Natural Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum |Everything You Need To Know

natural birth mom holding newborn

Growing up I was always fascinated watching shows on tv and hearing the birth stories of different moms. I always thought I wanted to be a mom, but never envisioned that I would be a holistic minded mother. A couple years ago, I didn’t even know half of the things I do today about all things natural pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. I hope you will learn something with me sharing the information I have attained and my personal experience.

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Pregnancy

  • I loved these prenatals. Although, I didn’t find out about them until after I gave birth. I still took these for almost a year postpartum since I was breastfeeding. I love that they are gluten free and vegan, and made with non-gmo whole foods. The only downside is that you have to remember to take it twice a day, and it doesn’t taste great. When I was pregnant, the first prenatal I took made me sick due to the levels of iron. So, I switched to a gummy vitamin which contained folic acid. Since then, I’ve learned that folate is better for you. Later, when my iron levels were tested they were low. I got this iron vitamin that didn’t make me sick, but it would have been unnecessary had I started with the prenatal linked above.

Providers

There are different options when it comes to what professional you choose for prenatal care. If you have a high risk pregnancy an obstetrician may be preferred while with a normal, healthy pregnancy a midwife could be your best bet. Doulas are great for added support and education before, during, and after labor and delivery. They can help you with your birth plan and ensure that the decisions you want are upheld. There are even postpartum doulas!

natural pregnancy baby bump

Tests

There are lots of different genetic and blood tests offered during pregnancy. Personally, I declined most of them. I didn’t see them as necessary. I’m not going to list all of the tests here, but I will name a few that most OBGYNs will say are necessary and required if you choose to go that route.

First Trimester

Typically, moms and doctors want to do a first trimester ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy and estimated due date and a second trimester ultrasound to determine the due date and perform an anatomy scan. Another test that is usually done at your first OBGYN visit is a blood test to check your blood time and level of hCG to ensure that it is at the right level for how far along your pregnancy is thought to be. At almost every appointment, your doctor will want to use a doppler to check the babies heart rate.

Here is some information on why you should consider declining the use of ultrasound and doppler technology. You can instead opt for the use of a fetoscope. Mama Natural weighs the risk and benefits and shares what she chose to do.

Second Trimester

In your second trimester, your doctor will want to check to see if you have acquired gestational diabetes with a glucose tolerance test. Mommypotamus shares some great information all about risk factors for gestational diabetes, what is in the glucola drink, alternatives to the test, and more!

Third Trimester

Towards the end of pregnancy your doctor will want to check your cervix. They do this to see if you have effaced or dilated. Here is all of the information you will need to know about cervical checks.

The last test I’m going to discuss on this blog is the group B strep swab. The downside to having this test done is if it is positive doctors tend to want to give you antibiotics while in labor. Evidence based birth provides a comprehensive guide on this topic including alternatives and the effect of antibiotics on a newborn.

natural pregnancy woman sitting and holding her belly looking down smiling

Exercise

I loved attending group exercise classes during my pregnancy. I was able to do yoga, weight lifting, HIIT, Zumba, Pilates, and cycling. Another way I got exercise every day was climbing the stairs for my apartment and taking my dog for walks on the greenbelt or by the lake. If you are planning on having an unmedicated, natural labor and delivery then exercising is a great way to prepare your body! In order to stay at a healthy weight throughout your pregnancy you should exercise and eat healthy every day.

natural pregnancy woman sitting by ocean

Apps

Here are some apps on my phone that I downloaded and loved during pregnancy. It is so cool to be able to check and see the size of your baby and how they are developing each week. Some of these apps even have where you can upload photos of your belly every week to document its growth.

  • The Bump
  • Ovia
  • Pregnancy +
  • Glow Nurture
  • What to Expect

Morning Sickness

Morning sickness doesn’t just occur in the morning. Mama Natural shares natural morning sickness remedies that may be helpful if you are suffering from this. Some moms even get so sick that they have hyperemesis gravidarum and are hospitalized. Dr. Axe has 9 natural remedies that can help.

