You won’t be alone in the delivery room, but how you want to give birth is a very personal decision between you, your partner and your obstetrician.

Some women just want labor and delivery to go smoothly. And if that involves pain medication or other medical interventions, so be it.

Other women are adamant that the childbirthing process be completely natural.

If the latter describes you, here’s what you should do to prepare.

1) Define Your Terms

It’s probably not wise to just say, “I won’t use any pain medications,” and then simply go into labor with your fingers crossed.

You want to have a well-defined idea of what a natural childbirth means for you and whether that’s realistic.

Ask yourself: Do you want all of your labor and delivery to be natural, or do you want the beginning of labor to be drug-free and then use pain medication closer to delivery?

If you plan to at least start your labor with the intention of having a natural childbirth, make everyone involved in your delivery aware. Put your desire in writing, and discuss it with your medical team, the March of Dimes recommends.

39% of women who delivered a single baby during a vaginal birth did not have an epidural

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Epidural and Spinal Anesthesia Use During Labor, April 2011

2) Do Your Homework

Being prepared also means deciding on natural childbirth techniques beforehand.

There are a number of different natural birthing techniques to consider, according to the American Pregnancy Association. It’s important that you and your partner do your research and decide which is the best option for you:

  • The Alexander Technique
    Focuses on releasing muscle tension, increasing your lung capacity, and maintaining proper posture. Working on these three areas can help calm and focus you during labor, as well as open your cervix to prep your body for delivery.
  • The Bradley Method
    A popular childbirth method that helps you deliver your baby naturally and puts your partner in a coaching role. Prepare by taking method courses throughout your pregnancy, focused on nutrition, exercise, mind-body awareness and relaxation.
  • Lamaze
    Distract yourself from labor pains through the use of deep breathing, massage, and concentration techniques.

No matter which technique you choose, keep in mind that practice makes perfect. Don’t just read up on your method of choice.

Go through the motions with your partner beforehand. You certainly don’t want to have to figure this out when the contractions start.

3) Be Open to Changes in the Plan

Of course, not everything goes according to plan, especially with childbirth. It’s almost like your body and the baby are dictating everything—when you’ll go into labor, how strong the contractions will be, when the water will break, etc.—and you won’t find out what their plans are until game time.

Talk to your doctor about any risks or reasons why a natural childbirth may not ultimately work out.

More than 67% of all births in the U.S. are vaginal

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012

According to the National Institutes of Health, you may need medical intervention—such as a C-section—if:

  • Your baby has an abnormal heart rate
  • Your baby’s position in the womb makes vaginal birth difficult or dangerous
  • Your baby’s head is too large to pass through your birth canal
  • You’re expecting multiples
  • You have high blood pressure
  • Labor stops progressing
  • The placenta is blocking your birth canal (placenta previa)
  • The umbilical cord comes through the birth canal before your baby (umbilical cord prolapse)

Keep in mind that regardless of what happens in the labor and delivery room, a healthy baby and a healthy you are the most important goals.

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