This past week I attended a home birth that reminded me of the powerful, inborn ability of the female body to deliver babies naturally. The room was softly lit and Mom and Dad were on their bed at home as they welcomed a baby girl into their world. No medical interventions required. Some people might say that they are lucky but this couple had intentionally accumulated all of the ingredients needed to help ensure a natural childbirth. I would like to share them with you.
As a Naturopathic Doula, I have the privilege of witnessing the process of birth unfold naturally and, without fail, I am always shaking with delight at the power and intelligence of nature. I find it incredible how the female body knows how to slowly open up and deliver to the world a ripe being ready to take it's first breath.
Of course, birth can go different directions for different reasons, many of which are out of our personal control. As a women learning about what to expect during labour, there is ample information online about all of the things that could go wrong and you could start to doubt your ability to have a normal, natural childbirth. It is important to be well informed and to have trust in your medical professionals to help you navigate those obstacles if they present themselves. I am hoping to add to that wealth of information by offering you some positive, empowered inspiration that rekindles trust in your ability to naturally deliver your baby. Today I want to share with you what I have learned, through my experiences as a birth doula, about key ingredients needed to allow birth to unfold naturally.
As the saying goes, 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure', and the more you can do throughout your pregnancy to prepare your body for delivery, the better. Regular exercise during your pregnancy can help your body to have the strength and stamina needed during labour and has been shown to reduce the risk of cesarean section delivery. Most of the women I work with who have managed a natural delivery kept active throughout their pregnancy with daily walks, bike rides and swimming.
Many women will attest that in order to ride the waves of pain through their labour, they needed a strong mental focus. This is something that you can learn to foster during pregnancy through various practices. Some women have already learned the art of focus from pushing themselves physically in sport (running, for example). For others, learning mindfulness meditation, guided relaxation or Hypnobirthing can help you practice focusing on breath while actively relaxing the body.
What you put into your body during pregnancy can also have a big impact on your ability to experience less pain and, therefore, a more likely natural birth. A new study published in the American Society of Anesthesiologists suggests low Vitamin D levels are correlated with higher pain during labour. It's not surprising to me considering the fact that Vitamin D plays such a big role in pain modulation. This is just one example of how important proper levels of nutrients in our diet can help our body function the way that nature intended. Ask your doctor to check your Vitamin D levels during early pregnancy (or while trying to conceive) to see if you need to supplement. Food sources include fortified milk products, salmon, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. Otherwise, get your daily dose of sunshine and fresh air!
Did you know that your body creates 2 extra pounds of uterine muscle during your pregnancy?? That is one of the reasons why it is so important to consume adequate amounts of healthy protein. Lean chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, dairy, legumes (+ whole grains), nuts and seeds are all wonderful sources. This uterine muscle is the driving force behind dilating your cervix and pushing out your baby so we want to make sure it is strong and well-built.
In Part 2 we will discuss the ingredients needed during labour to help support a natural delivery, from a doula's perspective! Stay tuned!