Even before finding out I was pregnant it was clear to me that I wanted to have this baby in the most natural and stress free way possible. A natural birth, to me, means a vaginal labor with limited or no medical interventions and ideally without any pain meds.
I decided to have faith in my body and its capability to handle this process which nature has already so well designed for us, something so natural but yet a completely new experience to me. Below I will share with you a few recommendations along with how I prepared throughout the pregnancy to allow for a natural birth experience.
My aim with this post is to inspire you to also be prepared and to make well-informed decisions as this will increase the likelihood of a positive and natural birth experience on your terms.
I was “lucky” in the sense that I had a very easy pregnancy, not even a day of nausea! Although I had prepared my body well for this pregnancy, both physically and mentally, but more on that in a separate post. I was definitely feeling tired though during the first trimester when all the hormones are adjusting and the body is preparing for this baby to be created. It probably didn’t help that we were in Colombia at this time as the heat was killing me! Jakob and I were out traveling for ten months and spent the last three months in Colombia which is when we found out about our pregnancy.
I was probably about 8 weeks when we started to realize that something was going on. I had become a bit chubby around my belly, but that could well have been the food we had been eating lately, which is not always great when travelling! I was also feeling a lot more tired than I used to, but we had also just been out on a 4-day trek to The Lost City in the Colombian wilderness… Thank goodness I was not having any morning sickness as that would not have made a nice hike. Anyway, a few pregnancy tests later and we were convinced!
Considering a home birth
So the mental preparations started. I knew I wanted a natural birth with as few interventions as possible, but I realized there was a lot to look into and research. When we got back to Sweden, about 7 months before the expected birth, I started to look into the matter of a home birth. This means you are assisted by two specialized midwives in your own home who bring everything you might need. Most often women use a pool to give birth in as water is supposed to be a great pain relief. I figured that the calmness of our own house would be the ideal way of welcoming a baby and the best scenario for me to have a birth experience on my own terms.
There are so many advantages of a home birth but the most obvious one is the amount of stress it reduces when we are in the safety and comfort of our own home. A woman who is calm and relaxed is more likely to have an easier delivery and for me that would definitely have been at home rather than in a hospital around people I don’t know. As soon as we leave the house it automatically starts a stress response in our bodies, which shuts off the birth process. This is most likely why many women are experiencing that there is no or very little progress with labor when they arrive to the hospital and the whole process is prolonged.
Although I am not keen on ultrasounds I had decided to do a quick one, just to make sure the baby and the placenta were in the right positions and that there was just one baby. Those were the requirements for an assisted home birth here in Sweden. Although the medical society claims that these scans are totally safe, there are also studies showing that they actually may affect the baby’s body tissue and brain negatively. This is mainly due to the heat caused by the machine. The amount of harm of course depends upon exposure time and the intensity of the machine. If you think about it, most babies tend to turn away from the camera during ultrasounds, which to me indicates that they are disturbed by it.
These are my recommendations if you decide to do a checkup scan:
- Refrain from the early 12 weeks scan and wait to week 20-22 of your pregnancy to allow for the baby’s organs to have developed and matured a bit more.
- Make it as quick as possible to reduce exposure time.
- Avoid 3D and color scans as that involves a higher intensity machine.
- Avoid listening to the baby’s heart rate.
- Avoid the routine screenings to check on baby’s development throughout pregnancy.
- Do your own research on this topic and weigh positives against negatives and make a choice that is right for you, don’t just follow the routines of society.
I waited until week 21 for my screening as the more the fetus has grown, the quicker they can perform the scan. During our quick scan they actually happened to notice something on the baby’s upper lip, a cleft lip, which means that the lip has an opening. This is something that happens during early pregnancy but it is not clear why it happens. There was also a great chance that the roof of the mouth would be affected and not be joint properly which means that it will be difficult for the baby to breastfeed. For this reason I’m glad we did the scan and found out beforehand as it gave us time to research this and prepare ourselves in the best possible way.
