Dear Mommy To Be,
I’m sure that your mind is filled with thoughts and questions. What should I put on my baby registry? What should I name my baby? How much weight should I gain while pregnant? When will my baby start sleeping through the night? These are all good questions; however, there is one question that doesn’t get enough attention.
What kind of birth do you want?
I heard this question while watching The Business of Being Born during my second pregnancy. I wish I had found this documentary my first time around. In my opinion, it’s a must see for all pregnant women. The facts presented in the film woke me up!
My first baby was born via elective C-section (details here), and I used to think “once a C-section, always a C-section.” I realized that this is not always true. I learned that I was a candidate for a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) and began planning my vaginal birth. ICAN is a great resource for deciding if a VBAC is right for you.
I didn’t have a birth plan, rather, an ideal birth situation. Throughout my pregnancy, I prepared both mentally and physically for a vaginal delivery. The more I researched and prepared, the more confident I became in my body’s ability to birth.
This post focuses on tips for a successful VBAC; however, the suggestions can help you prepare for any vaginal birth.
Pin this post for future reference <—-
- Watch The Business of Being Born.
It will take you less than two hours. Skip the latest episode of The Bachelor and watch this documentary instead.
The natural births portrayed in the film might not resonate with you, and that’s okay. The information and facts presented are shocking. It will change your perspective on birth in the United States.
- Find a supportive provider.
It’s important to find a provider that supports your plan to have a VBAC. Further, you’ll want someone that encourages you and believes in your body’s ability to birth.
This resource has a comprehensive list of questions that you can ask potential providers.
These are the questions that resonated with me:
- Is the provider comfortable working with a doula?
- Do they appear to be patient and a good listener?
- Does the provider appear to trust the woman’s body?
- What is their success rate with VBACs?
If their answers raise any red flags, it is possible to switch providers late in your pregnancy. It’s your birth and you need someone that is 100% on your team.
I became ruthless in my quest for a VBAC. During my third trimester, my OB told me that my baby was starting to measure big. He also said that if the baby is estimated to be over seven pounds at delivery, he doubted my ability to have a VBAC. Boy, bye!
I switched providers when I was 31 weeks pregnant. It wasn’t an easy decision, as I was afraid that it was too late in the game to make such a big change. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions that I made for my vaginal birth.
- Surround yourself with positive birth stories, specifically positive VBAC birth stories.
You can start with my birth story here (shameless plug). Also, The Birth Hour has a podcast with plenty of positive birth stories. I listened to them in the car, on my morning walks and while cooking dinner. Each positive birth story that I heard gave me more confidence in my body’s ability to birth.
- Consider hiring a doula.
Begin with a search for doulas in your area. Then, have phone and/or in person consultations to find a good match for you. You can find out more about the benefits of having continuous support during labor here.
I planned my VBAC in a hospital with an epidural, so I wasn’t sure if I needed a doula at first. I had a preconceived notion that doulas only worked in birth centers and home births. I was WRONG.
I’m grateful that I learned otherwise and found the perfect doula match. She was experienced with VBACs, non judgmental, and sweet as can be. I felt a sense of peace while in her presence. Trust me, that is exactly what you want to feel during labor and delivery.
If you can’t afford the full cost for a doula, there may be other options. You can search for companies that offer doula services on a sliding scale.
- Take a childbirth class.
You can find basic labor and delivery classes at your local hospital, private organizations and online. I recommend the online course, The VBAC Education Project. It’s a great free resource.
I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t take a childbirth class with my first pregnancy. The second time around, I found a class that covered labor, delivery and had a section on VBACs. Knowing what was happening in my body during labor gave me confidence. Knowledge truly is power.
- Order or borrow a copy of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (here).
This book is the holy grail for natural childbirth. Ina May Gaskin is probably the most infamous midwife to date and has the lowest C-section rates I’ve ever seen. Numbers don’t lie, she knows her stuff.
Even if natural childbirth is not for you, there are helpful facts in the book.
- Find a chiropractor that specializes in the Webster technique.
