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Peridural, episiotomy, induction of labor, administration of oxytocins... Childbirth is today a very medicalized act in France, yet few deliveries experience real difficulties. As a result, more and more women are rejecting this medicalization and wish to have a more natural birth.
What is a physiological birth? How to prepare for it? Where can you give birth naturally? We explain you everything about physiological childbirth!
A physiological birth is a birth with the least amount of medical intervention possible. Nature is allowed to operate and the mother-to-be is given the opportunity to trust her body and be 100% active. A natural childbirth is not triggered and takes place without an epidural and without hormone injections.
Women who choose to give birth physiologically usually do so because they want to fully feel the birth of their child and the power of their body. Indeed, in a medical birth, the administration of epidural reduces the pain felt during the birth but also totally deprives some mothers to feel the birth. As a result, they no longer know when to push, a very frustrating feeling that can lengthen the duration of the delivery.
The epidural, which requires lying on the back, is still the default choice for most women who give birth, but this is often due to a lack of information. With a physiological birth, the mother-to-be has the option of choosing the position in which she wants to give birth as well as the place (we talk about this below). They can move freely around the room and be accompanied by a small medical team.
Another advantage of physiologic birth that has been noted is that mothers generally recover more quickly. Indeed, when an epidural is applied and its effects wear off, the pain associated with the delivery and surgical procedures (episiotomy for example) are reawakened. Conversely, a woman who has given birth naturally releases endorphins that help reduce the pain. Physiological birth often allows mothers to get up and move around shortly after birth.
A physiological birth must obviously be properly prepared beforehand with the co-parent and the midwife of the pregnant woman so that it goes as well as possible. Indeed, the psychological and emotional support of the relatives and the midwife will be essential to help the mother-to-be. If she feels supported, she will have more confidence, she will be able to concentrate on her sensations and will feel less stress from her surroundings.
It is important to remember that a pregnant woman with complications during pregnancy or delivery will not be able to give birth in this way.
To prepare for a natural birth, there are different methods or aids that can be combined:
The Bonapace method was created by Julie Bonapace, a Quebec researcher on the theme of pain and a specialist in perinatal care. This method consists of helping future parents prepare for a physiological birth without stress. To do this, the partner will use acupuncture by applying pressure with his or her fingers to certain areas of the mother-to-be's body to relieve the pain of contractions.
Prenatal yoga is also a good way to prepare for childbirth. The physical exercises help the mother-to-be position her pelvis for delivery while the breathing exercises will be of great help to reduce the pain of contractions.
Sophrology also helps in the preparation of childbirth thanks to a technique of deep breathing, stress management and positive visualization. By remembering moments of relaxation, positive feelings or success, the mother-to-be will be able to evacuate the stress of childbirth more easily and her self-confidence will be reinforced.
It has been recognized that certain foods can help induce labor naturally, such as raspberry leaves and dates. The raspberry leaves would make the contractions more effective while the dates would facilitate the dilation of the cervix.
Some midwives advise against taking raspberry leaf infusions before the second trimester because they may increase the risk of miscarriage.
But above all, if you wish to give birth naturally, the choice of midwife is essential. It is important to be accompanied and prepared by a midwife who is trained in this type of birth. Even if she is not the one who delivers your baby, she will be able to explain and help you prepare for the birth.
It is important for the mother-to-be to choose a place adapted to a physiological birth. For this, several places are available to her:
The pregnant woman must make sure that the maternity hospital is open to this type of delivery and will respect her expectations. In some maternity hospitals, there are
birthing rooms designed for physiological delivery. They are generally equipped with a bed more adapted to certain physiological positions, a balloon, lianas to support the contractions or a bathtub to relax when the labor starts.
A birth center is a place managed by midwives that is located between the hospital and the home. It allows the mother-to-be to feel more confident in a reassuring place (like at home) while being accompanied by the midwife who followed her during her pregnancy and another midwife. In case of complications, birth centers are linked to nearby maternity hospitals that can take over if necessary. Very developed in some countries (Canada, Australia, Sweden), there are still very few in France. A nice project to support in the Atlantic Pyrenees, the Ama Etxe project aims to create the first birth center in the Basque Country.
A technical platform is proposed by some liberal midwives who have collaborations with maternity hospitals. This consists in coming to give birth in a hospital structure but being accompanied only by her midwife. In this way, the mother is followed throughout her pregnancy, her delivery and after the birth by the same midwife.
Finally, there is also the possibility of a home birth, although this is still very rare. You will have to be accompanied by a midwife authorized to perform home births. We advise you to make arrangements in advance because there are few midwives in France who offer this service.
Regardless of the location you choose, you can create a birth plan with your partner that consists of writing down your desires and wishes for your birth. This will ensure that the facility is in line with your birth plan.
Of course, if the birth has complications or if you are unable to "hold on" until the end, you can always change your mind and seek medical assistance. You should never feel like a failure, but rather be proud of having succeeded up to this point.
There is a very interesting guide that summarizes your rights when you give birth in a hospital (maternity hospital or clinic), it will help you know what is ok for you and what is not. Delivery, my rights, my choices: the legal guide during pregnancy and delivery to discover here.
To give birth without an epidural, it has been recognized that water helps to reduce the pain. Some mothers therefore choose to give birth in water: the mother-to-be is installed in a bathtub with water at 37°C and begins the pushing phase. The water brings lightness to the mother and has a relaxing effect.
The mother then has the choice to stay in the water or to come out when the baby is expelled. There is no risk of drowning if the mother wishes to give birth in the water. This is because the baby does not breathe until his or her lungs come in contact with air. The mother will then have to get out of the water to expel the placenta.
Giving birth on all fours reduces pain because the uterus is not pressing on the sacrum as much. This position is also more suitable for pushing.
The mother-to-be can also place herself on the side she prefers by raising her leg. This position decreases the pain in the lumbar region and allows for a better relaxation of the perineum.
A natural birth goes through 5 stages:
Contractions begin, but are of low intensity and your body is preparing for delivery. The cervix dilates up to 4 cm until the second stage: the active labor phase.
The contractions accelerate and become longer and longer until the cervix is 10 cm open. The contractions are less than 5 minutes apart and last about 1 minute. Generally, this is when the mothers go to the place where they want to give birth.
The engagement phase is when "labor begins" and the baby starts to descend.
Once the cervix is fully dilated, it is time to start pushing to lower the baby into the birth canal. The baby's head will come out of the perineum first, then one shoulder, then the other and finally the rest of the body will be expelled more easily.
Once the baby is born, there are still a few more pushes to loosen and expel the placenta.
If you had a plan for a physiological birth but it didn't happen, it's important not to feel guilty. We spend a lot of time imagining childbirth, but it rarely goes as planned. You gave birth, no matter how it happened, you are a badass!
Photo credits: Laura Boil Photography
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