How to have an empowered birth

by Midwife Naomi de la Torre on May 25, 2012

Avoid the cascade of interventions

Births that begin according to their own timetable and progress naturally are safer and healthier for both mom and baby. Unfortunately, a large percentage of births now begin with interventions such as artificial rupture of membranes and the use of various medications to induce labor. Once a birth has been artificially induced, the normal physiology of birth is disrupted and the cascade of interventions begins.

Interfering with the natural process of childbirth causes a variety of negative outcomes including impeding the body’s ability to produce its own birth hormones, creating opportunities for infection, exposing the baby to synthetic medications and raising the likelihood of delivery by C-section. Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, there is a disturbing trend toward the overuse of birth interventions in the United States. In fact, the number of women whose labor begins with induction has more than doubled since 1990. In 2008, 23 percent of labors were induced artificially and one in every three women now gives birth via C-section. The World Health Organization recommends that the C-section rate should not be higher than 5-10 percent of births.

Move freely during labor

When birth begins with induction, membrane rupture or other interventions, many hospitals require that moms stay in bed for the duration of their labor and delivery. This is necessary to provide continuous electronic fetal monitoring and intravenous fluids to the laboring mom. However, lying on your back is one of the least effective positions to labor and birth in. The two most common positions used in hospital deliveries (lithotomy and C-position) restrict the pelvic outlet by up to 30 percent, putting unnecessary stress on the perineum and sometimes causing drops in fetal heart rate and other forms of fetal distress.

On the other hand, when labor begins spontaneously and develops naturally, moms are able to take advantage of freedom of movement. This means you can walk the halls, bounce gently on a birth ball, enjoy the soothing effects of a birthing tub or labor in any position that feels comfortable to you. As the baby moves into the birth canal, labor is much easier to endure when you can use gravity to your benefit. One of the best ways to maximize your ability to labor naturally is by hiring a birth doula to assist you. She will support you during the duration of your labor offering natural solutions for pain relief such as massage, meditation, water therapy, breathing techniques, positioning, moaning and hypnosis.

Have an empowered birth

For birthing moms, using medications during labor can cause a variety of undesirable effects. At a time when you most want to feel involved and in control, birth medications may make you feel groggy, lightheaded, nauseated and confused. It is much harder to push effectively when you are numb and cannot feel your lower body. Many moms who have chosen to go natural after experiencing a medicated birth have been impressed by how empowering natural childbirth can be. Solana, mom of four, describes her experience: “When I gave birth without medication, I felt so much more in touch with my own body and the primal experience of being a woman and bringing life into the world. I was surprised at how different my emotions were. During my medicated birth, I did not have the same birth high. I was just relieved it was over. After giving birth naturally, I felt empowered. I felt amazing. I felt transformed.”

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