If Hollywood is to be believed, birth only occurs in one way: with the mother on her back, feet in the stirrups, and often times screaming obscenities at her husband. There might be some pantomimes of breathing exercises, but more often than not birth is only depicted with screaming and grunting. This is hilarious, until you are the one trying to push another human out of your body and your partner has no idea how to help or what to do. However, this is not how it needs to be! There are actually many different ways in which labor and delivery can occur from a medicine-free natural birth, to something known as hypno-birth, all the way to a planned cesarean procedure. These methods all use a variety of philosophies and focus on different parts of births, such as teaching women how to manage the pain of delivery or teaching them coping skills throughout the entire pregnancy.
Natural childbirth refers to a vaginal delivery without using pain medication. This style of birth is often seen as something only warrior women do, but that is an idea that is starting to change as more and more women are choosing to reclaim their labor and experience it the way that generations of women before them have done. That is not to say that it is easy, or that it is the “right” way to deliver. That will depend on each woman and what will make her the most comfortable. In order to help as many women who choose this method of birth as possible, several different methods and styles have been created.
Bradley Method: This method is unique in its attempt to turn the husbands, wives, or partners of the mother-to-be into the birthing coach. It was named after Robert Bradley, the doctor who created it in the 1940s. The goal is to teach mothers-to-be about their birth and labor thoroughly, in order to ease them through labor, and seeks to cut out pain medication during the process. Through this method, the parents-to-be take 12 or more classes and must also read and complete a 125-page workbook. Parents learn the importance of nutrition, relaxation techniques, about breastfeeding, how to avoid a C-Section, as well as practicing for labor.
Lamaze Method: The Lamaze method is probably the best known of the different birthing methods as well as the most widely used. Focused on giving the mother the most information about her choices, the Lamaze method does not choose one side on whether women should use medication during labor. They believe that birth should be simple and uncomplicated, geared towards giving women high amounts of confidence in order to make their own decisions. Much like the Bradley method, Lamaze teaches women about healthy choices, relaxation techniques, breathing techniques, communication skills, and about breastfeeding. There is also focus on teaching women about the medical procedures required during the delivery.
Alexander Technique: This technique is a little different from either Lamaze or the Bradley Method. This technique focuses more on the body’s physical reaction to pain and stress and teaches women how to relax their muscles during labor. This technique aims to improve the mother’s coordination, flexibility, and strength, which will help improve the effectiveness of pushing during labor. The Alexander technique stresses that mothers-to-be and their partners attend a class once a week and then also practice the technique on their own outside of class as well.
Hypnobirthing: Hypnobirthing, also known as the Mongan method, is a style of birth method that teaches mothers-to-be self-hypnosis techniques in order to reduce pain and stress during labor. This method uses guided imagery, special breathing techniques, as well as positive affirmations whether they be internal, or given by the partner. It also focuses on teaching methods of how to stay calm, collected, and in control in order to relax the body and ease the child out and replace pain signals with the endorphin hormone. The other main tenant of Hypnobirthing is the idea that labor is not something to be feared. Because of how negatively and excruciatingly painful labor is depicted by television and movies, many women go into pregnancy and labor with a great amount of fear. Hypnobirthing seeks to calm those fears with its techniques and to ease mothers into a stress free birth.
Non-Recumbent Positioning: This is less of a specific birthing method and more of an option that is not often presented to pregnant women. Often time women are instructed to give birth while either laying back or sitting up. This is also the only way labor is depicted by the media. There are other options! Non-recumbent positioning simply means using other positions of labor during delivery. This can be squatting, supporting your body on all fours, and others. This allows your body to move into a more natural and biologically driven position to help your child emerge.
Water Birth: A more recent trend, water birthing is the practice of delivering a baby inside of a tub of warm water, though some only use the tub for labor. The water, often resting around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, is said to match the temperature of the womb, which helps create a gentle transition for the baby into the world. The temperature of the water also helps ease the pain felt by the mother and can help her relax and soothe her tired muscles. This method can be carried out at home or in a birthing facility. If you are interested in this method it is a good idea to talk it over with your health care provider to see what options are available to you, be it a birthing facility, hospital setting, or if it is possible to occur in your own home.
Home Birth: Home birth is just what it sounds like: a natural birth without medication that occurs in the home of the mother, attended by a midwife, doula, or doctor. This method preaches absolute comfort, as the mother is able to give birth where she feels, literally, at home. This method allows for maximum mobility, freedom of positioning, and near complete control over her birthing situation. Having a medical professional present will also ensure proper care should complications arise. This is also a method that is popular with women who are looking for a more traditional birth, and the ability to incorporate their labor and delivery into the lives of their families.
Medicated Birth: A very common method, medicated birth means a vaginal delivery with the assistance of common pain medications such as an epidural, spinal blocker, etc. These medications help to ease the pain that comes with labor. This method of delivery, however, normally only occurs in a hospital setting where doctors can monitor the effect of the medicine as well as the dosage.
The alternative to a natural vaginal delivery is the surgical delivery. Surgical deliveries are often used as a last resort, when regular labor is not progressing the way it should. However, there is an increase in planned surgical births in recent times, and overall surgical birth has reached almost 30% of all deliveries. Surgical deliveries occur when an incision is made above the pelvis and the baby is pulled out of the womb through the abdomen.
Unplanned C-Section: Just like it sounds, the unplanned C-Section normally occurs in a situation in which vaginal delivery no longer becomes an option and complications have arisen. However, always be aware of the risks and benefits of such a procedure in order to make the best decisions for you and your baby.
Planned C-Section: Planned C-sections are becoming more common. For most cases, C-sections will be planned if there is a known medical risk to either the mother or the baby. These can include cases of certain types of diabetes, specific birth defects, if the mother has contagious diseases such as genital herpes, or placenta previa. However, some women and couples might have a need to “schedule” their labor into their lives. This is not as common, but some women do choose to plan their C-section, rather than wait for natural labor. These planned C-Sections normally occur between 39 weeks and 41 weeks of pregnancy. Like the unplanned C-Section, however, this is not a procedure that should be taken lightly and you should take the time to research this method into order to make the best decision for your health and the health of your baby.
Labor and delivery does not have to be a high stress situation for either the mother or her partner. Despite what popular culture shows, birth can be and should be a positive experience. Luckily, there are a variety of different methods and philosophies to help guide you through the process and enable you to choose the birth plan you would like. No matter which of these methods speaks the most to you, or whether you feel you might incorporate more than one method into your birth plan, these different birthing methods will help you bring your new bundle of joy into the world.