During my research I found out that some babies with cleft palate (when the roof of the mouth is affected) have breathing difficulties at birth and need special assistance. The roof of the mouth is tricky to reach with an ultrasound and we would not know about this until the baby is born. So for this reason I decided against a home birth this time.
Finding your birth team
Once I had turned away from a home birth I started to research the different hospitals around us to see if they offered water births as I was still keen on this. Luckily I discovered a new test project by one of the hospitals where the idea is that you have a team of three midwives who you get to know during your pregnancy and who do all of your checkups. Then one of them will be the one on duty at the time of your delivery.
This model appealed to me very much as it would allow for me to discuss with my midwives beforehand what was important to me in order to have a natural birth, rather than trying to communicate this to a stranger in the middle of the delivery. It would also be beneficial that my midwife was aware of the lip and mouth issue beforehand. I called them up and they were happy to take us on.
During the rest of my pregnancy Jakob and I developed a great relationship to all three of these midwives. We got to know each other and talked a lot about my wishes for a natural birth, ideally without any pain meds or medical interventions. We were also stepping away from many of the standard routines of the hospitals. Thankfully these midwives definitely shared my values and one of them (the one who happened to be on duty on our big day) had gone through home births herself. In my eyes this natural birth would almost be like a home birth but in a hospital! The hospital even had some brand new pools and these midwives were really promoting water for pain relief. I’m so grateful I found this test project and these wonderful midwives!
Had I not had the opportunity to have my own midwife in this way, I would definitely have chosen to hire a doula instead. A doula is not a midwife but a trained support person who you get to know beforehand and who will be with you during birth to support you, guide you and care for your wishes and requests in order to make it as great birth experience as possible. It’s a great relief to have someone you trust around you who look after you and who can communicate your wishes to the midwife. Many studies are showing that having a doula reduces the amount of stress for the woman, which in turn leads to an easier and better birth experience.
I also have a very supportive partner in Jakob who shares my values and wishes for a natural birth and he has been with me on every checkup during this pregnancy. He also tends to stay calm and present and together with my midwife, I felt they would be my ideal birth team. I was also very confident in myself and my body’s ability to give birth and feeling comfortable with the support of my chosen team around me.
How I prepared for a natural birth during pregnancy
I believe I owe my relatively easy pregnancy and labor to a mix of many different factors and below I will share with you my main strategy and focus areas ahead of giving birth.
I have been practicing yoga for a number of years and had no intention of stopping whilst pregnant. I have a morning routine that sets me off to a great start of the day and apart from making a few adjustments to the routine as my belly was growing I still did my morning yoga up and until the very same day my contractions started! I love how it makes me feel and I truly believe this helps the body keeping the strength it needs during labor. Once or twice per week I also did an hour-long pregnancy yoga session from FMTV which includes many movements that are supposed to help baby getting into the right position.
I also believe that my consistent yoga routine helped me staying very mobile during my whole pregnancy. I never had any issues walking or moving my body as my flexibility remained almost the same, albeit a few extra kilos.
The power of our minds is highly underrated and unfortunately most people tend to visualize the things they fear, that something bad will happen or keep worrying about the future. All this does is creating the life we don’t want… Jakob and I have been hooked on positive visualization and gratitude for quite a while now and we know it absolutely works as thoughts becomes things or experiences!
Personally I included a visualization moment at the end of my yoga routine every morning. During the first part of my pregnancy my visualization was mostly about having a healthy pregnancy and feeling grateful for this amazing body that allows me to create a new life inside me. Then as I came closer to the end of my pregnancy I started to visualize my ideal birth and tell myself that I have faith in my body to guide me through this and give birth in a natural and easy way. I am convinced this helped me relax and create the outcome I was looking for as I had already experienced it so many times in my mind that my body knew exactly what to do!
This has been an important part for me during my whole pregnancy. Apart from avoiding certain foods that might be bad for the baby I have also been making sure I get the right kind of food and nutrition that make me feel good and as energized as possible. Since my baby is dependent on the nutrition I have inside me, it has also been important for me to optimize this and make sure I have enough for both of us. I try to get most of my nutrition from real food, which for me includes the super foods liver for iron and eggs for choline along with many other important nutrients. Additionally, I have been supplementing with a good quality prenatal (including lots of vitamins and minerals), Omega 3, vitamin D and Selenium.