Multiples

A lot of times if you find out you are carrying more than one baby, you are automatically classified as high risk. Many times your doctor will want to induce you. Here is an inspiring story of an amazing mama who pushed for what was best for her twins. She had a successful unmedicated birth.

natural pregnancy woman sitting on rock at park

Complications

Placenta

  • Placenta previa is the term used when your placenta is covering your cervix. Mama Natural discusses in detail why this is a problem and your options for delivery. Another placental issue is if you have an anterior placenta. This can cause it to be hard to hear your baby’s heartbeat and feel movements early on. Placenta accreta makes it highly likely that you will need a c-section. Placental abruption can also be pretty serious. At best, you will probably need to be put on bedrest. At worst, you may need to give birth ASAP. Preeclampsia can be a serious problem in pregnancy. Read the link to learn more about how you can lower your risk of acquiring it.
  • Here is a great resource that talks about your options if you have group b strep. You will learn the statistics to make an educated decision weighing the risks and benefits of taking antibiotics during labor.
  • If you end up getting tested and have gestational diabetes there are natural treatment options. You are not automatically sentenced to a huge baby and a c-section.
  • If your baby is in a breech position, you may still be able to have an unmedicated vaginal birth. There are also things you may want to try to do to turn your baby before you go into labor.

Loss

  • Stillbirth is super devastating to have a loss of your baby whether you are aware of the outcome to begin with or not. If you lose your baby after 20 weeks gestation, it is no longer considered a miscarriage. This isn’t super common, and may happen for a variety of reasons.
  • Bleeding & Spotting can be normal in pregnancy and no sign for alarm. Although, it can also be a signal of something more serious happening like miscarriage, ectopic, or molar pregnancies. Read the link above to learn more about these pregnancy complications.
natural pregnancy woman standing by ocean with dog

Vaccines

  • Mom– The National Vaccine Information Center gives research based evidence of the lack of safety testing for vaccines during pregnancy. Yet, most doctors recommend and push for all women to get the Tdap and flu shot touting the immunity they provide. If it is suggested across the board that moms get these vaccines, they should be legally provided with all relevant information of benefits and risk. Look at the vaccine inserts where it is clearly stated that the vaccines aren’t tested for safety in pregnancy.
  • BabyDr. Mercola discusses the Vitamin K shot and its risks/benefits for your baby. Mommypotamus talks about alternatives that are available. It’s best that as a parent you educate yourself and make an informed decision on what is best for your baby and family. Dr. Mercola also shares why that the Hep B vaccine is unnecessary for newborns. He lists the adverse reactions and medical conditions associated with the vaccine.

Labor and Delivery

Labor at home as long as possible if you are aiming for an unmedicated hospital birth to avoid unnecessary interventions. I would highly suggest that you do everything you can to educate yourself while you’re pregnant. Your body was meant for this. You will likely have a great birth experience if you are determined and prepare yourself mentally and physically. Prepare and plan for the unexpected so that you aren’t caught off guard. Having a provider and support system that is advocating for you can make the world of a difference.

natural pregnancy woman sitting by lake

Interventions

Know your alternatives in case a situation arises where its necessary to intervene. Legally, your provider should be getting informed consent from you. But, too often parents are put in a situation where they aren’t given all of the risks and benefits of procedures. Here Mama Natural discusses labor interventions, how to avoid them, and why.

Induction

Some common ways that doctors will induce labor are: stripping membranes, inserting a foley bulb, breaking your water, and applying cervadil. Here is an article that points out that there has been no benefit shown for membrane stripping. Happiest Doulas talks all about if and when it would be necessary to break your water. Mama Natural shares ways that you may be able to induce labor naturally. She also talks about a common drug used to induce labor, pitocin, sharing the side effects, and when it is usually given.

Here is an article that discusses the risks of induction. There are certain instances in which induction may be best for mom and baby, but it has definitely been overused.

EpisiotomyE

Here are some awesome tips for avoiding an episiotomy. I really did not want one, and I still ended up getting one. I believe if I had better support from a doula who knew my wishes we would have avoided that happening. Make sure you research when it is truly necessary so you aren’t scared or pushed to get one when it isn’t really needed.

Epidural

Healthline shares the risks of epidurals and alternative methods you can use for pain relief. Giving Birth Naturally goes into detail of some of the ways you can manage labor pains.