The International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA) provides information on the Webster technique here.
I began visiting the chiropractor around week 30 during my second pregnancy. I wanted to make sure that my body was in alignment for labor and delivery.
The chiropractic adjustments also alleviated my lower back pain, which was intense during this pregnancy. Maybe chasing a two year old had something to do with that?
If visiting the chiropractor is not in your budget, at least check out the physical therapy exercises listed below.
The type and amount of exercise depends on your pregnancy and what your provider suggests. Check with your provider to make sure that you’re clear for any physical activity.
Here are the exercises that I found helpful to prepare my body for vaginal delivery:
- Walking every day
- Weight training (light / moderate) a few times a week
- Physical therapy (suggested by my chiropractor) – daily cat / cow stretches, hip rotations on a yoga ball and LOTS of bouncing on the yoga ball.
You can find more details on daily activities during pregnancy on the Spinning Babies website.
- Prepare your girl parts.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, I began to get my uterus and cervix ready for labor. With approval from my midwife, I tried all of the following:
- Raspberry leaf tea – I brewed several tea bags a day and poured the tea over ice. The benefits of drinking raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy are explained here.
- Dates – I ate about 6 dates per day. Lara bars are a great source of dates that have added fun (chocolate) without added chemical junk. For more information on dates’ affect on labor and delivery, check out this article.
- Evening primrose oil – Definitely check with your provider on IF / WHEN it’s safe for you to try this. If you get the “okay,” you can insert one of these capsules vaginally before bedtime. Be sure to use a pantyliner.
- Tips for labor.
- Create a labor playlist. I wanted to create a relaxing and loving environment for my labor, so I chose songs that invoke those feelings for me. My playlist included songs by Alicia Keys and John Legend.
- Download a contraction timing app. An app will monitor the length of each contraction, the amount of time in between each contraction and the total amount of time that you’ve been monitoring.
- Stay at home for as long as possible, as permitted by your provider. The more you allow your body to progress naturally, the better your chance at having a vaginal delivery. There are a lot of pain management techniques that your doula, partner, or other support person can help you with while you’re at home. My favorite was getting in the bathtub. You can read my full VBAC birth story here.
- Use a peanut yoga ball. If you plan on getting an epidural, you won’t be able to walk around afterward. To help your pelvis continue to open up, wrap your legs around the peanut yoga ball. Check with the location where you’re delivering to see if they have one. If not, pack it in your bag.
- Get your mind right.
My mind played a significant role in my VBAC. Throughout my second pregnancy, I meditated and visualized my birth. In the morning, in the car, before bed at night, I focused on having an amazing vaginal birth.
During labor, I continued to visualize and communicate with my baby girl. Don’t underestimate the power of your mind.
I was selective with the language that I used. Instead of saying that I was “hoping for a VBAC,” I said that I was “planning my VBAC.”
I know that complications can arise during pregnancy or labor that require a C-section. It’s important to prepare your mind for that option, too. You can process those thoughts and feelings, and then allow them to pass.
- Positive vibes only.
This is closely related to #11 and deserves it’s own point. Surround yourself with positive people, positive stories, and positive providers. Avoid conversations and people that have a negative vibe. You can get back to them after your birth.
Additional helpful resources:
- International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN)
- Spinning Babies. My baby was “sunny side up” in my third trimester and I used the exercises on their website to successfully turn her back around.
I understand that this list seems overwhelming. All things pregnancy can feel overwhelming. I promise that these tips won’t be wasted effort, even if you decide to or need to have a C-section.
I’d love to hear about your experience planning for childbirth. Have you tried any of these tips? What else are you doing to prepare for vaginal delivery?
If you find this list to be helpful, please share it on Facebook, Pinterest, or with a friend / family member that is pregnant.
I’m wearing the canopy from my baby’s nursery in the main photo, found here.
(Some of the links herein contain affiliate links, which means we may make a small commission if you end up buying something you found here. Note that it doesn’t change the cost to you. Thanks for supporting The Blend!)