From hypnobirthing to water labor, more women are exploring alternative options to a conventional labor and delivery experience.
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The majority of women give birth in a hospital rather than at home. But now it’s quite common for women to use relaxation techniques like prenatal yoga and massage therapy during their pregnancies and aromatherapy, massage and music to help them relax during labor.
Most hospitals can accommodate those practices and many have made changes to accommodate a variety of other birthing techniques and methods.
Alternative labor and birthing options
- Water labor: The soothing properties of being in the water during labor appealed to Krista Afumbom, of Lakewood, Ohio. She labored in water with her first baby and is preparing to do so again with her second.
After exploring her options, Ms. Afumbom chose a hospital setting with birthing suites offering tubs for use during labor. The warm water helps muscles relax and reduces vaginal tearing. Ms. Afumbom favored the water “because of the pain-relieving properties of being in the water,” she says.
- Hynobirthing: This practice incorporates hypnosis and breathing and relaxation techniques to help women manage the birthing process without fear. The practice helps women limit the pain and tension many associate with childbirth by relaxing and trusting their bodies to do what is needed.
“If someone can control their anxiety, they can decrease their pain perception,” says certified nurse-midwife Joy Sedlock. “If you can stay calm, that can really help in controlling pain.”
- Acupuncture: Some women choose to receive acupuncture treatments during pregnancy and delivery because it is non-invasive and drug-free. Treatments can help relax muscles and tendons and help “ripen” the cervix in the weeks before birth. The treatments also can help induce labor and relieve pain during labor and delivery.
Seeking a natural experience
Ms. Afumbom was determined to have a natural, drug-free birth experience.
“My mother-in-law is a nurse midwife in Cameroon. My mother gave birth both times with Lamaze in the ’70s in a small town in Minnesota. It was the first time that had happened in that hospital,” Ms. Afumbom says. “There was never any doubt I would do the same thing.”
Ms. Sedlock, who attended to Ms. Afumbom at Cleveland Clinic’s Lakewood Hospital in Northeast Ohio, said she and her nurse midwife colleagues want their patients to feel comfortable and in control of their birthing experience.
Many women bring labor kits to the hospital that include massage oils and lotions, lip balm, hard candy and a treasured photo to use as a focal point while pushing. They may use birthing balls or move to music as labor progresses.
The search for information
Along with information readily available on the Internet, TV shows focusing on pregnancy help women learn about a variety of birthing options, Ms. Sedlock says.
The women who come to her tend to be well informed and armed with questions.
“They’ll come in and ask about cesarean sections. They’ll ask, ‘What is your VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) rate? How many episiotomies have you cut?’ I had some of those inquiries in the beginning of my career but not like now,” Ms. Sedlock says.
Some of her patients learn about options from childbirth classes available through Cleveland Clinic.
Choosing the labor experience you want
Ms. Sedlock wants women to recognize the power they have in actively determining what kind of birth experience they will have. She encourages expectant mothers to learn all they can about pregnancy, labor and delivery practices and assert what they want.
“Women don’t always know they have options,” she says. “They don’t realize that they don’t have to do what everybody does just because that’s the way things have been done.”