Bringing a baby into this world is one of the most natural and instinctive acts that a woman’s body is programmed to do. Though childbirth is the most fantastic adventure a mother can have, with all the pressures of the modern world, it’s a challenge for women to develop confidence, trust their intuition and allow their maternal instincts to take over.
It is best to start preparing for delivery well in advance. You could make a start by learning all about the various birthing methods that are practiced today:
‘Traditional’ Birthing Method
Traditional birthing methods, which involve an attending physician and hospitalization are currently the norm in India and across the world. Though most urban women gain confidence in being taken care of by a professional obstetrician, the clinical approach has its downsides too. A hospital birth most often means being herded into a labour room, being drugged and strapped to the table and delivering the baby with legs in stirrups.
In the mid-1900s, Dr. Michael Odent, a French Obstetrician, pointed out the errors in this position for the first time. He expressed the view that when the legs are held in stirrups, a woman has to push her baby upward, against the force of gravity. This leads to stronger contractions, greater pain and extended labor. To make childbirth more natural, Dr. Odent devised his own method based on traditional midwifery.
Thus the concept of natural birthing, which includes the use of birthing pools and birthing rooms designed to offer a gentler, less clinical atmosphere came into existence. Today, natural childbirth practitioners advocate no, or minimal, drug use and minimal intervention.
Natural Childbirth Methods
Natural childbirth claims to benefit both the mother and the baby, giving the mother more control over her experience. Advocates claim that a baby born naturally is more alert at birth and because it does not have drugs in its bloodstream, the mother and baby will bond more easily. Natural childbirth can take place at home, or in a hospital with a birthing center, with staff specifically trained for the purpose.
Today, the role of midwives has regained popularity, and their service is made available in most hospitals. There has also been a revival of home births, and men are now becoming actively involved in the birthing process.
Lamaze, or Lamaze-Pavlov, was the first popular natural childbirth method in the 1950s, and is still one of the most popular childbirth classes today. Breathing exercises and concentration on a focal point are practiced to allow mothers to control pain while maintaining consciousness. This allows the flow of oxygen to the baby and to the muscles in the uterus. A partner coaches the mother throughout the birthing process.
The Read method, named for Dick Read, is a technique of breathing that originated in the 1930s to help mothers deal with apprehension and tension associated with childbirth. This natural childbirth method uses different breathing for the different stages of childbirth.
The LeBoyer method stresses a relaxed delivery in a quiet, dim room. It attempts to avoid over-stimulation of the baby and to foster mother-child bonding by placing the baby on the mother’s abdomen and having the mother massage him or her immediately after the birth. Then the father washes the baby in a warm bath.
The Bradley method is called father-coached childbirth, because it focuses on the father serving as coach throughout the process. It encourages normal activities during the first stages of labor.
Alternative Birthing Methods
Traditional home birth, with a midwife in attendance, has always been the norm in rural India. In many western countries, home birth is once again gaining popularity, as it is seen as a more ‘dignified’ way of giving birth, in the privacy of home. While a home birth could work well for rural women, who are used to working long hours sitting or squatting on the floor, it could lead to complications if there is already an underlying risk like placenta previa or a multiple pregnancy.
Water birth has gained popularity in recent times, due to it’s many obvious benefits. It is based on the premise that as babies spend their first nine months in water, a water-birth makes the right of passage into the world easier on the infant. During a water-birth, the mother-to-be sits in a tub of lukewarm water and the midwife holds the baby as soon as it is born. It results in lesser pain and smoother contractions as there is no fight against gravity.
Hypnosis is a long-used technique of speaking directly to the subconscious mind. When used in childbirth and labour, it has been found that it allows the deepest relaxation possible, along with elimination of pain and fear, thus effecting a quicker and easier birth process for both mother and child, with less bleeding, fewer complications and quicker recovery. The Mongan method of hypno-birthing is gaining popularity as it is also seen as a natural form of pain management.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing method which involves placing hair-thin thin needles at stimulating points on the body to help balance the natural flow of energy (or qi).
So does acupuncture work during childbirth? Well, certain studies have shown that the needles ease pain and have a calming effect during labour. Another study suggests that patients receiving acupuncture were 50 percent less likely to ask for an epidural; the treatment was effective in inducing labor in women whose water had already broken. Scientists also believe that acupuncture not only keep women relaxed but can also shorten labour
Tips & Tricks
Prunes and dates are known to strengthen the uterus muscles and ease child delivery. They also reduce chances of bleeding that might occur after delivery.
Methi (Fenugreek) induces and eases the child birth during labor by stimulating uterine contractions and reducing the labor pain. However, excess intake during pregnancy could be counter active as it increases the risk of miscarriage as well as premature childbirth.
One of the ways to tell a false labour from a true one is to time the contractions. False labour contractions are irregular and die down with time, while true labour contractions come at regular intervals and are persistent.
Make a checklist of all things you need to take to the hospital and pack them in your bag so that it’s all ready when you need it. Remember to pack the baby’s stuff too like clothes, nappies, blankets, booties and mittens.
To soothe labour pain, place a hot water compress bag (take care not to fill it with boiling water) on the aching areas and massage your back gently.