Let’s be real – pregnancy and birthing can be scary. We have all seen movies where a woman in labor is raced to the hospital as if she was suffering an acute case of appendicitis and needed a doctor right away. But the truth is, women have given birth for centuries on their own. I’m not saying forget about hospitals and have a home birth, but you also shouldn’t think of it as a “medical procedure,” because it’s not. It’s a natural thing and our bodies are prepared for it.
Here are some recommendations from my abuelita, who had 11 kids at home with no assistance aside from her 3 older sisters:
1. Since gravity exists, why not use it in your favor? Did you know that not long ago, women would give birth in a squatting position or while standing? Every other mammal has their offspring either on all fours or standing. And women weren’t the exception. Laying on your back while giving birth is something relatively new. The first recorded case was in 1663 when Louise de la Valliere, the mistress of King Louis XIV of France, was giving birth. The monarch decided that he wanted to witness the birth of his bastard child and the most comfortable position for him (not for her) to have a clear view of her intimate parts was when she was laying down. After that, rumor spread and women from French high society decided that they were no less than King’s mistress, and if the Royals were birthing that way now, they would too. It became the new trend and certainly more comfortable for the physician assisting that birth, who wouldn’t have to squat and catch the baby.
2. Your sphincters need intimacy. Have you tried peeing in front of a stranger staring at you? It probably didn’t go too well…even if your bladder was about to explode. That’s what happens when a woman in labor goes to a hospital and all of a sudden: 3 doctors, 5 nurses, and 2 interns start doing vaginal examinations and taking notes. The labor stalls. You might be 9 centimeters dilated, almost ready to go, but somehow the labor doesn’t progress. Why? Because your sphincters don’t follow orders. So, make sure you keep those vaginal examinations to a minimum and limit them to one person. Either the nurse, midwife, or the doctor – but not all the medical personnel on the floor.
3. Your body has it’s rhythm of doing things; don’t force it, work with it. In the time of our grandmothers, babies came when they came. Nowadays, if you’re a week past your due date, which by the way is an estimated date (only 5% of babies are born on that estimated day) your doctor is most likely going to talk to you about inducing labor. In some cases, it is medically advised to do so, but in many cases it’s completely unnecessary. So one thing you can try is movement before medication. Maybe a week before your due date, you want to try some light exercise. Exercising on your birth ball and going on walks can stimulate labor in a natural way.
4. Embrace the pain. I know no one likes experiencing pain, and don’t get me wrong, it is a very human and healthy instinct. But sometimes, trying to avoid pain causes more pain. Epidurals are a great invention that you can request at almost any time (except when you are already pushing, but if you made it all the way there mama, just keep pushing). I know many women who, even before they were pregnant, had already been talking about having an epidural once their big day arrives. Why? You don’t even know what a contraction feels like! The ideas that we set in our minds are very powerful, so if you are convinced that your labor is going to be horribly painful, it probably will be. Instead, try to go in with an open mind and decide once you get there.
5. Breathe, breathe, and keep breathing. Breath is the connection between your mind and your body. So by breathing in a conscious way, you are calming and oxygenating your entire nervous system, which helps the experience. And most importantly, good breath will keep you grounded.
If you want to know more about pregnancy, check out our recent article regarding pregnancy during a pandemic.