: What is their cesarean section rate? What is their episiotomy rate? How many natural childbirths have they done? What are they willing to do to help you through the birth of your child? Will they let you have intermittent fetal monitoring? Will they let you get up and move? Will you be able to eat? When would they induce you?
“The answers to these questions will assist you in making the decision about which obstetrician or midwife provider will best meet your needs. Also, keep in mind there are multiple providers within a practice with varying opinions. Ensuring everyone is willing to support your vision of birth is within your rights as a patient,” Wills said.
Take care of yourself.
Good prenatal care is important for all pregnancies. Take care of yourself and your baby. Exercise and get proper nutrition throughout your pregnancy to help prepare your body and your baby to experience birth, Wills said.
Understand that labor isn’t a nonstop experience of pain.
Kramer said many women think of labor as constant pain for hours and hours.
“It’s important to understand that, in the space of an hour, most women experience no more than 20 contractions that last one minute,” Kramer said. “So, that’s 20 minutes out of 60 that she might be experiencing pain.”
Wills often reminds her patients that the pain of delivery is only temporary.
Plan to have continuous labor support.
Having a supportive person by your side coaching you through the pain can make a huge difference, said Wills.
Learn about natural options to ease discomfort.
St. Elizabeth’s Family Birth Place recently installed three birthing tubs, Wills said. Many laboring women find comfort in the water of the tubs or in the show to help ease their pain. Wills also encourages her patients to try the birthing balls, squat bars, peanut balls and birthing stools to assist women to find a more comfortable position.
“Ambulating, massaging, breathing techniques, music, a focal point ““ these all make a difference in the experience of pain,” Kramer said.
“Without medication, you have the advantage of mobility. Being mobile assists the baby in finding its way out, Wills said. “Positioning and movement of the mom help the baby descend into the pelvis and rotate to an optimal position for delivery. Optimal positioning and controlled and coached pushing decreases the incidence of tearing of the perineum, which ultimately decreases healing time and recovery.”
Wills suggests reading books such as, Birthing from Within, Birthing without Fear, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Bradley Method Classes and Hypnobirthing. Find the method you think will work best for you.
Believe in your body.
“I try to help women to understand that their bodies are strong,” Kramer said. “Women have been having babies forever and anesthesia is really a recent development. Be aware of your own strength.”