Giving birth naturally — your way
With all of the birth techniques available, how do you know which one is right for you? Penny Voigt explains.
Whether you decide on a water birth, hypnobirthing, Lamaze, the Bradley Method, the Alexander Technique, or a mixture of these, it’s important the birthing option you choose matches your own beliefs around childbirth and feels comfortable to you. To help you gain a clearer understanding of the various methods to choose from, here are some of the more common birthing techniques.
A water birth is exactly that: Labour progresses in a waist-deep pool of clean, warm water, and baby is delivered either in the water or outside of the pool. The warm water is naturally relaxing and helps to alleviate some of the pain and pressure felt during labour. Along with reducing stress and anxiety, the warm water stimulates your body to produce pain-relieving endorphins, and it’s agreed that women who labour in water are less likely to use medical pain relief.
As your body is naturally buoyant in water, a water birth helps you move around easily and nd a comfortable birthing position. During delivery, the sides of the pool provide support. It’s also easier to maintain an upright position and use gravity to assist baby in moving through your pelvis.
The warm water softens the tissue of your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus), making it supple and allowing it to stretch to accommodate baby’s head as it passes through, while reducing the likelihood of an episiotomy.
For your baby, a water birth provides a less traumatic transition from the warm, watery surrounds of your womb to the outside world. Many people believe that babies born in water are calmer and tend to cry less, as the warm water allows baby to enter the world with less light and sound, and less of a dramatic change.
During a water birth, you can still use gas and air if you nd the warm water does not help to reduce painful contractions, but if you choose stronger pain relief like pethidine or an epidural, you will need to leave the birth pool.
Founded on the principle that women are conditioned to fear childbirth and associate labour with excruciating pain, hypnobirthing embraces a different attitude to the way we think and talk about labour and birth.
Hypnobirthing classes teach a simple program of self-hypnosis, special breathing techniques, relaxation, visualisation, and meditation that help women bring babies into the world in a calm and gentle way.
The techniques used in hypnobirthing teach you ways to stay calm and in control during labour and birth. Hypnobirthing techniques focus on staying alert while at the same time shutting out the world and concentrating on your body, helping you relax even if you are in pain. Relaxing your body slows down the production of stress hormones like adrenalin that can inhibit the release of the labour hormone oxytocin and other endorphins.
The best time to start hypnobirthing classes is between 25 and 29 weeks of pregnancy, as this will allow you enough time to practise the techniques you learn. It’s a good idea to bring your birthing partner along to classes as you’ll both learn breathing, relaxation, and visualisation techniques.
“Knowledgeable parents making informed decisions” is the vision of Lamaze International, one of the most popular techniques for learning about pregnancy, birth and parenting. With a focus on increasing a mother’s con dence in her ability to give birth, classes help mums-to-be understand how to cope with pain and learn relaxation techniques, movement, and massage. Along with instruction on labour, birth, and the early postnatal period, classes cover focused breathing techniques, relaxation, and making informed decisions around any interventions that may be medically necessary. A typical Lamaze class consists of at least 12 hours of instruction, and women generally begin classes at the start of their seventh month of pregnancy.
The Bradley Method
With an emphasis on birth as a natural process, the Bradley Method encourages mothers to trust their own bodies. The primary goal of the Bradley Method is a natural, drug-free childbirth that promotes healthy mothers and babies.
Developed in the late 1940s by Dr Robert Bradley, this birth technique relies on what are termed “the six needs of the labouring woman”, including deep and complete relaxation and abdominal breathing, quiet, darkness, solitude, physical comfort, and closed eyes.
An intensive 12-week programme covers 12 units of instruction, and typically classes are started around your fth month of pregnancy; the Bradley Method believes it takes months to prepare for childbirth and parenting, mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Classes focus on diet and exercise throughout pregnancy, and mums-to-be are taught to manage labour pains through deep breathing, while the active participation of a birth partner as labour coach is supported.
Along with prenatal nutrition and exercise, the classes teach a number of birthing positions to ease labour pains and prepare you for each stage of labour, and mums-to-be are taught to tune into their body and prepare themselves for a labour that avoids pain medication and intervention.
The Alexander Technique
The Alexander Technique teaches greater conscious awareness and control over how you sit, move, and react. It’s a simple and practical method that can enhance your comfort during pregnancy, labour, and recovery. By increasing awareness and bringing your attention to how it is you do what you do, you learn to suspend or even stop the habitual patterns which are not useful, and gradually replace those habits with better ones. By undoing patterns of tension or compression, you provide an opportunity for natural movement and natural postural reflexes to work.
It’s not uncommon to experience neck pain, lower back pain, carpel tunnel syndrome, and numbness in the hands as your body undergoes a number of changes during pregnancy. The Alexander Technique teaches you to work with your body’s structure, function, and new size to allow a greater freedom of movement. Learning to use your core spinal support can help you nd a more comfortable position for walking, sleeping, sitting and bending.
Using the principles of the Alexander Technique during labour and delivery helps you remain calm and focused, allowing you to turn the birthing process over to your body. Women are taught to use their own self-based body’s natural design during birth, recovery, breastfeeding, and care of baby. Lessons are ideally done weekly while pregnant.
“It’s important the birthing option you choose matches your own beliefs around childbirth and feels comfortable to you”
Also known as umbilical non-severance, lotus birth is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord uncut after birth so that baby remains attached to the placenta until the cord naturally separates, usually a few days after birth. Advocates of lotus birth believe that this prolonged contact is a time of transition that allows baby to slowly and gently let go of his attachment to his mother’s body. However, medical research suggests there is some risk of bacterial infection, as the placenta at post- delivery stage is essentially dead tissue and has no circulation. If you are considering lotus birth, consult with your doctor or LMC.