This post is a hefty one. And I am by no means a medical professional. However, I LOVED being pregnant and had an amazing labor, so I would love to share what I learned, what I did, and specific things I ate to help. If you are looking for something in particular, feel free to use “CTRL + F” to search the post.
Obviously this post will have a natural approach, if not homebirth specific, since that is the kind of birth I experienced. I think more women can and should have natural, undisturbed, physiological births, which lead to more positive outcomes. (sources: undisturbed labor and benefits from natural birth) However, I believe all women can take advantage of these recommendations regardless of their birth expectations.
As you read, please keep in mind that sometimes, even if we do everything “right,” things still don’t go according to plan. Ultimately we have to surrender our desires and goals to the Lord. He is sovereign over all. However, God designed our brain, our body, and labor; and I believe He wants us to care for it all the best we can.
I am not a medical professional. All opinions are my own but sources will be provided as applicable. The following information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with your Doctor or midwife if you have questions about any of the following recommendations.
WHERE DO YOU START?
As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, you immediately Google, “First thing to do when you find out you’re pregnant.” Someone will probably tell you to pick up a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. (Don’t do it.) Someone else will remind you to not consume any caffeine. (And they will inspect every steaming cup you bring to your lips.) And everyone will want to know when you’re due and if it’s a boy or girl.
But there is so much that happens between peeing on a stick and holding that baby in your arms.
Instead of What to Expect, I recommend Mama Natural’s Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy. My midwife actually gave this book to me and it was a fantastic resource. Mama Natural gives an overview of what’s happening with baby and in your body each week; but, even better, she has ways to take care of yourself, nutritious recipes, how to create a birth plan, hospital protocols, registry item recommendations, and so much more. What I loved most about this book was that it gave me a springboard. I didn’t know when I was supposed to start drinking red raspberry leaf tea (more on that later). I didn’t know why cervical checks were controversial. I had no idea most babies are given a vitamin K shot. But she introduced topics like these, shared some information, and then moved on. I was able to take the information she gave and dive deeper into it to decide what was best for us.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO?
Everyone knows you start a prenatal and see your OB regularly. But if you want to aim for the best outcome for yourself and your baby, there are lots of other things you can do! Here are some recommendations along with an explanation of why each is beneficial. Keep in mind, this only scratches the surface! I want to pique your intrigue and introduce ideas you may not be aware of.
This is something you can start doing as soon as you find out you are pregnant, and continue during the entire pregnancy. Taking walks has a host of benefits for expectant moms, including, but not limited to, increased blood flow to the pelvis, reduced risk of complications, naturally boosting your mood, and strengthens muscles for delivery. Even if you did not frequently exercise before getting pregnant, walking is still a safe and healthy way to stay in shape!
Squatting is very beneficial in pregnancy as it prepares your leg muscles for birth as well as stretches the perineum. Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way recommends lots of deep squats, and even utilizing this position during labor to open up the pelvis! (for more information)
Oh man, I cannot say enough about these little goodies. There have now been multiple studies on the effectiveness of eating dates on labor – all positive!
According to this study done in 2019, date fruits consumption significantly reduces gestation duration, significantly increases cervical dilation on admission, significantly shortens duration of the 1st stage of labor, AND significantly reduces duration of the 2nd stage of labor! I started eating multiple dates every day – usually cut in half with peanut butter, or hidden in a smoothie or oatmeal – around 36 weeks. Absolutely worth it. Mama Natural has a great article on this as well that includes several date fruit recipes.
RED RASPBERRY LEAF TEA –
RRLT was something I was already drinking before I got pregnant to potentially help enhance fertility and encourage healing after three years of hormonal birth control. Then I discovered m that it is also beneficial to drink during pregnancy! Drinking it during the first trimester is generally not recommended as it may stimulate the uterus. However, drinking during the second and third trimesters has many benefits including strengthening the uterus. Stronger uterus = more effective contractions. A surprising discovery in this study indicates that “women who ingest raspberry leaf might be less likely to receive an artificial rupture of their membranes, or require a caesarean section, forceps or vacuum birth than the women in the control group.” How cool is that? Read more here!
WEBSTER-CERTIFIED CHIROPRACTOR –
Back pain and general pelvic discomfort are considered normal during pregnancy. However, there is a difference between normal and common. Pain and discomfort are common, but they are not normal and can often be relieved with simple things like walking, using a pregnancy pillow to help with sleep, or seeing the chiropractor.
