While there are no guarantees that the kind or amount of preparation you do will lead to a vaginal birth, there are things you can do to increase your opportunity to have the vaginal birth you want for your baby.
If I could write a blueprint for having a vaginal birth, I would follow the Five-Point Plan outlined in our Bradley Method® classes. Here are five things you can do throughout your pregnancy to decrease your chance of a cesarean when you go into labor:
Have you ever heard of a person signing up for a race on the day of the event with no prior running experience? Have you ever heard of an athlete being signed to a team without any previous training in that sport? No. You would not participate in an athletic event without at least three months of prior training. Labor is like an athletic event. You will have the best outcome possible if you are free to move, walk, and engage your body in different physical positions. A body that is ready for that event will perform much better than a body that starts labor with no preparation at all.
The Bradley Method® asks students to consider THESE exercises to tone the back, belly and bottom, the most active muscle groups in labor. We also ask all our students to find some kind of stamina-building exercise that they can do on a regular basis. Each mama is encouraged to at the very least walk 20 minutes per day. There are also other exercises that are safe for a pregnant mother that do not cause excessive strain on the mama by bouncing up and down on the Kegel muscle: swimming, jogging in a lap pool, water aerobics, and prenatal yoga are all forms of exercise that former students have found beneficial to build their stamina for labor.
2. Good Nutrition
Coach Bruss tries to impress on the coaches that they have a vested interest in ensuring that their partners are eating a healthy, whole food diet. The benefits for the long-term health of the growing baby will last their lifetime. The mother will benefit in pregnancy and labor if she is well hydrated and well nourished. You can read more about the details of what we teach in Bradley™ classes HERE.
In the event that the MotherBaby do have a cesarean birth, the well-nourished pair has a better chance at recovery and establishing breastfeeding. Barring additional complications from surgery, Mother can withstand the trauma of labor and her milk should come in without too much delay if she has been well nourished. Her good nutrition made strong, healthy, stretchy tissues, so she may also have a better recovery healing from the physical rigors of a cesarean. Baby has been afforded every opportunity to have all the right nutrients for growth while in-utero, and they are likely to be born at their best health possible.
Anecdotally, I can share that most of the babies born via cesarean to our students have had lusty appetites when they are reunited with their mothers!
You and your partner are going to live with your baby for the rest of your lives. The decisions you make and the information you learn during your pregnancy will help you make the best decisions possible when it comes time to make choices for your birth.
When time allows, take a comprehensive childbirth education course.
We love the Bradley Method®, which is why we took it twice and then became certified instructors. We both wanted to work together to bring our children into the world so it made sense for Bruss to train as my coach. We felt the topics covered in the twelve weeks would help us to be as knowledgeable as possible about the process of labor and how to handle the work of labor. We liked the focus on communication, exercise, nutrition and relaxation every week.
If “one size fit all”, there would not need to be any other types of childbirth preparation course. The reality is that what works for me, may not work for you, and what works for you, may not work for your best friend, etc. There are several other methods to prepare women and/or couples for birth. Along with a link to The Bradley Method® main page so you can find an instructor in your area, I have listed some of my colleagues in the Phoenix area who teach other methods at the end of the post,.
I also recognize that sometimes classes are not possible due to timing or resources. Read THIS about the natural alignment plateau. I also put a suggested reading list at the bottom of this post – you can read as much or as little as you want. I did list my top three choices if your time is limited and you really want to do your best to be ready for your birth.
I will close this section with a parting thought: you would not save up your money for the vacation of a lifetime and then hand over that savings to a travel agent and say, “Book it” without any further investment in the process. Your child is priceless. Take the time to read, form a community and really be confident in the choices you want to make for your birth, and the options you are willing to consider if your birth takes a different course than you prepared for.
4. Take Responsibility
Piggyback on the last idea: you are the ultimate arbiter of your pregnancy and labor. You can inform yourself and make the best decisions, or you can be completely casual and careless, or something in between.
There are resources like the Environmental Working Group that provide lists of safe products and foods for families. We spend a whole class talking about harmful substances, environmental hazards, and alternatives to them in our Bradley™ series class on Pregnancy.
You can also take responsibility for your pregnancy by taking care of yourself physically and emotionally. Avoid stress and overwork. Instead of popping a pill, what do you think about going to see a chiropractor, getting a massage, or going to prenatal yoga classes to ease the discomforts of pregnancy?
Some of the most important choices for you to make intentionally revolve around your birth plan. Do you have a provider that supports your birth choices? What is their primary cesarean rate? Are you at a birthing facility that supports your choices? What is the facility’s primary cesarean rate? This information is public record – you can find it. If not, you can contact an advocacy group like Childbirth Connection or Improving Birth to help you uncover that information and find the most vaginal-birth friendly providers and birthing places in your region.
