Birthing methods can often help mothers cope with the pain of labor. Get the basics on different ones here so you can choose the one that’s best for you.
Giving birth to your child is an experience you will never forget. You hope the joy of meeting your newborn will overshadow the trials of labor; you want the memory to be a positive one. Your goal is to pick a birthing method that will make this event as pleasurable and painless as possible.
Choosing a birthing method is a personal decision. And selecting from the variety of methods can be a bit overwhelming.
A natural birth is when a woman wants as little medical intervention with labor and delivery as possible. She chooses not to use epidural analgesia or other painkillers. And she will try to avoid delivery by cesarean (c-section) unless it’s necessary.
The decision to try a natural birth is between you, your partner and your doctor. Some women opt for a natural birth because they fear the rare but possible side effects of epidurals and other medications.
No matter which type of childbirth you choose, make sure your requests are outlined in your birth plan. Go over your birth plan with your partner and doctor before labor starts so everyone is aware of your wishes. Also discuss with your doctor when and why medical intervention would be needed for your safety or the safety of the baby.
Birthing methods 101
Childbirth education classes usually focus on one birthing method. Your doctor can answer your questions and help you choose the one that’s best for you. Some common methods include:
- Lamaze emphasizes distraction techniques, such as controlled breathing, to lessen pain during labor. In Lamaze classes, women and their partners will learn how to make informed decisions during the childbirth process. Other topics covered include:
- Positioning for more comfortable labor and birth
- Massage for pain relief
- How the labor coach can help
- Tips for communicating with your partner
- Healthy lifestyle advice
- Information about medical procedures you may need during labor and delivery
- Bradley method teaches couples how to do everything possible to achieve a natural childbirth. In this method, you choose to forgo any anesthesia or pain medications and prefer not to use forceps, fetal monitors or other tools. The Bradley method stresses good nutrition and exercise throughout pregnancy. This standard course also includes information on:
- Specific nutrition guidelines
- Labor rehearsals
- Postpartum care
- How the coach can advocate for the mother
- Birthing From Within is a holistic approach to childbirth. Its goal is for the woman to be aware of the entire birth experience. Birthing From Within views pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum as a natural learning experience. The class format and content is adjusted to meet the specific needs of each couple based on their emotional, spiritual and physical preferences.
- Hypnobirthing stresses deep relaxation during the labor process. This method says that pain does not have to be a part of childbirth if mom is very calm. The classes teach moms how to achieve a daydreaming-like feeling that will lead to a happy, peaceful experience.
- Water birthing is when the baby is born into a warm tub of water. Some women choose to spend labor in the tub and get out for delivery. Being in the water is soothing and may reduce stress. Water may also ease the pain of labor because it creates buoyancy, which results in less pain for the mother. Check with your doctor to be sure that you are a candidate for this type of birthing experience.
Getting through labor and delivery
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics encourage pregnant women and their partners to take childbirth education classes. A study found that women who took classes and prepared for birth had a more satisfying experience.
Classes prepare couples for labor, delivery and the postpartum period. The topics covered may include:
- What to expect during childbirth, including when you may need to have medical intervention
- Relaxation techniques
- Coaching tips for the partner
- Breast-feeding advice
- Newborn care basics
The goal of most childbirth education classes is to help mothers cope with the pain of labor. Even if you’re not doing a natural birth, you can still benefit from some of these classes. The relaxation techniques can be used to ease labor pain before you’re ready for painkillers.
Your doctor, midwife or local hospital can help you find a class. Keep the following in mind when deciding on one:
- Schedule. Classes are usually taught in sessions that meet once a week for a few months.
- Meeting location. They may be offered at hospitals or birthing centers.
- Topics and birth philosophies that are covered.
- If the instructor is certified.
- Number of other couples in the class.