I absolutely adore my chiropractor. I credit seeing her regularly starting around 24 weeks with Lydia moving from a breech position into the optimal birthing position, as well as my nearly comfortable pregnancy experience and ease of birth. Chiropractic care during pregnancy not only brings relief for typical pregnancy aches, but is also beneficial for your baby. Having a misaligned or unbalanced pelvis can cause a variety of complications, and a chiropractor can help. “Women who receive chiropractic during pregnancy report benefits such as; an increase in overall comfort during their pregnancy, less headaches, less swelling, normalizing of blood pressure, decreased labor time, less need for intervention during labor and delivery, and an optimal head down position for baby.”
But make sure your chiropractor is Webster-certified. Not every one is, and in order to get the greatest benefit for you and baby, you want to make sure the one you see is certified in the Webster technique. Read more here.
BIRTH BALL –
We already know that bouncing on an exercise ball has benefits for posture and focus. But did you know that it can also help to relieve pelvic discomfort and prepare for labor? I loved sitting on mine and doing all sorts of exercises. See Mama Natural’s blog post with evidence, more advantages to using it, and exercises you can do to get the most benefit!
AFFIRMATIONS, BOOKS, & VIDEOS –
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to mentally preparing for birth. I’ve mentioned before that I had been scared to death of childbirth, from the time I was little until we found out we were pregnant. I was terrified of the unavoidable pain and irrevocable damage to my body and everything that could and surely would go wrong. Childbirth is not easy or comfortable, and there certainly are many things that could go wrong.
However, anything worth having is worth working for! When I was able to wrap my mind around the fact that labor is just that – labor, hard work – I was able to address and minimize a lot of the fear I had been holding onto. And life is full of risks. You have to decide which risks are worth taking. I didn’t want to risk the cascade of interventions that is typical with a hospital birth, so I chose to prepare for a homebirth.
I downloaded the Christian Hypnobirthing app and the audiobook Supernatural Pregnancy and Childbirth Affirmations to fill my mind with scripture and truth about my body, my baby, and God’s design for birth. I listened to the Happy Homebirth Podcast and watched The Business of Being Born as well as incredible birth videos to hear and see positive birth experiences. Again, I know terrible things happen and sometimes birth doesn’t go the way you planned. But as humans, as women, we are constantly fed this picture of screaming mothers and chaotic hospital rooms. We already have enough anxiety around birth. Why not entertain the possibility of it actually going beautifully? Why not plan and pray for a peaceful, physiological, glorious birth?
Another book that helped me tremendously with shifting my mindset was Holy Labor by Aubry G. Smith. I don’t agree with absolutely everything in the book, but I really appreciate her approach to theology + birth and definitely recommend it.
POLLY-JEAN antenatal FORMULA –
Also recommended by my wonderful midwife is this magical little pill. I mean, one of the ingredients is called False Unicorn. Magical. The ingredient list is sure to make you smile, especially when you discover the benefits of each included herb. I started taking it at 35 weeks as recommended, and was very impressed by the positive results I experienced. Read all about Polly Jean here!
BIRTH PLAN –
Ahhhh, birth plans. They can be daunting to sit down and create but are really quite simple. What do you want your birth to look like? What are nonnegotiables (unless an emergency arises)? What are your preferences immediately after the baby is delivered? (Delayed cord cutting? Skin to skin? Leaving the vernix or washing it off?) Who do you want in the room? While some of the fine points of your plan may not happen, it can give you peace of mind to put specifics down on paper before going into the delivery room, birth center, or wherever your birth space is. It is also helpful to have an “in case of emergency” plan as well. What if a cesarean ends up being necessary for you and your baby’s safety? Look into “gentle cesarean” and make a plan for your spouse to do skin to skin right away if you are unable to.
Of course, at the end of the day, everyone wants baby to be here and healthy. But we live in a world where “healthy” just means “alive.” The standard for care needs to change. And that can start with pregnant moms refusing unnecessary interventions, monitoring, and procedures.
You don’t have to refuse testing or interventions. But you absolutely deserve to be informed about the real risks of each one as well as the margin of error. Look into what happens during a standard hospital birth, as well as the cascade of interventions mentioned earlier in this post, and decide what you are okay with – and what you most definitely are not okay with.
You obviously don’t have to do all or any of these! But I absolutely adored being pregnant and had a wonderful labor and birth experience. Childbirth is not something to be feared or even dreaded. With preparation and education, it can be a very positive experience for the mother. Our bodies were designed to give birth in an undisturbed, peaceful environment. Let’s bring that back.