Friday, March 13, 2015

Alternative Birth Methods

There are many methods for childbirth that do not involve medications.  There are also many reasons why someone would choose not to have medication.  I used to be completely against medication-free births because my thought was why the heck would you want that if you have modern medicine? Well, silly me, there are many reasons.  Some reasons other moms have told me are:
  • because medication makes them feel funny/out-of-control 
  • they have an immense fear of needles
  • having control over their body is more comforting than being numb
  • to be able to labor and deliver in the position of their choice
  • they believe all drugs are harmful (not true, but this isn't coming from me)
  • they want to feel more connected to their baby (I also disagree with this one)
  • just to feel like a warrior princess (ay ya ya ya ya!! xena!! please tell me I'm not the only one who grew up watching xena...)
For me, it was having more control over my body. Aside from the whole blood pressure fiasco with an epidural, I loved being numb and feeling relaxed while laboring. I could chill, watch a movie, chat- it was great. But tell you what, when I felt the grinding of the forceps deep within me, even my fatigued i've-been-pushing-for-three-plus-hours thoughts couldn't hide oh lawdy, this is gonna be a scary recovery. And it was. So when I was preggers with number two, I researched and researched a method that could get me through contractions and have some kind of peace during labor. And with preparation, I was able to achieve my goal!

Before going too into my own experiences, I want to highlight the most common alternative birthing methods:

Bradley Method
The whole course is focused on learning to "trust your body" because birth is a natural process.  It teaches key relaxation techniques and overall good health habits during and after pregnancy.  Pain management is focused on the body relaxing and embracing any pain as part of the natural process. The class is 12 weeks long and is taught by an instructor, so you would need to be able to attend an actual course.  I'm sure there's a modified version where you can learn from home, but the Bradley Method is a registered trademark and is based on this 12 week course, starting around 5 months pregnant.  The class heavily relies on having your husband or significant other as a coach, so those who are more independent may not like this option.  Link to official course here.

The Lamaze method has been around since the 1950's and from what I'm reading now at this present time, there has been a shift in method to a more general focus of "increasing women's confidence in their ability to give birth."  The method was known for its classic "hee-hee-hoooooo" breathing technique.  Now, they focus on the whole aspect birth- before and after. The method wants you to feel prepared for anything and to have as few interventions, like artificially rupturing membranes or epidurals for example, so that you can let your body do what's most natural. They are supportive of birthing positions other than being on your back.  Pain management is much like the Bradley Method in that it is a natural process of childbirth and learning relaxation techniques can help minimize the pain and help you cope.  The course is usually around 12 hours- the duration really depends on the instructor, so anywhere from 4-8 weeks.  They also have online course opportunities.  See more on the official site here.

The main focus of using hypnosis for childbirth is having a peaceful, gentle, and painless childbirth.  I know, it sounds kooky as soon as I said painless, but for many women, it is painless.  In general, self-hypnosis techniques are taught in these kinds of classes/books and by utilizing these techniques, a peaceful and fearless childbirth can be achieved. The main emphasis is total relaxation and using hypnosis to change your perception of pain.  One of the main ways to achieve this is reducing the negativity around your regarding birth. Every woman who has given birth has some kind of significant experience and sometimes it is less than ideal, so naturally they want to share and warn other expecting moms of their issues.  Well, if you are particularly sensitive, this kind of information can instill a little fear regarding childbirth and make it challenging to have total relaxation. Using hypnosis can be as structured as you'd like or be more flexible and self-taught with the guidance of a book.  From what I've gathered, there are two main classes to utilizing hypnosis for childbirth:
  • Hypnobabies (what I used)
  • The Mongan Method
Hypnobabies is both an instructor-led course or home-study course. The class is set up to be completed at a minimum of 6 weeks or longer.  There are 6 sections and many women take 2 weeks per section, totaling 12 weeks. The home-study course is a set of CDs with hypnosis scripts on them , narrated by the Hypnobabies founder, Kerry Tuschhoff.  There is also a workbook that structures the class and has additional reading to study on your own.  Attending a live class just goes over the workbook and scripts on the CD and is more ideal for people who are less self-motivated for a home-study course. Link to official course here.