Especially if you choose a hospital birth, you can also explore your feelings about hiring a doula. Learn what a doula’s role is in birth, how to hire one that best suits what you anticipate your needs as a couple will be, and then plan it into your budget. Some doulas work on sliding scales, and they are willing to trade and barter – all birth workers want to help you in any way they can. Realistically, couples in all birth places can benefit from a doula – read up and see which choice is right for you.
Relaxation is the key to The Bradley Method®. Dr. Bradley believed that a well-trained mother who was accompanied by her loving coach could do anything that nature intended. With the knowledge of the progress of labor, she doesn’t have to be afraid of “what comes next”. A well-trained mother welcomes the sensations of labor with the knowledge that this is a journey she must take to grow as a mother.
Bradley™ classes teach strategies for physical, mental and emotional relaxation to have as many tools as possible to break the Pain-Fear-Tension cycle. We teach our couples various positions for labor so that a mother can follow her instincts and get into the best position possible to achieve maximum relaxation. Both she and Coach know the roadmap. They also know that their course may be a sprint or a marathon, or maybe something in between – their role is to accept the labor and follow mama’s instincts about what she needs and when. Once she is completely relaxed and able to surrender, labor can progress beautifully and unencumbered to an unmedicated, vaginal birth.
As I mentioned earlier in the post, sometimes you do all the right things and yet, you are still being presented with a situation that looks like it may lead to a cesarean. HERE is a good post that covers how to handle different labor scenarios that may present as a reason for a cesarean. If mom is okay and baby is okay, you can think about asking for more time.
What if you do everything right and you still end up at the operating room?
Read HERE to learn about your options if you want to maximize your cesarean experience to capture the essence of a vaginal birth. Again, you must educate yourself and prepare. Consider writing a cesarean Birth Plan B so that your provider is well aware of what you want to happen before you are in labor and so that when you ask for these things, they are not forgotten. A natural approach to a cesarean takes more time than a standard cesarean. By discussing these things in pregnancy, you are not going to ask them to change their “game” without fair warning.
All of our students come to class with the intention of having a natural, vaginal birth. There are times when they have made the choice to have a cesarean for a Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby outcome after laboring and using the tools they learned in class. They had the skill set to help them identify that despite doing all the things they could, the cesarean was the birth that their baby needed. The overwhelming majority of them have been grateful for all the preparation and the communication skills they learned. Unlike families who felt railroaded into their cesareans, couples who prepare for their births choose to have cesareans that ensure a Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby outcome and they have a degree of peace with their birth to help them on the road to healing.
I know gratitude for the process doesn’t take away the feelings of not having the birth they planned and prepared for. Barring the rare complications, having an empowered pregnancy does give them the best possible chance of a VBAC next time.
If you did everything right and still had a cesarean, I encourage you to accept your birth. Your baby had a reason for needing a cesarean, and assuming you hired a capable, experienced care provider that you trusted, they knew that knew that was the birth you needed. Seek support from other women who had cesareans through the ICAN organization in person or on-line.
Lastly, there is a group of women who will always need a cesarean. They may be high-risk, or they may have high-risk pregnancies. To those women, I say, “You are strong. You are lionesses.” Cesarean births are no joke, and to be willing to undergo them again and again for the love of family, you are the ultimate examples of a mother’s love. Thank you.
What do you think – would you add or subtract anything from this list?
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Top Three-Four, especially if you are not going to take a class
Natural Childbirth The Bradley™ Way – Susan McCutcheon, AAHCC
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth – Ina May Gaskin
Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth – Henci Goer
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding – La Leche League, International
Other very informative books:
Husband-Coached Childbirth – Dr. Robert Bradley
Exercises for True Natural Childbirth – Rhondda Hartman, RN, AAHCC
The Birth Book – Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears, RN
Active Birth - Janet Balaskas
A Child is Born – Lennart Nilsson
What Every Pregnant Woman Should Know – Gail Sforza with Dr. Tom Brewer
Metabolic Toxemia of Late Pregnancy – Dr. Tom Brewer
Children at Birth – Marjie and Jay Hathway, AAHCC
The Baby Book – Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears, RN
Main Page for The Bradley Method®
Other Childbirth Preparation Classes:
Hypnobirthing: Marinah Farrell (4-6 week course) 480-528-1689Hypnobabies: Noelia Waldo (6 week course) (480) 295-0895
Birthing From Within: Alejandrina Vostrejos (6 weeks) 480-206-1985
The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation. Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House, LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.