I have not been making much adjustments from how I normally eat, apart from completely avoiding coffee (as caffeine can create a stress response in the body which the baby will not benefit from). If you want to know more about how we eat, check out these posts Our guide to anti-inflammatory eating and What qualitarians eat. During the final part of my pregnancy I was increasing my intake of healthy fats as my baby needed this for proper growth and development. In preparation for a natural birth I was also consuming plenty of raspberry leaf tea and dates as this is supposed to be beneficial for labor and stimulate a natural start. Of course it’s impossible for me to know if this did the trick, but I gave birth in week 39!
Education & Information
As this was my first baby I felt that there was a lot to read up on and research. I didn’t want to just “go with the flow” and rely upon the standard hospital routines when having this baby. I wanted to make my own informed decisions about my own health, our baby’s health and the process of giving birth. I needed to know what my ideal natural birth looked like and also what the best alternatives were in case something didn’t go as planned. I was also discussing this with my midwives and my plan B was always to go for the alternative with the least harmful side effects.
One thing I was careful about was listening too much to other people’s experiences and birth stories. I was not interested in any horror stories as that would just mess with my visualization, so I made sure to only listen to positive and empowering birth stories! A great book I can recommend is “Confident Birth” by Susanna Heli. It gave me a few really good strategies for dealing with the contractions, like approaching them in a positive way and saying YES to them. It’s like a marathon and every contraction is taking us closer to the baby. It’s important to focus on the baby and staying positive, rather than getting caught up in the pain and stress about the situation.
Natural pain relief
Educate yourself around natural labor pain management techniques like breathing, relaxation, hypnobirthing, acupuncture, massage, heat, bath/shower. It might sound like nonsense but the key to an easier labor is about creating as much of the hormone oxytocin as possible in our bodies as this helps both mother and baby to relax and keep labor moving forward. Why not try this first at least? Make sure you practice it at home together with your birth team so that you know well what to do when the day comes.
Personally I was mostly using my breathing and mindset to manage the contractions. As soon as the water broke and the labor contractions started I began breathing calmly, in through the nose and out through the mouth whilst working on my mindset. With every exhalation I was saying a long and calm “yeeaaaahhh” (or “jaaaaaa” in Swedish) and finishing off with “baby” to remind myself of what every contraction is leading to. How silly it may sound, this technique will make your brain think positively of the contractions. If you start forming this habit already with the early and easier contractions and continue so throughout the hours, once you reach the more difficult ones your body is already associating them with something positive and they will be easier to manage. That’s how the brain works!
A birth plan is an outline of your preferences for giving birth. It is the result of your research on how you want your labor to be and it is a good idea to create this ahead of time and let the people in your birth team know about your wishes. It is usually about a page long and may outline things like:
- Atmosphere – if you want the lights dimmed, music, a quiet room etc.
- Labor preferences – specific labor positions/tools you prefer, if you want to use a birthing pool or walk around freely. If you don’t know, you may also ask for help with this.
- If you want to use any pain meds or other methods for natural pain relief.
- Any preferences for when the baby is out.
- Your ideal plan B if things don’t go as planned.
Some important areas for me were avoiding pain meds if possible, avoiding continuous fetal monitoring, peace and quiet around me, delayed cord clamping, no synthetic oxytocin for me during labor and no vitamin K injection to baby.
Again, it is important to do your research and make your own informed decisions to get the birth experience you want!
This might not be a very common thing during pregnancy but I think it’s really important! There is so much happening to the body during this time and a few adjustments can really help with back pain and make sure the spine is realigned, something that also promotes general health throughout the body. A chiropractic adjustment can also help realign and relax the ligaments and muscles in the pelvis, allowing for the baby to turn and put itself in the right position for birth.
