Too easily our pregnancies and birth are being lost as a number in the medical system, with all the measuring, numbers, figures and giving us percentages of where we ‘should’ and shouldn’t’ be not only with the size of our abdomen but also during labour we are measured for progress and controlled through what is actually NATURAL process. Are we losing sight of trusting the natural process and instead replacing it with expectations or relying on medical intervention to make-it-happen? While we are thankful for medical practices for some circumstances they are certainly needed and even life-saving, however, how easily are we handing over the power of our pregnancy and birth without having the knowledge that traditionally would have been passed on to help empower us to thrive in pregnancy and birth.
Below, in our Natural Pregnancy and Birth Checklist, are some areas where you can take back the empowerment of your pregnancy and birth and be on the natural path to a beautiful natural journey through this life-remembering chapter. A way we can change society’s vibe from how horrible and uncomfortable pregnancy is and the fear-mongering birth can be, to embracing the changes of our body, bask in the glory of growing a human being and having positive inspiring outcomes of birth.
The Natural Pregnancy and Birth Checklist
PRIVATE MIDWIFE/ DOULA The latest research shows that a woman having a private midwife and receiving continuity of care during the pregnancy is more likely to have positive birth experience with minimal to no medical intervention. Today our pregnancy and birth can get lost in the medical system and feeling like we are a number or that the birth is a medical procedure. When really the pregnancy and giving birth is a natural process. Woman have been birthing for centuries in the middle of Africa and remote islands without any medical intervention. We ARE able to birth naturally however having the correct support and working on any fears is required to bring empowerment for our birthing mamas. As the alternative of going under the knife, which is sometimes of course necessary, however not natural nor optimal for mum or bub. For example the passing of microbiome from the baby passing through the birth canal is important for the babes future natural immunity in prevention or reoccurring infections, asthma, obesity, gut disorders and allergies. Thankfully now in the necessary cases of caesarean section we can now do ‘vaginal seeding’ which is where the baby is wiped with vaginal secretions that have been swapped from the mother. The latest research from this seeding has shown that a C-section baby’s microbiome is quite similar to a baby that has been vaginally birthed, very exciting!
CALMBIRTH/ HYPNOBIRTHING ANTENATAL CLASSES You can never be over-educated or over-prepared for birth. The more information and education leads to the more ‘ready’ the parents can be about the upcoming birth. There is of course the hospital antenatal courses out there, however they do have a reputation of being quite fear based and textbook, which we know that no birth is the same. So for a natural birth it is recommended to attend a more informative antenatal course, Calmbirth or Hypnobirth are beautiful short courses that are informative for BOTH parents and help to provide tools that are useful for the birth. A different technique to assist both parents, the extra education is very helpful to reassure the parents of the exciting birth that is upon the horizon. Even second time mums are raving about the benefits of doing one of these courses to further their understanding to help obtain a positive birth outcome, for their next child, as remember every birth is different and preparation is key.
PRENATAL YOGA / MEDITATION This helps our pregnancy be more enjoyable plus physically and emotionally comfortable - yoga and meditation is brilliant. The yoga helps the body to stretch and make room for the growing bub plus strength the body for an active birth, for example the beautiful goddess pose is a great birthing position, and hence yoga helps to strengthen the legs for this great birthing position. Yoga also helps reduce fluid retention, cramping and pain in the 3rd trimester. Then the meditation will support the emotional challenges that accompany pregnancy. Meditation benefits the mind to strengthen, which has a huge role in the birth. By being able to centre the mind and go within will prevent the flight and fight response in labour which can snowball into a far from optimal birth. Also assisting the body is learning different yogic breathing (pranayama) that can be used with anxiety, sleeplessness, to simply calm during birth. Yoga and meditation is a MUST for a natural pregnancy and birth. Plus you get to connect with other mamas on the baby journey.
NATURAL HEALTH PRACTITIONERS Surrounding yourself with a team of practitioners, such as naturopaths, acupuncturists, massage therapists, they will greatly assist your natural pregnancy and birth outcomes. A lot of mamas struggle through pregnancy and are told ‘its just a part of pregnancy’ and that you just need to suck it up. In fact a lot of our pregnant symptoms are preventable and treatable with natural medicine and acupuncture sessions. Naturopaths/ Nutritionists can recommend a healthy diet that suits you and your bubs needs during the different stages of pregnancy to optimise the health of your baby and also your recovery. Plus there are many symptoms such as fluid retention, cramping, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, reflux/heartburn, constipation, high blood pressure, skin pigmentation, infections the list really goes on and on that can all be supported by your practitioner that doesn’t consist of harmful medications or just having to put up with the discomfort. Acupuncture is great for stabilising hormones and optimising blood building and delivery of nutrients to your growing placenta and bub. Plus if you visit your acupuncturist regularly throughout your pregnancy they can also assist preparation for labour, getting bub in the right position and if need be can help to naturally induce labour which his a fabulous alternative to the synthetic drug Pitocin. Other natural health practitioners that are helpful during pregnancy are cranial sacral therapists, kinesiologists, massage therapists (highly recommend at least monthly massages to help the growing body), psychotherapists/ holistic counsellors, hypnotherapists, depending on what presents with your pregnancy. But know that there is always help out there to assist and help to embrace pregnancy for the beautiful time it actually is.
SELF CARE It is vital to acknowledge self-care once you’re a mama. You certainly can’t rely on external sources for comfort, support and nourishment. Sure it is a bonus when you receive however learning to give to yourself and create the space and time for YOU will be the most nourishing thing you can do as a mother. Implementing a routine of self-care whether it is morning yoga for 5 mins, a green smoothie or herbal cup of tea, or afternoon beach walk. Now is the time to start thinking about what you can implement as your self-care routine and share this with your household so they can help you to achieve these moments. Try and find moments that support the physical body, the mind and that feed your soul, things you are passionate about. As much as your baby will become your world it is still important and healthy to have other loves in your life. By recognising these now and writing them down will be important reminders when mum life can become challenging and exhausting. Knowing how to refill your cup will benefit not only you but also your bub and surrounding family.
