If you're pregnant and curious about natural childbirth, it's easy to walk away from all the beautiful birthing stories thinking that natural is the only way to go. But is it? Some of the crunchiest moms I know will admit it's not for everyone. If you're thinking about attempting natural childbirth, you have to get past all the idealism and politics and take a good hard look at reality. There's your aspirations, and then there's you, with all your life experiences, your circumstances, your strengths, and your limitations.
Lots of women plan on natural labor only to change their minds and get that epidural after all. Plenty of other women plan on being medicated and then deliver so quickly there's no time. Labor is unpredictable like that. But if you want to try out natural childbirth, there's a few questions you need to ask yourself.
1. How do you feel about your body being out of your control? The fewer interventions you have, the more control you're handing over to your body's own natural processes. That may sound great, especially when people say things like "trust the wisdom of your own body." But it can be terrifying. Think of all the other times you have not been in full control of your body. How did that feel? Scary or thrilling? Of course, the idea that you're in full control even with a medicated birth can still be total fiction -- but it still feels different.
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2. How do you handle pain, really? How soon do you reach for meds when you have a headache? Try holding a cube of ice in your palm. How long do you last? As long as the average contraction? Because a contraction is going to be a hell of a lot more intense and painful.
3. Do you have time to train? For best results, you really do need to actively prepare for natural childbirth. You should prepare for any childbirth, actually. But going unmedicated works best when you can work with a doula, midwife, or labor coach beforehand and really learn techniques for managing pain and working with your body. It's not necessarily as intuitive as you'd think.
4. Do you have the right support team? You're going to need your significant other to be on board. And you're going to need your midwife, labor nurse, doctor, any anyone else helping you to be supportive of an unmedicated labor. It takes a lot of support.
By the way, as far as I'm concerned, any labor that results in a baby is "natural." So however your baby arrives in this world, you should feel proud of yourself.
How else can women find out if natural childbirth is right for them?
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