C-Section

A c-section is a major surgery that most people want to avoid, but there are certain emergency circumstances in which they can save lives. Here is information on how to have a gentle cesarean if the need for one should arise. Be aware of the risks of a c-section. Mama Natural and Wellness Mama share how you can recover from a c-section naturally.

Vacuum/Forceps Delivery

Healthline shares some helpful tips on how to prepare yourself for a possible vacuum or forceps delivery if necessary. This intervention is not without risk and should be avoided if at all possible.

Birth Plan

Mother Rising talks all about writing a natural birth plan. Although I did not have a physical copy of my birth plan, I love Mama Natural’s free visual birth plan template. Whether you choose to write one or not, it’s important that you think through and are aware of all of the routine procedures that will happen during labor and delivery unless you request otherwise.

Baby

natural birth mom giving baby first bath
  • Eye ointment– Unless you have an STD/STI, its likely that this is unnecessary for your newborn. Evidence Based Medicine gives a thorough breakdown of the risks, benefits, and all of the information you need to make an informed choice.
  • Bath: The vernix coating on newborns is beneficial in many ways. This is why you should consider waiting at least 24-48 hours or more before giving your baby their first bath. Mama Natural talks about all of the benefits of doing this.
  • Hep lock/IV: I chose not to have an IV or a hep lock. If you are having a hospital birth and don’t need an IV, a lot of doctors will want to give you a hep lock in case the need for one should arise. This speeds up the process if you were to have a medical emergency. Learn all about this here.
  • Immediate skin to skin: I was skin to skin with my baby every chance I got when he was a newborn. Even now we frequently enjoy all of the benefits that it has to offer. Mommypotamus shares seven benefits of skin-to-skin contact after birth. These benefits are for mom and baby.
  • Delayed cord clamping: You have to be vigilant before and after birth to ensure your requests are met even with a birth plan. Mama natural talks about why delayed cord clamping is a must. She dispels all of the myths and lays out clearly the multitude of benefits.
  • Circumcision: An elephant in the hospital is a great, educational video by a research professor on this topic. Here are ten reasons not to circumcise. Here is some information about circumcision from the ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists), so you can have an unbiased opinion and facts.
natural birth mom holding baby by golden gate bridge

Mom

  • Intermittent Fetal Monitoring: Here is everything you need to know about fetal monitoring. If you have fetal monitoring, I would opt for external intermittent monitoring rather than continuous or external. Obviously it’s up to you to make your own decision on what’s best for you and your baby. Do your own research and make a decision based on all the facts provided.
  • Eating: I went into labor at three in the morning, and personally did not even want to eat. I had like half of a granola bar, so by the time I gave birth twelve hours later I was super hungry. I labored for nine hours outside the hospital, so I didn’t have to worry about any regulations or interventions they may have. Evidence based birth gives some helpful information regarding eating and drinking while in labor.
  • Limited vaginal exams: I think I was checked three times in the three hours before I gave birth that I was at the hospital. It didn’t bother me, but here are five good reasons you may choose to refuse these exams in labor. They really are unnecessary. If you are aiming for an unmedicated birth, then just go with the flow and stay relaxed to progress and have an enjoyable delivery.

Resources

natural postpartum dad wearing baby during hike

Books

Bradley Method

  • Husband Coached Childbirth discusses the Bradley method. When I was pregnant, I was looking up every resource for information to devour. I knew if I wanted a successful unmedicated birth I would need all of the information available to prepare. There are classes available that I was interested in attending, but was unable to due to us moving frequently during my pregnancy.
  •  Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: One reason I chose the Bradley method and was most interested in learning more about it was the 94% success rate. When you tell people you’re planning not to get the epidural or any interventions for that matter, people scoff since it’s become commonplace. As a first time mom, that didn’t intimidate me. Others would share how painful it is and laugh in disbelief thinking I was ignorant since I hadn’t experienced it. Who’s to say that if I had another child it would be the same? If there’s one thing us mothers should know, it’s that every child, pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum is different.
  • Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth: This was one of the best books I read in preparation for a natural, unmedicated labor and delivery. After reading this, I really wanted to have a home birth or at least give birth with a midwife at a birthing center. We moved a lot during my pregnancy, so I wasn’t able to find exactly that covered by insurance. All in all, I had a satisfactory experience with my natural birth at a hospital birthing center.
  • Pushed: I thought this book was so good! It really opened my eyes to all of the unnecessary medical interventions that are pushed upon women during labor. The author goes all the way back to share in detail the history of how the system came to be what it is today in the USA.

