Pregnancy and childbirth are natural occurrences, so I shy away from even using the common term “natural childbirth” (as if some births are… unnatural? Supernatural?) But whatever you call it, it is safe to say moms would like their baby to be born with as few medical interventions as possible. While birth is an unpredictable process, there are things a mom-to-be can do to increase her chance of success and this area is chock full of great options to make “natural” birth a reality.
“I have seen dramatic changes in the birth options available to women in the East Valley over the past 10 years,” says Jennifer Hoeprich, LM, CPM with Moxie Midwifery. “I see women having beautiful and relaxing water births at home. There are water labors available at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center. I remember when I first started doing doula births there, and they looked at me like I was nuts, blowing up the labor tub that I brought in. Now, they provide them!”
In part one of this article, we’ll focus on the two biggest factors in having an intervention free birth: your birth attendants and location.
A first time mom, or even someone who had a traditional medical model birth, might wonder, “where do I start if this is my personal goal?” Visualize your ideal situation. Where are you located and who is attending to you? Your birth attendant and desired location (hospital, birth center or home) go hand in hand.
In a nutshell, an obstetrician (OB) or midwives will deliver your baby. Both are educated and licensed, can prescribe medications, will provide pre-natal and post-natal care in addition to attending your delivery, but an OB is trained to perform surgery and a midwife is not. A doula (which I’ll talk more about later) can be hired to attend your labor and delivery as a support person. They are not medically trained and do not deliver the baby, but undergo certification to be an assistant to a woman (and her birth partner) in labor.
For women with uncomplicated pregnancies seeking an intervention free birth, a midwife is typically the route taken. Midwives often are more open to a “wait and see” approach and have personal philosophies that support women seeking less medication and interventions. Of course, you can find OBs that also have this philosophy too, which is why its so important to call around and interview different providers to find the right fit. In the event that you are deemed “high risk” or complications begin to arise, a midwife will refer you to an OB for your care, so it’s good to research all of your options.
Which brings us to location: hospital, birth center or home.
The wide variety of midwives and natural supportive doctors we have in the Valley provide us with many choices, but not every provider delivers babies at every type of location. Some deliver only at hospitals, some only at home.
To have your baby at home or in a birth center may seem like an obvious decision for anyone seeking fewer interventions. In a hospital, for example, you’re more likely to get an IV-happy nurse who uses the old line, “just in case”, or work with someone who veers off of your birth plan. In your own home or in a birth center, you have more control over what’s being done to you because they’re not bound to a “hospital policy” and you’re surrounded by like minded people who want you to have the successful birth you desire. Pain medication is typically not even an option, so that will prevent an intervention right there!
But there are pros and cons to each, and successful intervention free births can be done anywhere as long as you’re prepared to do your research and advocate for yourself. Personally, I really enjoyed The Business of Being Born (available on Netflix), a documentary on homebirth and preventing the spiral of interventions in a hospital setting. Whether you agree with the core message or not, it really encourages the viewer to do lots of research and be an advocate for themselves during their child’s birth. Whichever direction you choose, ask the tough questions and don’t be afraid to make a change mid-pregnancy if you suddenly feel your care provider, hospital or birth center isn’t in synch with your birth goals.
When interviewing providers, ask for examples of times they’ve had to use traditional interventions like labor augmentation (Pitocin, Cervidil, etc.) or pain medication (epidural), why they made that decision and what the outcome for their patient was.
Ask what percentage of their patients ultimately receive a caesarian section in a given year and what were the circumstances surrounding those deliveries. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), in 2011 one in three women (33%) in the US gave birth by cesarean delivery. The Midwives at Valley Women for Women in Gilbert reported that in 2013 the number of their patients that gave birth by cesarean section was only 4%, for example.
When it comes to location, ask what options and equipment are available to you during labor to help you avoid interventions. Is there a tub or shower available? Can you birth in the water or in any position you choose (which can help prevent tearing). Do you have to be monitored continuously or intermittently as needed?
