While birth is unpredictable, there are a few things you can do to increase your odds of having an unmedicated labor.
- Have a doula! You know this one by now...
- Choose your care provider carefully. Most obstetricians and some midwives tend to use interventions that make labor more difficult to cope with. The best care provider for an unmedicated labor is usually one who uses medical intervention judiciously--only when the situation merits it, not across the board.
- Do what you can to prepare your body during pregnancy. Exercise. Almost every pregnant woman can walk and stretch, and depending on your prior fitness level, you may be able to do more. If you have been active in pregnancy, your body will be more ready for the physical work of labor.
- Eat well! Babies need lots of protein to grow. Calcium is important. If you don't like fish, you may want to consider a supplement containing EPA and DHA (Fish oil is one of the best ones.) These nutrients promote brain development. Eat as many fruits and veggies as you can squeeze into your diet. A well-nourished baby is more likely to tolerate the stresses of labor than a baby who is malnourished. A well-nourished mother is also better able to handle the stresses of labor and heals faster after the birth. Think of fast food and desserts as treats, not as foods that nourish mother or baby!
- Before labor starts, spend a little time thinking about how you already cope with pain. Do you like to lay down in a dark room? Do you like to stretch or massage your sore muscles? You might want to do something similar during labor.
- Don't go to the hospital too early. Spending early labor and some of active labor at home means your coping options are less limited. You can get in the shower, you can soak in a bathtub (if your water hasn't broken), you can kneel with your arms on the couch (and not be worried about being on a nasty hospital floor), you can eat and drink, you can walk. Once you arrive at the hospital, you will need to spend some time being monitored, have vaginal exams, and your nurse will probably try to start an IV. It's not impossible to cope under these conditions, but it does take away some of your flexibility.
- When you check in at the hospital, ask for a nurse who likes to work with patients who are laboring without pain medicine. Some nurses do, some don't. You're more likely to get a compatible nurse if you ask.
- Try the coping techniques discussed in the previous post or the ones suggested by your doula. If one isn't working, it's time to try something different.
- Make up your mind that you can do it, and you are going to do it. A little mental determination goes a long way.