For Support

natural birth mom wearing baby on maui
  • The Birth Partner: I loved all of the helpful information that was shared in this book. I thought it would be great to refer back to in labor if we needed to try different positions or pain relief techniques that we didn’t have memorized. We even brought a few of our favorite books to the hospital, which never even got touched. The last thing we were thinking about during labor was checking a book. We instinctively just followed my intuition to do what felt natural based upon what I had learned. I say all this not because everyones experience will be the same, but just to let you know to prepare and expect the unexpected. I thought I had my husband educate himself adequately beforehand by sharing information, deciding upon our wishes, presenting facts and research, and getting him to read natural birthing books. But, when it came down to it, I feel he still could have been more prepared with knowledge in certain areas that we didn’t end up following through with our exact plans in.

Journal

  • The Bump Pregnancy Planner and Journal: I don’t keep a lot of keepsakes around, since I have minimalistic tendencies. But, I absolutely loved having this throughout my pregnancy to document each symptom and milestone. I highly recommend that everyone gets something similar to share with their children when they grow up. We tend to forget all of the little things, so it’s nice to look back and remember.

Documentary

  • The Business of Being Born can be watched on Netflix. It goes in depth into how birth has become an industry in America. I loved watching this, and learned a lot of facts that only validated my decision to have an unmedicated birth.

Locations

dad sitting on couch looking at phone with a newborn baby laying on his chest
  • Home birth: Evidence Based Birth gives a good description of what this is if you can’t tell based on the title. Some people choose to have a water birth. Home births can be a good option for anyone with a healthy pregnancy looking to have an unmedicated, natural birthing experience. A midwife can come to your home to help deliver your baby.
  • Birthing center: This is a good option for people who are unsure about having their baby at home, but don’t want to have their child at a hospital either. Birthing centers typically don’t automatically lean towards all of the interventions that hospitals do. If you have a high risk pregnancy they may not accept you as a patient in their practice. They usually have connections with nearby hospitals in order to transfer you swiftly should complications arise.
  • Hospital: Most women in the U.S. opt to have hospital births with an obgyn delivering their baby. Whether it be for the comfort of the available resources should an emergency occur or fear and the ease of access to all of the technology and medications provided to women in labor. Read about my unmedicated, hospital natural labor and delivery story.

Birthing Positions

If you have an unmedicated birth, it can be best to deliver your baby in a variety of ways that aren’t traditional (laying on your back). Even if you end up getting the epidural, there are other positions you can try that may decrease your likelihood of tearing and other complications. Here are a few to familiarize yourself with in preparation for giving birth.

Labor Positions

Here is a comprehensive list that goes into detail showing and explaining a wide variety of birthing positions you can try while in labor. I know especially when I arrived at the hospital and was in the transition phase of labor as the contractions intensity started to increase, it was very helpful to have knowledge of different positions to try to get comfortable and breathe through contractions.

While I was in the beginning stages of labor I preferred to lay down the majority of the time. I tried walking, climbing stairs, and taking a bath, but found myself to be most comfortable and relaxed in that position. Some positions that were helpful to me in the later stages of labor were squatting, bouncing on the birthing ball, and sitting on the toilet.

newborn baby holding dads finger

Placental Encapsulation

Here is everything you need to know. I did my research and seriously considered this, but decided to pass on it. I just couldn’t find enough solid evidence to warrant the benefits.

Relaxation Techniques

You can try a variety of techniques to help you relax including massage, different labor positions, and breathing techniques. Studies have shown that if you are relaxed you will progress quicker and have less pain.

Postpartum

natural postpartum mom pushing stroller

This aspect of becoming a mother is a lot less talked about, and therefore more mysterious to a lot of people. Here are some of the things you should expect. I created a separate post where I share all about my postpartum experience. Go over and tell me all about yours!