The Mongan Method, by Marie Mongan, is similar to Hypnobabies except that it focuses more on an instructor led class.  Otherwise, much of the techniques are similar in teaching self-hypnosis.  There are not CDs or set hypnosis scripts, so it relies more on the student to master these techniques on their own. Marie Mongan has written a book that can be used as a basis for a home-study course, but it is not as structured as her course.  The actual course is 5 classes long, about 2-3 hours each, so the duration of the overall course is set by the certified instructor.   Link to official course here.

Other- there are many ways to learn self-hypnosis.  Google is filled with endless possibilities. Self-hypnosis is nothing new as people with allergies or anxiety have been using the techniques for at least the last 15-20 years with dental and minor surgical procedures. I would be weary of buying a course other than the two listed unless you have read testimonies of other moms' experiences who you know and trust.

Water Birth
A water birth is not necessarily a method, more of a position in birth, really.  You can use any method and have a water birth.  The whole point of a water birth is that it is supposedly an easier transition for baby to go from womb to warm bathtub water instead of cold air- makes sense to me! Moms also may prefer having a water birth because they feel lighter and less pressure on their whole body if they can float a little, lessening childbirth pains.  Water births can be anywhere- many hospitals that are supportive of alternative birth methods are beginning to include birthing tubs as an option to labor in and even give birth in! Some women who choose to have a homebirth will get a blow-up pool and set it up in their living room. Water births are illegal in some states, so check before planning your dream birth. has a lot of helpful information regarding water births.

I say do-it-yourself because there are women who choose not to follow any of these methods and do so successfully.  If you think you have enough willpower and self-motivation to go without a course of any kind, then just make sure you research interventions before D-Day so that you can give your truly educated informed consent before receiving any interventions.  A few books that either I have read or have heard good things about are:
  • Ina May's Guide to Childbirth- Ina May Gaskin is a nurse midwife who's like the ultimate natural birth guru. She is totally hippy and has a lot of good insights.
  • The Birth Partner- by Penny Simkin. It is a guide for your supportive partner/doula during childbirth
  • Hypnobirthing- by Marie Mongan.  I mentioned her earlier- her book is a great intro to hypnosis for childbirth and also shares key techniques for relaxation.
  • Natural Hospital Birth- by Cynthia Gabriel. This is an empowering book but I would just keep in mind that although it suggest to always stand your ground, it is a good idea to ask educated questions regarding an intervention that is suggested (ex. so why do I need to have an IV? or what happens if I don't have my membranes ruptured right now?)
Now that you are aware of some options for alternative birthing methods, here are your three main options for places to birth at (and while I want to say these are your only options, you can always find a YouTube clip for something like a "natural birth in the woods" or "childbirth in nature with community group." It's true.) -

Home Birth
Some women dread the idea of being in a hospital full of sterile items and medical professionals or perhaps home is the place they are most comfortable at for everything, childbirth included.  Whatever the reason, this is a popular choice among many moms choosing alternative birth methods.  Generally, you have a midwife who will come to your home and you labor where you are most comfortable at. Some women deliver on their bed, others in the living room.  As mentioned earlier, a water birth can be set up in your home too. I'm sure this will rub some people the wrong way, but I am not an advocate of home births.  Emergencies are uncommon, but if they occur, I certainly would not want to be at home.  Also, I am lazy and I would not want to clean up... birthing goo.

Birth Center
A birth center is now a more common option.  Many are set up near a hospital and are like a bed and breakfast set up practically, but with necessary medical equipment.  You have the comforts of a homey-feel yet you don't need to worry about anything in your actual home.  I have heard of many positive experiences regarding stand-alone birth centers. Some hospitals are beginning to have birth centers within them- kind of like a hospital within a hospital.  I love this concept.  I had my daughter at a birth center within a main hospital and the staff were supportive of my decisions and I got to labor/deliver and recover in the same room, which was wonderful.

There seems to be a shift in hospitals now with their L&D units- I see a lot more mom support now with alternative medicine and less intervention pushes.  There is also a lot of breastfeeding advocacy and the concept of skin-to-skin contact (learn more about Kangaroo Care here). A hospital is a safe place to be at to deliver.  What it all really comes down to is if your provider you choose is supportive of your childbirth wishes and plans because if they aren't, the hospital staff are less likely to be.  I always look for a provider who is on the same page as me because after my first experience, I realized that besides preparation, I depend a lot on my provider too to support me.

I hope this information can help you make an informed decision about what route you may want to take regarding your birth experience!

As I mentioned earlier, I did use Hypnobabies.  If you want to read about my birth experience, you can check it out on my family blog

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