I had a few sessions throughout my pregnancy and my last adjustments was just a couple of days before I gave birth. I wanted to give my body and baby the best circumstances for delivery. The easier I make it for my baby to come through, the more likely I am to have a natural birth without any medical interventions. I am sure this was a key factor in my relatively short labor.
At the time of my pregnancy this area was quite new to me but as I was aiming for a drug-free delivery I figured there must be natural ways of assisting the body through this. I was lucky to find a great homeopath in my area who prepared a homeopathic birth kit for me. This included substances that would help me deal with the contractions as well as postpartum healing and also a few things for our baby to give her a good start in life.
This was included in my homeopathic birth kit:
- Pulsatilla – I took this regularly during the last 3 weeks to prepare for labor and also with every contraction as and when they started.
- Chamomilla – Taken with every strong contraction.
- Aconitum – One dosage at the start of the contractions and also one dosage for baby immediately after birth. I would also have used this in case of any signs of jaundice in my newborn.
- Cuprum – I would have used this in case my baby for some reason wasn’t feeling well after birth.
- Cantharis – In case the placenta is retained in the uterus.
- Arnica – To help with postpartum healing. Both my baby and I took this during the first week after birth.
The hospitals in Sweden are of a very high standard which I am very grateful for. However, as I didn’t want to only rely upon their routines and offerings I made sure to bring everything that was important to me. I knew I wasn’t going to eat the hospital food so this is something I was planning beforehand. It was also important to me to have healing and nourishing foods that would support my body after giving birth and I was expecting we were going to stay 1-3 nights depending on the baby’s well-being and how the feeding was going. So when cooking I made extra portions that I stored in the freezer, ready to bring when heading to the hospital.
These are some of the most important things I brought with me to the hospital:
- Food – I brought liver spread (to restore my iron supply after the bleeding), veggies and minced meat casserole including lots of healing bone broth and a salmon/quinoa/avocado/olives mix with lots of nourishing and good fats. Luckily we also had a couple of leftover healthy scones that Jakob threw in the bag when leaving.
- Snacks – nut butter, dates, dark chocolate, avocado, fruit.
- Coconut water – to drink during labor for hydration, energy, nutrition and electrolytes. This was great, I had a lot of it during labor! We also prepared some coconut water ice cubes at the hospital as I had heard that would be nice to have during labor but in the end I didn’t feel like having them. They were a nice cold treat afterwards though!
- Coconut oil – for consumption, skin care and my midwife also used it during delivery to prevent vaginal tears.
- Healing padsicles – To optimize recovery I prepared my own healing padsicles using aloe vera, witch hazel and essential oils. Storing them in the freezer also makes for cool and soothing postpartum relief for your lower parts. I loved using these and it also gave me another level of freshness between the bleeding.
- Magnesium spray – great for muscle relief and body recovery after birth. I noticed I had a hard time relaxing my legs after delivery and magnesium is great for that. We also need it for optimal sleep and stress reduction.
- My oil diffuser had to come with me to ease up the hospital environment and bring me my favorite essences. During labor I used lavender oil for relaxation and it made me feel comfortable and safe. When transferring to a bigger room where we stayed for two days I used lemon oil to freshen up the room. I had also brought other oils like peppermint and frankincense that I used on myself and my baby.
- Vitamin C – great for body recovery and healing and to boost my immune system since staying in a hospital environment. I’ve also been taking a regular daily doses during the last couple of weeks leading up to labor to prevent good health and energy.
- Colloidal silver – just in case of any potential wounds, stomach issues, skin irritations etc.
- My usual supplements – prenatal, vitamin D, selenium.
Giving birth is not something we should be afraid of, yes there is pain involved, but our body is also providing us with tools and super powers to handle the pain and the situation. If we just let nature have its way and don’t stress the situation and try not to intervene, it can be a truly amazing experience. I also believe preparations and education are key factors as this increases your control over the situation which leads to less fear.
I hope my thoughts on a natural birth can give you some ideas and inspiration and that you dare having faith in your body and yourself! Check out this post if you would like to find out more about my natural birth experience – My birth story – a natural and amazing experience!