Contractions

You may have never heard this, so I thought I would share in case you were unaware. Most women experience contractions postpartum. This is a normal part of recovery. You will experience them for days after as your uterus shrinks back down to its normal size. These tend to be stronger while you’re nursing, but don’t lose heart.

Bleeding

After you give birth, you will have a lot of bleeding (lochia). Your doctor will tell you to watch out for hemorrhaging. As the weeks pass, your bleeding should lighten up and stop altogether before you get your first postpartum period in the months or sometimes years to come.

Bowel Movements

A lot of people are scared to have their first bowel movement, because many mothers get hemorrhoids from pushing during labor. These can be painful and bleed since they are big and swollen. Some people recommend using stool softener to help with this. Although, I did have a giant hemorrhage unfortunately, I was lucky to not have to deal with any pain at all with my bowel movements even though I was prepared to take a stool softener if necessary. Here is some helpful information on how you can try to get rid of your hemorrhoids naturally if you have them.

Natural Mama Must Haves

mom wearing newborn baby by the lake
  • If you have a hospital birth, they should be able to give you a sitz bath. These are a life saver if you tore to help you recover quicker. It feels so nice and relaxing if you’re able to take even 15 minutes to sit and soak in warm water like this.
  • I tried the Frida baby version, and honestly just preferred the peri bottle that the hospital gave me. I kept that one in the restroom at home upstairs, and I took the fridababy one with me in the diaper bag and used it downstairs in the restroom. This was the only way I was able to use the restroom for months postpartum as I recovered.
  • Arnica is great for postpartum pain relief and swelling.
  • These reusable pads are great for postpartum bleeding along with mesh panties which you should receive again if you give birth at the hospital. These panties are so huge and supportive, and they cover everything. I just threw them away at the end of the day, since for the first few days you just feel gross.
mom smiling holding newborn baby

Tearing/Hemorrhoids

  • Witch hazel has so many different uses and purposes. I loved the comfort that it brought postpartum. You can create little wet wipes to soothe your nether regions or spray some on your pads to freeze and create padsicles.
  • It hurt so much to sit down postpartum, that the hospital gave me a ring pillow. I literally sat on that for weeks after giving birth, and it was still painful. I had to carry it with me in the car, and I wish I had found the one I linked here then. It looks so much more comfortable and supportive.
  • This earth mama organic perineal balm is another product I wish I had known to try postpartum. It has amazing reviews, and is said to bring relief for hemorrhoids and tears.
  • I was unaware of this DIY hemorrhoid cream as well, but it seems worth a try!
  • I ordered this Earth Mama Angel Baby bottom spray, but literally did not notice a difference. We found out later this was due to having an internal tear, so I’m sure this brought some relief. The pain from my tear was just too overbearing for me to notice much of a difference from anything else.
dad holding bottle of breastmilk feeding newborn

Breastfeeding

Check out my ultimate breastfeeding guide where I share all of the best resources and my experience breastfeeding. This will ensure your breastfeeding success. Also feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns. As a new first time mom, I know how hard it can be trying to navigate everything that comes with having a baby.

Jaundice

When a baby joins the family, most people don’t get the same sleep as before. Some babies experience jaundice, which tends to make them want to sleep even more than they already do. This can be problematic, since the best way to get rid of jaundice is by having your baby nurse and have bowel movements to get their bilirubin levels lowered. Learn about home remedies for jaundice here.

Depression/Anxiety

With all of the hormonal changes it’s normal to be extra emotional and sensitive the first few days postpartum. But, if you continue to have signs and symptoms for depression or anxiety there are different things you can try to help. Dr. Axe discusses signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, along with their conventional and natural treatments. Modern alternative mama also shares ten ways to treat postpartum depression naturally. Lastly, here is a story of how one mom got help with her postpartum anxiety.

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I would love for you to let me know if there is anything different that you experienced in the comments below. Every individual is different, and it’s so amazing how our bodies grow and change with new life. I hope this is helpful to anyone interested in having an unmedicated, natural pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Subscribe if you love health, wellness, and motherhood content so you never miss when I post.

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