There are a huge number of pregnancy and birth books on the market (not to mention magazines and websites)! I often get asked “can't I learn everything I need to have a natural birth in a book?”
I'm really grateful for available books on natural birth – books helped me discover that giving birth without medications was not only possible, but a great choice for my baby. Books with birth stories are valuable because you find out how real mamas worked with labor. But do books and websites have everything you need for a smooth, natural birth?
Natural Birth is a Great Option
Books (and websites) are a great way to communicate knowledge and information – and women need a lot of information during pregnancy.
Mainstream sources of pregnancy information come from a strong medico-legal perspective (influenced strongly by obstetric beliefs about pregnancy and birth, and legal/insurance interests in keeping liability low for doctors – which isn't always supported by evidence-based medicine). The other major source of information is government recommendations, which mean well but also often lag far behind evidence and understanding of birth. Magazines and mainstream websites often simply parrot medical or government perspectives.
Quality books and websites offer information on alternatives for care during pregnancy and choices in childbirth. You get information on not just the mechanical process, but the hormonal process, which is really key to natural birth. You're also able to see a perspective different from the mainstream, epidural- and Pitocin-driven world of hospital birth. You get key information on why natural birth is so good for you and for your baby. Many women first discover these powerful “whys” because of books (or websites like this one!)
I believe that natural birth is the best option for mamas and babies. I understand that it's not possible for every mother and baby – but many more women could feel the triumph and beautiful hormonal rush of a natural birth, and many more babies could enjoy the incredible, lifelong benefits to every single body system that natural births provide, if this information was given to every mama. The books and other resources out there are a vital part of communicating this message.
The Limits of “It's Just Natural”
Unfortunately, one of the messages often communicated by natural birth resources is that “birth is just natural” and “your body was designed to give birth.” Of course these things are true – but making pat statements and stopping at that isn't helpful to mothers or babies.
I fully trust in the process of pregnancy and birth and will let any mom know the benefits of natural birth. But I can trust in birth because I've studied it intimately. I understand the changes in pregnancy and how a woman needs to support those changes and create both health and safety for herself and her baby. I also understand how birth works from both a mechanical and a hormonal perspective, and many of the implications of the birth process for baby.
At least, I understand what there is to understand at this point – we discover more every year and find out that many things we thought were “best practices” many not be. So studying pregnancy and birth keeps me humble 🙂
But, the reason I feel confident in the natural process of pregnancy and birth is because I understand it.
It's important to help mamas realize that yes, pregnancy and birth are very natural. But we live in a world that's very far removed from much of what is natural, and a world that's just starting to understand that medical technology may not be the right way to handle our bodies. It's often best to understand and support natural processes. Doing that can be challenging when a society has totally lost its way.
Many mamas need to understand birth – and they need to come to a place of getting to know their bodies and understanding how their bodies work before they're ready for birth. And birth is an intense thing. Some preparation helps you get through it 🙂
Can You Learn All You Need in Books?
As I've said, there are great books about natural birth available to women – but the first barrier is actually getting the books. You're far more likely to find mainstream books on pregnancy in the local bookstore. Online book sellers help a bit, because natural birth books tend to rate highly in pregnancy categories, making them more accessible.
These books do a good job explaining the benefits of natural birth, which helps fuel your desire to give that gift to your baby (and yourself). Books also do a great job of explaining the processes of labor and birth. Having that understanding is vital. There are a few books that also detail the hormones of labor, something else key to a great birth experience (and powerful bonding for you and your little one).
I mentioned birth stories above, and I think that's another strength of books that include them. Reading what real women were thinking and feeling during their birth experiences is really valuable and can help you gain perspective and prepare realistically for your baby's birth. I do think it's important to read stories from mamas who prepared for natural birth, because these stories give an accurate picture of the variations of labor and birth.
Preparation is where most books fall short. They provide lots of knowledge, information, research, etc., and that helps you make informed decisions about your choices in pregnancy and birth. But they don't give you skills to use to work with your labor and birth.
Can You Learn All You Need on the Web?
The Internet is a massive repository of information, and you can find tons of great stuff on natural birth. Birth stories abound – and many of them are great. You can also find lots of videos (though I recommend you be really choosy about birth videos… they tend to stick in your mind even if they didn't show a birth experience you'd like to have).
Many websites about pregnancy and birth give only lip service to natural birth (or natural pregnancy). These “mega sites” rank highly in the search engines even though the information they provide is of poor quality – and unfortunately a lot of moms-to-be take their information and “doctor approved” perspectives at face value (these sites are usually run by a corporation that can afford to have an MD on staff).
