If you are interested in a natural birth and want to avoid unnecessary medical interventions,1 there are several steps you can take to increase your odds of having your desired birth experience. Some of the steps advocated by Childbirth Connection are to: a) find a supportive midwife or OB (and one that has low rates of intervention), b) develop a birth plan to share with your provider and support team, c) choose a setting that is conducive to natural birth, d) arrange for continuous labor support from someone who has experience.2
When I asked a group of mama friends what they thought the most important factor is to having a natural birth, the overwhelming response was support. Many women want their partner and/or mother in the room with them while they labor, thinking that the presence of a loved one will be enough. But you may find that a doula will give you added – and irreplaceable – support.
Doula, translated from Greek, means “a woman who serves.” Doulas are trained professionals who “provide continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother” during pregnancy, labor, and even after birth. Research shows that doula-attended births result in shorter labors with fewer complications and healthier babies that breastfeed more easily.3 Doulas also provide support to partners, whose help to mothers can increase breastfeeding success and reduce postpartum depression.
If you are concerned about the cost of a doula, take heart – they are affordable. And because doula support will likely help you avoid unnecessary medical interventions, you will make up that cost later in better health and less money spent on health care. If you live in an area that has a doula certification program, you can also inquire about getting free or reduced services by doulas in training.
Another key part of having the birth you want is to educate yourself. Learn what to expect in a natural birth, strategies for managing labor (i.e., hypnobirthing, Bradley method, massage, etc.), and how to avoid interventions. Educate yourself on your legal right to “informed consent” and “informed refusal.”4
Experiencing a natural birth is every woman and newborn’s right. Natural birth is also a joyful event that will result in a healthier and happier mother-baby pair. “Most mothers are healthy and have good reason to anticipate uncomplicated childbirth[;]” it is a matter of education, support, and conscious decision-making that make such births possible.5
Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with their healthcare provider. If you are pregnant, are nursing, have a medical condition, or are taking any medication, please consult your physician. Nothing you read here should be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis, or courses of treatment.
- Read about induction and electronic fetal monitoring in Part 1, internal exams and epidurals in Part 2, and cesarean sections in Part 3. ↩
- Tips and Tools: C-Section ↩
- What is a doula? ↩
- What Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Know About Cesarean ↩
- Why Does the National U.S. Cesarean Section Rate Keep Going Up? ↩