More and more families aspire to have a natural birth and drug free labor. Incorporating Yoga, essential oils, homeopathy and acupressure can be tools to help you have the most natural support possible. If you are attempting a VBAC (Natural Birth After Cesarean) or have any high risk conditions-it may necessitate where or how you will be able to have your baby (hospital, home or birth center), you still may be a candidate for a natural (induction or medication free) birth and labor. Once that is determined, choose a care team who supports natural birth and your birth plan. Whether it is an OB or midwife- be sure you feel comfortable with them and you have communicated and agreed upon your goals. After all these aspects are factored in, the true preparation begins. After working with women for the last 20 years these are some tips I’d like every woman to know.
1. Get out of “Fight or flight” and into “Rest and digest”.
Most women don’t even realize they’re in a subtle state of panic about the whole birth during the 9 months! Stress hormones Norepinephrine and Cortisol are the biggest barriers to having a natural birth because they dominate where Oxytocin should be doing the work. Having high levels of these stress hormones are a sure recipe for blocking the labor and birth process. Sometimes worrying about how the birth will go, who’s going to be there, if you will be able to follow the birth plan can undermine a state of being that is essential to allowing a woman’s body to connect to its natural process at every moment. Practice being deeply relaxed and knowing how feels is for you to not be in a state of “fight or flight” but more so in a state of rest and digest. Perhaps you have had longstanding adrenal fatigue and need support. You can address your adrenal health during pregnancy by supporting your naturally occurring daily cortisol pattern. Take your vitamins in the morning and minerals at night. Be sure to rest at least 20 minutes in the afternoon, include protein for breakfast and meals to avoid spikes in blood sugar. Learn which stress management techniques work for you to get you back to center.
2. Connect to your baby.
The birth process is between you and the baby not just all about you or the care team. The more connected you are to your baby the more you can attune to each others needs and work together.
I love hearing when people want to know their babies gender because I feel like it more deeply connects them to their baby. Having a surprise is equally as amazing. The point is to connect to the baby and understand that they are conscious in the womb. Your relationship begins while you are growing them. If you are stressed, they will be stressed. If you are anxious about giving birth they will be too. A perfect way to connect with your baby is to massage your growing belly daily. This is your baby’s first massage actually! An effective method is to start at your pubic bone and lift up towards your belly button. Next, lift up towards your belly button from each hip. Think of giving your uterus some support and a gentle stretch or lift. Your uterus is a muscle and is stretching for you and your little one. Next, imagine your belly button is the center of a flower and massage big “petals” around it contacting your baby in this way will connect you to them in a profound way. Always use a natural plant based oil that you could eat in order to minimize exposure to toxins.
3. Connect to your Body.
Do yoga, get a massage, spend the nine months preparing and connecting with YOUR body, your baby and your belly. Get regular bodywork done such as a massage, Craniosacral therapy, acupressure, Maya abdominal massage and chiropractic regularly throughout your pregnancy. The goal should be to help get you deeply connected to your pelvis and address any areas of your body that feel restricted tight or painful. I recommend spending 10-15 minutes daily doing breathing exercises, cat stretches, circling your hips and making figure 8’s. Explore your pelvic space before you go into labor not just when you go into labor. Here are some additional Yoga stretches.
Deep belly breathing is a skill that expecting moms should master. Get comfortable in your body and learn how to really, properly breathe. Are you really breathing fully and deeply? Can you get your breath to BEGIN at your perineum and move UP towards your heart without experiencing tremendous tension in your diaphragm, chest and back? Try it. That’s basically how is supposed to work all the time. If not, you have some work to do. Get on all 4’s and stretch, gently opening up your hips and back. If you still feel blocked you may need some bodywork by someone who can release your diaphragms and your muscles involved with breathing. Unrestricted breathing can keep you balanced, healthy and centered throughout your pregnancy.
Remember in general if you want to have a natural pregnancy and birth you need a care team, people who have been working with you throughout your pregnancy.
Check out the benefits of massage during pregnancy in the Mom Loves Best article by Jenny Silverstone or to find a certified pregnancy massage therapist trained by Dr. Deanine.
4. Open up in the birth window.
You have a opportunity to support the labor process in the birth window during weeks 38-41 the time that labor or birth may safely occur even before or after the due date. Some women will begin to mildly dilate 1-3 cm, loose their mucus plug and begin to have more Braxton Hicks contractions. In a non-high risk pregnancy, it can be helpful to get labor opening acupressure or acupuncture done to help support the labor process by supporting the action of Oxytocin that influences uterine contractions as they naturally occur. Three of my favorite things are homeopathic remedies, essential oil’s and acupressure points.
These are two homeopathic remedies that can be taken safely to support contractions especially in the birth window. I recommend a 6 or 30C potency for women (not 200 C). Take 3 pellets separately of each 3 times per day or take 3 pellets of each together when contractions begin and then fade. Take every 20-30 minutes to keep the contractions going once they start. It is important to take homeopathy on a “clean palate” (no food or drink other that water about 15 minutes before or after.) For more info on homeopathy check out my blog.
The body has a network of meridians or energy lines that effect blood, nerve and lymph flow and regulate the functions of organs and systems. Here are the locations of the common acupressure Labor Points in red that can be worked with in the birth window that act to initiate labor. Gently massage the spots and apply perpendicular pressure to the areas until a decrease in tenderness is experienced. Be sure to avoid to much pressure or any broken capillaries or visible veins in the legs. For more information on the research and efficacy of acupuncture check out Evidence Based Birth.
The essence of plants are powerful medicine that can be inhaled, diffused and some applied to the skin directly or in a carrier oil. There are some essential oil’s that you want to avoid during the majority of pregnancy but could be helpful when applied to acupressure points that support the induction of labor. Clary sage, geranium, rose in a blend are some of my favorites to make in a roller ball with essential oils that can be applied to acupuncture points.
5. Nurture the beginning stages of labor.
When you do go into labor be sure you don’t rush it. Eat as you would and stay hydrated. If labor starts in the evening, try to stay in a quiet receptive space keeping the lights off and allowing your body to be in rhythm with the cycle of a day. Allow your body to ride the wave of your contractions. Don’t start panicking and rush the early stages of labor. The easier you move from early labor into active labor, the less likely your need for interventions will be. Eating dates in many traditions been shown to support oxytocin the hormone responsible for the beautiful cascade of labor. Stay nourished and hydrated. Eat meals and nap as you normally would even if in labor. Stay connected with the natural flow of the day.
If you’d like more information or want to set up a session I recommend and my three session care package to best prepare you during your journey for more information contact me. Check out my natural labor kit here. Remember your body knows what to do-trust it and connect to the wisdom within.
Written by Dr. Deanine Picciano AP, LMT is an Acupuncture Physician in private practice in Sarasota, Florida with an emphasis on empowering women & children, health and healing the whole person.
Visit us at www.drdeanine.com