EMPOWERMENT & EDUCATION During pregnancy is a time to research and investigate ALL options throughout your pregnancy, for your birth, breastfeeding and beyond. A perfect time to investigate what feels right for you and your partner and the family life you wish to create. It is important to not just take the first suggestion throughout this time, ask the questions why and research decisions yourself, the pros and cons so you are making a educated and empowered decision for your bub. This is important so you don’t look back with regrets and say ‘oh if only I knew’ or ‘why didn’t anyone tell me this’. Well it is your responsibility as a mother to find out for yourself and be confident in the decisions you are making. So always think to yourself ‘am I educated about this decision and how does it sit with me” as education will leave you feeling empowered moving through such an important chapter in your life. There are many great books, blogs and information out there today for natural pregnancy, science-based supporting natural health, attachment parenting and other parenting methods, traditional birth, demand breast-feeding and so much more it is endless. Let your inquisitiveness guide you in the direction of research that is right for your bub and family.
NATURAL SUPPLEMENTS All medicines have the potential to affect maternal health, cross the placenta and affect the foetal development, increasing the risk of miscarriage, neonatal withdrawal, dysfunction growth in utero, structural abnormality, especially in the critical growth periods of the embryo between days 17-70 post-conception (Wk 4-8). It is important to understand this and hence look for natural and safe alternatives throughout your pregnancy and birth, as easy as it may be to reach for the painkillers for those hormonal headaches, be mindful of what your putting into your body. A naturopath that specialises in pregnancy will have great knowledge of what medications as well as natural and herbal medicines are harmful and what are safe for you to be taking. A natural prenatal supplement is recommended to deliver vital nutrients on top of a healthy diet, such nutrients as folic acid, B12, iron and iodine. Also optimising neurological development and bone growth for your bub with other supplements specific to the individual that can be easily recognised through physical observation or integrated pathology, (not just the standard pathology the doctor may order as vital nutrients are commonly missed). Supplementation where appropriate will assist not only the healthy growth of bub but also the recovery for mum and support of breastfeeding post-birth. It is always best to speak to a qualified practitioner rather than just grabbing a supplement off the shelf in the chemist.
PLACENTA ENCAPSULATION This may be strange to some however in the natural baby world this has become such common practice to consume your placenta that you grew for your bub, and now there is research to support the benefits. Such as prevention of nutrient deficiency, improved recovery post-birth, breast milk supply, prevention of post-natal depression and restoring iron levels. The whole procedure is done professionally with accurate temperature monitoring, dehydration, and encapsulation. This method has become quite popular compared to the old cutting it up into little pieces and keeping it in the freezer. With the up-to-date research and correct methods the dosage of the capsules can be altered to suit the mother and presenting symptoms. And really how fabulous to think you grow a placenta to provide nourishment for you baby and then it gives nourishment back to yourself post-birth, you grow your own supplements….. how cool !!
BIRTH WISH LIST It is a great idea after all the education you have done and feeling super empowered to have your ‘birth wish list’ to take to hospital, or have at home and give to you midwife/ birth support people. While this is a whole other blog in itself, to include the details the main suggestions would be to include:
Immediate skin-on-skin time once the baby is born for at least an hour
Delayed cord clamping,
No one is to bath the baby (actually for the first 5 days minimum),
In case of recommended intervention please ensure you give me and my birth support time to discuss our options in private before we inform you of our decision,
Support of an active birth labour
Be clear with your intentions around medications
Catching your baby, will this be you, your partner or the midwife.
Keep lighting low, or by candlelight
Water birth preferred for some mamas
Placenta kept in large ziplock bag (mum to supply) and refrigerated until collected
Minimal people to be present in the room at all times
MAMA CIRCLE Surrounding yourself with like-minded mama friends will be your savour. When you’re pregnant or have a newborn it can get overwhelming with the bucket loads of advice you will get. A great way to get around this is by connecting with mamas who have a similar outlook to you, as the mamas you have in your hospital antenatal classes can be a real mix bag to your own views, as can be the advice from your Aunty and next door neighbour. A mama always needs her circle of mamas who she can be open, honest and vulnerable to, and who will not judge. Rather be there for support and advice at anytime. Plus like-minded mamas will understand what food you like which is always helpful for them to drop a meal over in those special first weeks of bubs arrival. Facebook is a fabulously helpful resource to connect with mamas like yourself in your local area, or staying connected with your yoga mums or you can always start your own mama circle to create the vibe of mamas that suit you. Your life will dramatically change once you’re a mama and it doesn’t have to be for the bad. Open yourself to new friendships, connections and accepting of the change of life and the whole experience with turning your life upside down with a baby will be enjoyable and exciting with what each day delivers.
Remember no pregnancy or birth is the same. A natural journey is the most optimal for mum and bub not only on a physical level but also emotional. However do your research find what feels right for you and make your decisions based upon that. Your bub chose you as he/she’s mama and carer, have trust in your body and the natural process that is upon you and always EMBRACE…
Much Love, Your fellow mama,
Talita Sheedy, creator of The Natural Pregnancy and Birth Checklist, is a naturopath (BHSc-Nat), nutritionist, yoga teacher & author of Baby, It's Only Natural. She is based on the Sunshine Coast and specialises in holistic pregnancy and integrated mental health care. Talita blogged throughout her pregnancy sharing her naturopathic advice as well as personal challenges and experiences. And also shared her home birth story on her blog. You can follow her journey and natural baby advice/ findings via social media, or connect with her here.
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