You and your care provider have to be a team on your birthing day, so it’s important to feel confident with the person who is catching your baby and comfortable in the setting you’re giving birth. While true emergencies can arise, statistics are in your favor that they won’t. Find someone who is confident in their abilities, believes women are naturally designed for successful births and will only step in when there is an important reason to do so.
“I am planning my third home water birth this fall,” says Laura Darr, of Gilbert, “I’ve found that the absolute most important thing you can do for a successful natural birth–at home or in the hospital–is to find an excellent care provider that you connect with and trust. We are so lucky to have such great resources to choose from here in the East Valley.”
When it comes to having a successful birth without pain medication, a doula is another option to consider. “A doula is a non-medical professional hired to support the mother (and father) emotionally, physically, and to give information on the birthing process,” says doula Noelia Waldo of Tranquility Birth Services. “Where, the midwife or doctor is a medical professional hired to make sure the health and safety of the mother and baby are being tended to during the pregnancy and the birth.”
Think of a doula as a very experienced, extra helper on your birth team. Their knowledge and support can aid you in achieving the birth you desire. Whether birthing at home, in a hospital, or in a birthing center, a doula is a great resource. Studies show that the presence of a doula reduces the likelihood of a c-section, Pitocin, pain medication and other interventions.
“It used to be a role for women and still is in many cultures, to have women who know birth surround women who are birthing with love, support, and wisdom to help them tap into and trust their bodies,” notes Alyssa Johns, doula with Empowering Birth Project. “Our culture doesn’t really operate that way anymore. Women don’t usually have that continuous support during birth by someone who has been at lots of births and knows how to help. Partners who have never seen a birth get a lot of pressure put on them to be that support for the mama, but sometimes that is not a fair expectation. I love being that support for a woman in pregnancy and birth!”
We’re very lucky to have such a wide variety of resources in our area and lots of moms who have had successful natural births to share their stories. Our modern culture doesn’t talk a lot about birth and when the subject does come up, it’s often portrayed as scary, anxiety-filled process. Moms and dads alike love to tell pregnant women their horror stories, but how often do we share successful ones? It can be done. With good research and a strong support team, you can have an empowering experience.
But care providers and birth location are only the start. In part two of this post next month, we’ll look into different childbirth prep classes that are being taught in the East Valley and other ways to prepare yourself for the successful intervention free birth you desire.
Natural minded doctors and midwives in the East Valley include:
- MomDoc: Gilbert and San Tan Valley (Hospital births only)
- Valley Women for Women: Chandler, Gilbert and Queen Creek (Hospital births only)
- iWomen’s Healthcare – Chandler
- Dr. Anne Marie Palzer (naturopathic doctor)– Tempe (Birth Haven birth center)
- True Harmony Wellness (OB focused on natural care) – Mesa
- Wendi Cleckner, Freedom and the Seed – Chandler (Home births)
- Jennifer Hoeprich, Moxie Midwifery – Chandler (Home births)
- Stephanie Soderblom, Nurturing Hearts Birth Services – Mesa (Home births)
- Jennifer Bass and Crystal Pena – Mesa (Home births)
- Marinah Farrell, Sage Midwifery – Phoenix (Home births and Babymoon Inn birth center)
- Alison Haasch, Life Spring Midwifery – Queen Creek (Home births & Birth Haven birth center)
- Susan Disilvestro, New Life Midwifery – Gilbert (Birth Haven birth center)
- Claudine Calligan – Mesa (Women’s Birth & Wellness Center)
- The Birth Haven – Gilbert
- Blossom Birth Center – Phoenix
- Babymoon Inn Birth Center– Phoenix
- Noelia Waldo: http://www.site.tranquilitybirth.com/
- Abby Schweitzer: http://surrenderbirth.com/
- Laci Omerza: http://birthuniquely.blogspot.com/
- Sherry Anderson: [email protected]
- Alyssa Johns & Lisette Pena: http://www.empoweringbirthproject.com/
- Rachel Davis, of Birth and Earth birth services in Phoenix has compiled some more information about local doulas and how to choose one: http://www.birthandearth.com/doulas.html