(this article was updated 5/2/17 to reflect current options in the Twin Cities.)
Planning a natural birth in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area? Congratulations! You probably already know that avoiding medications and interventions during your birth is usually best for you and your baby, can help you recover more quickly, and helps get breastfeeding off to the easiest start possible. Of course sometimes interventions are necessary and life-saving, but ideally, each birthing woman will be able to have as few interventions as possible. So, how can you prepare yourself for the natural birth you desire?
Yes, natural birth can happen anywhere, with any provider. But, if your pregnancy is low-risk, you will probably find that a midwife (or doctor who follows the midwifery model of care) is the best person to support you in your journey to a natural birth. There are different types of midwives and you can read more about the different types here. The two main types in the Twin Cities are Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) and Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs). CNMs are mainly in hospitals, though in the Twin Cities we do have some CNMs who do birth center births and home births. CPMs can be found either at a freestanding birth center or in a home birth setting. So, first, consider where you want to birth. We are lucky in the Twin Cities to have so many amazing options. We have many midwives in hospitals, four freestanding birth centers: Willow Midwives (Mpls), Minnesota Birth Center (2 locations-Mpls and St. Paul), Health Foundations (St. Paul) and Roots Community Birth Center (N. Mpls) and numerous wonderful home birth midwives. (Minnesota Families for Midwifery has a great list for all settings.)
Really explore all these options to determine who is going to be the best fit for you and your goals. If you are doing Hypnobabies (see Step 2), you can ask any Hypnobabies instructor to recommend providers who are supportive of Hypnobabies.
Of course, with many large practices (OBs and midwives) you won't know who will care for you during your birthing time (labor) until that day. If that concerns you, consider choosing a small midwife practice, or a family practice doctor who attends all of their own births, or even an OB who does that as well. They are rare but they do exist! The key is having someone there that day who is totally on board with your plans.
If you are facing a higher risk pregnancy and require specialized care, rest assured you can find a great provider. We have some very natural birth friendly OBs and Family Practice doctors in our area. You will also want to choose a hospital that sees a lot of natural birth and request a nurse who loves working with natural birth families, as your nurse will be present for much more of your birth than the doctor will.
Choosing your provider is probably the most important decision you will make. So really do your research, interview providers, talk to other mothers who've had natural births and ask your DOULA!
The next part of assembling your team is to hire a birth doula. Research shows that doulas reduce intervention rates and increase satisfaction in the birth experience, among other benefits. Your doula is familiar with care providers and can help you find someone who is a good fit for you. Click here to learn why we think doulas are great! You might wonder why you need a doula if you hire a midwife, but really those two roles do not overlap. In the hospital setting, midwives are quite busy and often have more than one patient to care for at once. This means they are in and out of the room and may not be able to be by your side through your whole birth experience. Even in an out of hospital birth, midwives are busy doing medical-care related tasks and doula care is very valuable!
Childbirth education classes are a key component of preparing for a natural birth. We highly recommend an out-of-hospital class, which is going to be designed for how to prepare for a low-intervention birth. Unfortunately, most hospital-based classes are still mostly about hospital procedures, policies, and what drug options are available.
I am a Hypnobabies instructor after all, so I think our classes are the best, but I recognize that this course may not resonate with everyone. So, again, do your research and talk to other mothers who have done childbirth education classes. One of the many things I love about Hypnobabies is that it is a fully comprehensive class. It's about 20 hours of classroom time (over six weeks) so there is no need to take any other classes. You'll learn everything you need to be really prepared for a natural birth. And then, in addition to the childbirth education, there are the amazing hypnosis techniques that allow moms to have easier and more comfortable births (sometimes even pain free!)
When preparing the mind, we want to focus on the birth experience we want to have, because the mind creates for us what we dwell on. Most of us have some heard some negative things about birth over the years and may have some doubts about our ability to do it naturally. The affirmations and hypnosis tracks involved with Hypnobabies help us change our core beliefs about birth. When a mom really believes she can do it, she is much more likely to reach her goals. Thinking this on a conscious level is good, but through hypnosis we can actual change our thoughts on a subconscious level. And hypnosis is really fun and relaxing and nothing at all like stage hypnosis or making people quack like a duck!
I have four tips for you in regards to preparing your body for birth.
1st: Get Moving! Whether it's walking, yoga, swimming or some other type of low-impact (and provider approved) exercise, getting your body ready in this way will help you so much to feel better during pregnancy and strengthen your birthing muscles!
2nd: Restorative Exercise. We are lucky to have our own local Hypnobabies Instructor (my friend and colleague) Lindsay McCoy here in the Twin Cities to help us get our bodies in the optimal alignment for birth (and beyond!) Our sedentary lives (among many other things) mean that for most of us, our bodies are out of alignment, leading to a host of problems. Via group classes or private sessions, Lindsay teaches exercises you can do during pregnancy to bring your body into alignment for a quicker and easier birth, more comfort during pregnancy, and a better postpartum period as well. Learn more here.
3rd: Chiropractic Care. As mentioned already, most of us are not well aligned and could use gentle adjustments during pregnancy. Find a chiropractic who is certified in the Webster Technique and works often with pregnant women. Read more here. This can be especially helpful in cases where a baby is in a breech position or a persistently posterior position. Which leads me to my last suggestion...
4th: SpinningBabies.com. The amazing Gail Tully (who actually attended my second birth!) runs this website all about how to encourage your baby to be in an optimal position for birth. And we're not just talking head down! The way a baby is facing can make all the difference in the length of a birth, and even if a vaginal birth is possible. Heard of a sunny-side up baby? The official term is Occiput Posterior (OP), or commonly just "posterior". Believe me when I say you don't want to birth a baby in this position if you don't have to. (Though it is definitely possible!) She offers exercises to do during pregnancy to get mom's body in balance which helps us start birth with a well-positioned baby. The website also has many techniques to try during birth if a baby needs some help to rotate and find the way. Your doula should be knowledgeable about these techniques. Another plus of hiring a doula! We also teach some of these techniques in Hypnobabies class and encourage you to learn more on your own.
Does this sound like a lot? Perhaps, but giving birth is really one of the most important things that will happen in your life. Just like we prepare for, research and invest in a wedding, or buying a new home, or furthering our education and career, we should really take the time and energy to value and prepare for this life-changing event that can have life-long impacts on the parents and the baby. Good luck on your journey!