Alternative Birth Options

Are you considering natural childbirth? We look at alternative options for pain management and relief during labour and birth.

Labour and birth are the last stages of your pregnancy and the final steps before you welcome your baby into the world.

Over the past 25 years, the focus of childbirth has evolved and many women are looking for a more natural experience, without medical intervention and pain medication. Although the majority of women still give birth in hospital or at a birthing centre, many embrace alternative therapies to help them cope with pain during labour and birth. Massage therapy, aromatherapy and music are just some of the tools a labouring mom may consider.

Alternative Options

Some maternity wards and birthing units may be open to accommodate alternative options, but you must confirm with your facility prior to admission. Also check with GEMS for details on your benefit option and what is or isn’t covered on your plan.

Lamaze Method

Lamaze breathing isn’t new and has been used by labouring moms since the 1950s. It is still taught and used very successfully today to help mothers focus on their breathing during labour. It can be beneficial if you want a natural birth without pain relief options. You can attend antenatal classes during your pregnancy to learn Lamaze breathing techniques as you prepare for your baby’s birth.  A number of pregnancy and birth topics are covered in the weekly classes, which you can attend with your birth partner. You will learn to cope with pain during labour and apply breathing techniques to use during contractions. If there are no Lamaze classes offered in your area, you can do an online course.

Doula Assistance

A doula is a women trained tooffer emotional and physical support during labour and after your baby’s birth. This is a good option if you are having your baby alone or your partner is not able to be with you during the birth. A doula can support you during a hospital birth or home birth along with a midwife.

Water Labour

The labouring mom uses a pool filled with warm water. The warmth of water and feeling of weightlessness helps mom relax and relieves tired muscles, speeding up the labour process. You can get out of the pool to use the toilet or walk around and return to the pool when you want to. Once you reach the pushing phase, you will be helped out of the water and into a suitable position for your baby’s birth. Some birthing units also offer the option of a water birth where your baby is born underwater. 

Hypnobirthing

Deep breathing, relaxation and visualisation techniques are taught to help you overcome fear, cope with pain and manage your own birth experience. By learning to manage stress hormones you can remain calmer as you progress through labour. Your birth partner can also play an active role in hypnobirthing. Courses are available for couples, generally over a weekend.

Acupuncture and Acupressure

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese therapy used to stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and ease pain. The acupuncturist inserts fine needles into various acupuncture points. With acupressure, the same points are used but pressure is applied by hand, without the use of needles. Treatments can start during late pregnancy to assist with relaxation and ease anxiety. In some cases, acupuncture may be used to induce labour if baby is considered overdue. The acupuncturist can visit the labouring mom at the birth unit or maternity ward for a treatment to help relieve pain during labour.

A Word on Home Birth

If you do not want to give birth in a hospital, you do have the option of a home birth. You will need to enlist the services of a registered homebirth midwife early on in your pregnancy to establish a close relationship. Ensure that she is qualified and registered and has the support of a backup team should complications arise that require you to be transferred to hospital.

Resources:  www.healthline.com; www.motherandbaby.co.uk; www.fatherly.com; www.health.clevelandclinic.org

Photo by Artur Ihnatov on Unsplash

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