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Au Natural: Nine Ways to Manage Labor Without Drugs

From having a baby in water to using acupuncture, here are nine methods, philosophies, and professions to help you give birth on your own terms.
3rd Trimester Tests & Procedures Know Your Birthing Options

To watch most baby-bearing American movies and television shows, you'd think that giving birth means being in a hospital, strapped to a monitor, drugged and flat on your back. But that's not the only way. With the national rate for Cesarean surgery at 31.8 percent, more and more women are turning to natural birth in hopes of avoiding the regimentation and unnecessary medical interventions that can accompany a hospital birth. Whether it's HypnoBirthing, acupuncture, The Bradley Method, or a water birth, there are many alternatives to the flat-on-your-back hospital scene.

Certified Nurse-Midwives

What it is: Certified nurse-midwives are certified by the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) and trained formally in both nursing and midwifery. They work with the mother during the pregnancy to provide counseling, education, and prenatal care, but can also work with women year-round to provide well-woman care.

Midwives emphasize pregnancy and birth as a natural process and aim to decrease unnecessary medical interventions in births. Their philosophy is that they are there to facilitate but not control. CNMs are present throughout labor and allow labor to progress on its own.

A Real Mom's Take: "My prenatal experience with the Nurse-Midwifery Group at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago mirrored that of my friends who saw OBs. I had ultrasounds, did prenatal testing, and all of the typical lab work that pregnant women typically have.

"The difference, I think, is that each appointment included a conversation with one of the midwives that lasted 30-45 minutes and discussion about the birth experience that my husband and I wanted. My goal was to avoid medical interventions and methods of 'augmentation' (Pitocin, pain medication, breaking the water) and the things associated with them (IVs, restricted movement, restricted food, etc.). I wanted a natural, unmedicated birth.

"My husband, Bob, and I have now had two babies with the midwives, both without pain medication (we used yoga breathing and acupressure for pain management). The midwives who attended both of our births were present throughout, allowed labor to progress on its own, and provided us with ideas about positions to manage contractions and positions for pushing. They were our partners in the labor process and viewed themselves as facilitators and guides rather than directors. I found this approach so reassuring and empowering, especially in the last hours of labor, when you have the potential to doubt your ability to do the 'work.'" -- Kimberley Farster