Did you know that you can potentially influence the type of labor you experience? Many women are opting to try as many natural avenues as possible, to have a birth experience that they can actually enjoy, and look back on with fond memories. This doesn’t mean trying to control the experience; but rather preparing the body and mind to go with what is naturally occurring. Here are 5 ways that are proven to influence the labor experience.
YogaYoga is not just for relaxation. It is used as a tool to help women trust the birthing process. Yoga in general, gets us out of our heads, into our bodies, releasing judgment and expectation with each breath. When practiced during pregnancy, women can expect to have an increased experience of comfort during labor and 2 hours post labor, experience less pain subjectively, and have a shorter first stage of labor and total labor time.1 Inherent in the postures of a yoga practice, are helpful positions that treat the challenges of pregnancy such as low back pain, fatigue, and constipation. Yoga helps reduce low back pain, increases space in the torso, relaxes the hips, and encourages vitality through opening the chakras and plentiful oxygen consumption. Prenatal yoga teacher Angela Gallagher writes, “asanas, the physical poses, can help build strength and stamina and improve circulation. Meditation can improve the abilities to relax and to concentrate. Pranayama, breathing exercises, can help manage the pain of contractions…Yoga teaches us to listen to the needs of our bodies and to trust the wisdom of our bodies. Deeper intimacy with the body allows pregnant women to rely less on rational thinking and more on intuitive wisdom.”2 Yoga supports us as the mind-body-spirit beings we are, during one of the most physically and emotionally challenging experience a woman will face.
Acupuncture can help prepare a woman’s body for birth, preparing the cervix and pelvis for labor. Back in 1997, Debra Betts, a leader in acupuncture for pregnancy and labor notes, “midwives suggested it should be offered to all birthing women, reporting that it consistently increased the chances of women experiencing a natural efficient labor. They commented that the time women spent in active labor was notably shorter than in those that did not receive treatment, and felt that the effect of introducing pre-birth acupuncture as part of midwifery care had contributed to reduced intervention rates, including medical inductions and caesarean sections.”3 Often, a C-section becomes indicated if the baby becomes breech. Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective solution in turning a breech baby and avoiding a c-section for this challenge. Research shows, “Acupuncture plus moxibustion is more effective than observation in resolving fetuses in breech presentation. Such a method appears to be a valid option for women willing to experience a natural birth.”4 When threatened with an induction (which can make labor even more uncomfortable and more likely to lead to a C-section5), many women are now turning to acupuncture as a safe and natural means of induction. Simply using 2 acupuncture points has been proven to support cervical ripening and shorten the time interval between the due date and the actual time of delivery.6
Herbs are a natural and normal part of a healthy pregnancy and natural labor. In the last 6 weeks of pregnancy, it is a good idea to take the herbs that help soften the cervix, and tonify the uterus so that the contractions are effective and efficient. I often encourage herbs or homeopathics throughout pregnancy to deal with any condition that arises, such as nausea or high blood pressure, but also to keep certain variables in a symbiotic balance, which helps the mom, the baby, and the labor. For example, we can treat group beta strep naturally one month before the delivery, instead of taking antibiotics during labor. I also recommend a woman prepares for pregnancy 9 months to one year prior. This is to not only set a healthy foundation for your child, but also encourages your body’s hormonal signals to be responded to loud and clear during labor.
Chiropractic can ensure the body is in proper alignment to encourage a speedy delivery. A lifetime of wear and tear on the spine and pelvis can cause the pelvic opening to become compromised, which is not optimal for the baby. As the baby grows and the woman progresses in her pregnancy, “compensations to the spine and pelvis are likely to cause an imbalance to her pelvic muscles and ligaments. The woman’s pelvis supports her growing uterus with specific ligaments. When the pelvic bones are balanced, the uterus is able to enlarge symmetrically with the growing baby. If the bones of the pelvis are out of alignment or subluxated, this will directly affect the way the uterus will be supported. Unequal ligament support of the uterus will torque the uterus, reducing the maximum amount of room for the developing baby.”7 This can lead to medical intervention. The Webster Technique is a specific chiropractic adjustment for pregnant women. It resolves postural obstacles and allows the baby to be in the most optimal position for birth. In one case study of a woman in her 32nd week of pregnancy, the consensus was that vaginal birth was unlikely. She was referred to a chiropractor by both her midwife and obstetrician because the baby presented in breech position, and the placenta was blocking the neck of the uterus. After Chiropractic treatment, “comparative ultrasound imaging confirmed the breeched fetus assumed a vertex position with the placenta migrating to more than 3 cm away from the os of the cervix.”8
Specific abdominal and pelvic floor exercises are great to do throughout the entire pregnancy. Strengthening these muscles will help with a woman’s changing body through pregnancy, the labor and delivery, and the recovery after.
After graduating from the University of Toronto with an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree, Dr. Donata Girolamo then pursued her passion for holistic medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, becoming a licensed and registered Naturopathic Doctor.
Dr. Donata Girolamo maintains a private family practice with special interests in fertility and mental wellness. Her mission is to optimize your health care by combining evidence-based medicine with the art and wisdom of traditional medicine. To address your health concerns she uses acupuncture, herbs, homeopathy, nutrition and lifestyle counseling.
She maintains inspired through continuing education, and has extensive training in homeopathy, biotherapeutic drainage, auricular medicine, and medical intuition. She has additional certification in Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome, First Line Therapy; a lifestyle program for weight loss and chronic disease prevention and treatment, and Psychosomatic Energetics. Due to her interest in the link between mind, body and spirit, Dr. Girolamo has taken intensive courses in Vipassana and Mindfulness meditation, and mind-body medicine through The Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body medicine.
She is certified by the Board of Directors of Drugless Therapy Naturopathy and an active member of The Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors, the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors, and the Association of Perinatal Naturopathic Doctors. She is a regular contributor to Health Wellness and Safety magazine, and has written for Canadian Health and Lifestyle. She is a guest speaker at Niagara College, teaching stress management with meditation, and is active in the community, giving health talks to groups like Run Girl Run, Happy Hearts, Niagara Pain Program, and Form Fitness. She is appearing in a fertility segment on CHCH news, and has been interviewed on 610 CKTB newstalk radio regarding menopause. Understanding and sharing the body’s wisdom is not only a passion, but her calling.
- Chuntharapat, Petpichetchian, Hatthakit. Yoga during pregnancy: Effects on maternal comfort, labor pain and birth outcomes. Complimentary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2008. Available at: http://www.ctcpjournal.com/article/s1744-3881(07)00083-7/abstract. Accessed November 2015.
- Prenatal Yoga Poses. Yoga Journal. 2007. Available at: http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/yoga-for-moms-to-be/. Accessed November 2015.
- Betts, D. The Use of Acupuncture as Routine Pre-birth Treatment [dissertation]. 2004.
- Acupuncture plus moxibustion to resolve breech presentation: a randomized controlled study. Taylor & Francis. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14767050410001668644. Accessed January 15, 2016.
- Labor induction. Risks. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/labor-induction/basics/risks/prc-20019032. Accessed November 2015.
- Result Filters. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11802511. Accessed November 2015.
- Cunningham, FG, Williams, JW. Williams obstetrics. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2001.
- Edwards, J, Alcantara, J. Successful Clinical Outcomes Confirmed via Ultrasound. Available at: http://www.mccoypress.net/jpmfh/docs/2014-1295_placentaprevia.pdf.