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The best way to plan for a natural birth

The best way to plan for a natural birth

This is such a great question and one we get asked in our online childbirth classes a lot!

 The answer depends on your unique definition of “Natural Birth.”  Some consider it birth without the use of pain medications.  Others consider it birth with the use of limited pain medication.  While yet some others consider natural birth one devoid of interventions.  No matter how you define natural birth it is never too early to take steps toward having one so the tips enclosed here are good for  preconception as well as your pregnancy journey:

Eat well

A balanced diet will support both the nutritional needs of you & your baby.  It will help you to attain the recommended weight gain for your specific pregnancy.  Appropriate pregnancy weight gain will encourage your body to grow a baby that is the right size for you to birth.  Too much weight gain or entering pregnancy overweight can increase your risk for pregnancy related diabetes, high blood pressure disorders of pregnancy, preterm birth, & stillbirth.  Pregnancy complications decrease the risk of a natural birth & often require more interventions..

The March of Dimes recommends the following as a balanced diet:

  • Products made from whole grains including corn tortillas, oatmeal, brown rice, bread, pasta, and cereals
  • Fruit of all types, including raw, frozen, or canned without added sugar, and juice that is 100% fruit juice
  • Vegetables of all colors, including raw, frozen, or “low sodium” canned and 100% vegetable juice
  • Lean protein from meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, peas, peanut butter, soybeans and tofu
  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy, including milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • Healthy fats from avocados, nuts, seeds, vegetable oil, and olive oil

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website has tools to help you plan healthy meals before and during pregnancy. You can check it out here. 

Exercise

For most pregnant people, at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise is recommended on most, if not all, days of the week.  As with anything offered here, you want to consult your obstetric provider first.  You may be advised against exercise in pregnancy if you have experienced preterm labor during your current pregnancy, are carrying a multiple gestation pregnancy which puts you at increased risk of preterm labor, if you have premature rupture of the membranes or are severely anemic.

Consider the following guidelines when initiating a pregnancy exercise routine:

  • If you haven’t exercised for a while. Begin with as little as 10 minutes of physical activity a day. Build up to 15 minutes, 20 minutes, and so on, until you reach at least 30 minutes a day.
  • If you exercised before pregnancy. You can likely continue to work out at the same level while you’re pregnant — as long as you’re feeling comfortable and your health care provider says it’s ok.

Some of the benefits of exercise during pregnancy:

  • Reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling
  • Boost your mood and energy levels
  • Help you sleep better
  • Prevent excess weight gain
  • Promote muscle tone, strength and endurance

Other benefits of following a regular exercise program during pregnancy may include a  lower risk of pregnancy related diabetes, blood pressure disorders or pregnancy, experiencing a shortened labor & reducing risk of having a cesarean birth.  Keeping your risk low will increase the chances for a natural birth.

Walking is a great exercise. It offers moderate aerobic conditioning with minimal stress on your joints. Other good choices include swimming, low-impact aerobics and cycling on a stationary bike. Strength training is ok if done with relatively low weights.

Other forms of exercise include:

Deep Breathing Techniques. Deep breathing offers a number of overall health benefits in addition to increased relaxation. It helps lower your heart rate & helps you get to sleep more quickly.  Deep breathing can help you stay calm and focused during labor and prevents unhealthy breathing such as hyperventilation (breathing too quickly) or holding your breath, which can lead to feeling tired and dizzy.  Breathing techniques can effectively be used to navigate the pain of labor & birth if a natural birth means an unmedicated one for you.

Meditation can be used as a calming exercise to center & connect your mind & body.  As hormones fluctuate during your pregnancy journey, it can be challenging to feel centered.  Prenatal meditation calms the mind by focusing on breathwork.  There are a variety of ways available to practice mindfulness and meditation including apps, classes, and guided meditation – this makes it easier to find a method that can support your pregnancy, labor & birth needs.  

Dream Big & Openminded.  Have fun gathering ideas for your dream birth experience.  Create a list of your desires & start the conversation with your obstetric provider early.  Approach the conversation with an open mind understanding that birth spaces have different protocols in place to keep you & your family safe during labor & birth.  Work with your obstetric provider on developing a plan that is both safe & satisfying.   

Find a practice that aligns with your desires.  Again, crystalizing & discussing your birth plan early will help guide you toward an obstetric practice that aligns with the labor & birth plans of you & your family.

Learn all about baby care in our Nurse-Midwife led FREE Workshop. Sign up today!