How to Prepare for Natural Childbirth

"Epidural Please?!"

When is it time to utter those words? If you can't focus during contractions or relax between them, doctors agree it's probably a good idea to ask for pain meds, which at this point may help move things along. Your pelvic muscles can go into spasm mode if you aren't able to catch a breath between contractions, and then it's difficult for the baby to descend. An epidural, by relieving your pain, can let the pelvis do its job. Have an open mind: "If you reach the point where a natural labor is just not happening, you have to accept what's good for your child," Dr. Gossett. "The goal is a healthy baby."

Plus, "What I Did to Help Her Through"

How do doulas and daddies make a natural birth more bearable? Coaches share their secrets.

"I always pack a night light. Women birth best when given privacy, and low light goes a long way toward making her feel that. Within seconds of turning off the neon hospital lights and plugging in a small bulb, I can create a spa-like feeling for Mom." Amy Alexander, a doula in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

"I constantly suggested different positions in the early stages of my wife's labor. It kept her distracted from the pain and focused on an activity. Each time we moved, I told her we were getting closer to our baby's arrival." Chris Hadley, a dad Barrington, Rhode Island

"Don't ever let your wife think she's alone in this. Remind her you love her, and that this won't last forever. And remember, you're never quite sure what you can do until you have to do it!" Grant DiCianni, a dad in of Temecula, California

"I told her when each of her contractions was at 30 seconds. Most of her contractions didn't last longer than a minute, so 30 seconds was the peak, which is as difficult as that one would get." Mark Atencio, a dad in Gilbert, Arizona

Originally published in the May 2012 issue of American Baby magazine.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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