There are still high-quality websites about natural pregnancy and birth out there, though (I know I'm biased, but I think my site is pretty good!). Those sites provide many of the same advantages as a book – birth stories, information on the “why” of natural birth, and plenty of good information on how birth works.
Getting the big picture of your options and alternatives is incredibly valuable. Like books, however, websites often give only information and knowledge – they don't share how to develop practical skills for pregnancy and birth.
What Does it Mean to Trust Birth
Like “it's just natural” you'll often hear that all you need to do is “trust birth” (or “trust your body”) and you'll be fine. But what does this really mean? How can we trust a process that has been surrounded by stories of fear, pain, and danger for our entire lives?
Gaining knowledge, which I've talked about already, is an important component of coming to trust birth. I mentioned that I've studied pregnancy and birth, and how they “work,” extensively. It's given me great appreciation for the design of birth and a fundamental trust in the process.
But “trusting birth” and “trusting your body” goes way beyond head knowledge. It takes a level of re-conditioning… because we do live in a culture that at worst fears birth and at best thinks that it's a necessary evil to get a cute baby. Birth is considered only a means to a baby, but it's much more than that (Roanna Rosewood talks about this in her memoir [raw]
Trusting your body is also a really big deal. Most of us have spent at least some part of our lives as women ashamed of our bodies, or simply trying our best to ignore them. “Trusting your body” means getting comfortable with it and accepting it – something that's been undermined by tampon ads and bad jokes about “female issues” from the time we were young girls.
Some women do find this level of trust and comfort just from reading how well designed the female form is, and how it works for growing and birthing a baby. But most need something more to overcome years of conditioning to be ashamed of (or to simply ignore) having a woman's body.
How Natural Birthing Classes Help
Birthing classes are a natural choice to compliment the research you do through books and online. A good natural birth course provides information (and yes, you'll get some overlap with your books).
Your class covers the fundamentals of birth, which you'd expect. You're going to cover the “stages of labor” and how to identify them (some classes cover what to expect emotionally at each point, which is really helpful when you're in the middle of things). You'll also learn all about dilation, effacement, etc. – the measurable parts of labor. A natural birthing class also details the pitfalls of just relying on these measures to judge progress in labor, which is helpful to know.
Some classes, like my ., also go into detail on the hormonal influencers of labor and birth, which can be incredibly important to the progress of labor. Knowing how your hormones work to help you (birth your baby more smoothly, safely, and with less pain) means you can create an birthing environment that supports that. Check out what one student had to say about the importance of this:
I woke up with contractions at 6am, got to the hospital around 9am (40 min drive), and walked the halls for an hour. I was moved from triage to a room at 12:00 and she was born at 12:16, before the doctor could arrive or the nurse could catch her! My water broke while I was standing up laboring at the bed and I barely made it onto the bed before she literally slid right out, thanks to that fetal ejection reflex you taught about. I did have to concede to my doctor's protocol of a small dose of IM pitocin after the placenta was delivered but otherwise, no interventions.
She's nursing like a champ (although she does have tongue tie, unfortunately) and I'm feeling good!
I am so thankful I found your podcast and class for this, my third baby. While all were delivered naturally in the hospital, this was my best experience yet because I had so much more information about the hormonal process and felt so prepared.
THANK YOU! 🙂
A huge benefit of taking a birthing class is discovering practical skills to use during your birthing time. These are strategies and techniques you can really use. Things you can do to work with your baby during labor, and that your birthing partner or coach can use to help you when things get overwhelming or intense, or just to help you stay the course throughout your labor.
Birthing classes also help you understand your body during pregnancy, so you can gain awareness and understanding. A good class covers not just relaxation, but understanding tension and relaxation in the right places. After all, your baby is coming through your pelvis – you need to understand how to work with relaxation down there!
Your instructor is also invaluable. This is one big benefit of “in person classes,” but some online classes also give you access to a teacher who acts as a guide, confidant, and adviser. She's a great resource when you need somebody to help you research or give input on your personal situation.
I cover these benefits and more in podcast episode Why Birthing Classes Are Worth It – there's also valuable advice on choosing the class that works for you.
I personally chose to take birthing classes with my first baby, and have taken several other classes since then. I reviewed lesson materials with every baby, even #6! And I truly believe that those classes helped me to have beautiful, natural births that gave my babies a great start. I encourage you to consider how much a class can help you achieve your goals of a natural birth and a healthy baby!
My Mamababy Classes are self-paced, online classes – with a personal touch : .
My Mamababy Classes are self-paced, online classes – with a personal touch : .