Going natural during labor and delivery puts you in the minority; about 61 percent of women having a single, vaginal birth chose an epidural or spinal anesthesia, according to a 27-state study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Handling the pain of childbirth without interventions requires planning and preparation. You also need a strong network of people who support your plans to labor naturally. With a solid plan in place, you can reduce the chances of needing pain medications or medical interventions, such as a cesarean section.
Write a birth plan that details your desires for your labor and delivery. The plan helps you define what you want and share it with medical staff and support people who attend the birth. The American Pregnancy Association recommends including information on who should be in the room, laboring and birthing positions, pain relief preferences, fetal monitoring, episiotomy preferences, clothing and care of baby after birth.
Choose a health care provider who supports your desire for a natural childbirth. Ask potential physicians their opinions on epidurals, induction and cesareans. Discuss any special circumstances, such as a vaginal birth after having a cesarean. Some traditional health care providers won't allow a woman to labor naturally after having a cesarean. A midwife is a professionally trained alternative to an obstetrician. If you have a low-risk pregnancy, you may want to consider a midwife for the delivery.
Visit potential delivery locations, including hospitals and birthing centers. Check the facilities for tubs if you plan to labor or deliver in the water. Ask about requirements for fetal monitoring and IVs. Hospitals often require some degree of fetal monitoring that requires you to stay connected to equipment. The hospital may also require an IV in case of an emergency. Birthing centers often allow more freedom, but you lack the hospital resources in case of an emergency.
Assemble a natural birth team to support the labor and delivery. Express your wishes to your partner, along with a request for support. Consider a doula, a birth coach with training in supporting laboring moms. The doula helps you through the process and can serve as an advocate in the delivery room.
Attend a class that teaches methods for natural childbirth, such as the Bradley Method, Lamaze or hypnobirthing. Learn additional methods that help with a natural birth, including yoga and meditation. Other techniques to use in the delivery room include massage, walking, sitting in water, imagery, music and changing positions.
Learn as much as possible about natural childbirth. Read about the birthing process so you know what to expect at each phase. For example, the transition phase from 7 to 10 centimeters is often the most painful and intense but is generally the shortest, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Knowing this may help you push through this difficult stage because you know your baby will soon arrive.
Care for yourself during pregnancy so you stay healthy and strong. If you are unhealthy or become classified as a "high-risk pregnancy," you may require interventions that won't allow for natural childbirth.