Options, methods and experiences for your natural birth plan.
You saw the Big Fat Positive you’ve been hoping for, and now it’s time to nail down your pregnancy preferences.
Maybe you’ve been interested in natural birthing options or even considering a water birth, midwife or birthing center. Or, perhaps you’d feel more comfortable incorporating a specific birthing method in a hospital birth setting. Whatever your questions, preferences and needs, we’re highlighting several natural birthing options for you to consider, along with input from a midwife and a local mother who’s seasoned in giving birth at home. You’re the one who needs to be comfortable, so here’s a good start.
Terms To Know
The term ‘natural birth’ simply refers to a vaginal delivery without the use of pain medication. If you’re considering giving birth naturally, you might also decide to obtain care from a midwife and a doula at home or in a birthing center. However, some birthing methods just involve attending classes during pregnancy to learn different techniques, and you would be able to use them through your birthing process no matter where you are—at home, in a birthing center or at the hospital.
With that in mind, we’re laying out several different terms and approaches for giving birth naturally.
Midwife: The American Pregnancy Association describes a midwife as a health care professional who provides everything from gynecological exams and prescriptions to labor, delivery and after-birth care.
Doula: A doula is there for the emotional, physical and educational support of mothers who are pregnant, in labor or have recently given birth. According to the American Pregnancy Association, a doula helps a mother experience a safe and memorable birth. Learn more on americanpregnancy.org.
Bradley method: This method focuses on relaxation techniques, self-awareness and education. It involves coaching the mother through giving birth with relaxed abdominal breathing and helps her tune into her body. bradleybirth.com.
Lamaze method: This well-known birthing method works primarily to build confidence in women regarding their ability to give birth. Other aspects involve teaching women how to cope with pain through various strategies while also facilitating labor. lamazeinternational.org.
Hypnobirthing: This is a real mind-over-matter approach. Visualizations, deep breathing and prompts or coaching from a partner are used to achieve deep relaxation. The goal for women who want to incorporate this method is to be able to enter this relaxed state on demand. us.hypnobirthing.com.
Water birth: Giving birth in a tub or small pool of water encourages pain relief for mom and a gentle arrival for baby. The idea is that water helps to relax women in labor, thus providing a smoother delivery. waterbirth.org.
Home birth: This is natural birth in a woman’s natural, or home, environment. The main benefit is that a mother can give birth on her terms—in the comfort of her own home with the people closest to her. Look into this option further on babycenter.com.
Additional sources: fitpregnancy.com, checkpregnancy.com
Bring On Baby: A Midwife’s Perspective
For Andrea Reece, pregnancy and childbirth is something she’s been interested in since she was 5 years old.
“I’m sure my mom thought it was strange that her 5 year old wouldn’t stop talking about pregnant women and giving birth,” she says.
Even so, it’s what she’s always been interested in, and now she is one of two midwives at Gentle Journey Midwifery & Birth Center in Gainesville. For her, being a midwife is about giving the mom-to-be all the options and education she needs to make her most-informed decision. Andrea feels it’s important for women to have a say and a choice in their care. She also believes that educating women about giving birth is vital and that the more educated a woman is about childbirth and her body, the calmer she is about giving birth.
When a newly pregnant woman decides to establish prenatal care with Andrea, Andrea will screen the woman for risk factors against a criteria list. There’s a point system and a scale they use at the initial consultation.
“Many complications on the list relate to a previous pregnancy,” Andrea says.
The standard prenatal schedule involves a visit to the birth center every four weeks until 28 weeks into pregnancy. Then, visits are every two weeks until 36 weeks in. Weekly visits start next until delivery. Post-delivery, there’s a 48-hour, two-week and six-week checkup.
Andrea’s birthing center is housed in a lovely, historic home in Gainesville. It was originally called the Colson House, and, although Andrea has only owned it since 2017, it was already being used as a birthing center—the Birth Center of Gainesville—prior to her ownership. The atmosphere is cozy and spa-like. Mothers can have as much privacy as they want and give birth any way they want. There’s a bedroom with a queen-size bed, a large tub for water births, a kitchen, a sitting room and more in the two-story building—and it’s all available for women to utilize for their comfort during labor.
“There are no rules really,” Andrea says. “As long as their vital signs are good, however they want to give birth [is up to them].”
In the case of unforeseen issues, the birth center has a direct connection with UF Health Shands Hospital. Andrea will always have a conversation with the mother ahead of time about transferring to the hospital, and, if the need does arise, the mother is always accompanied by a midwife.
“There is always a plan of action in place,” Andrea says.
Learn more by visiting gentlejourneymidwifery.com.
Mom Talk: All About Home Births
“My husband would have never agreed to this at first,” says Trisha Ferguson, the mother of 10 children, five of whom she gave birth to at home.
Trisha is 36 years old with an almost-16-year-old son as the oldest and a months-old baby. She and her husband, Patrick, have lived in Ocala for 12 years, and Trisha has worked at the local YMCA teaching barre, yoga, Pilates and spin since moving here. Of course, she’s taken a short break approximately every 18 months to give birth and take maternity leave, but she typically has been able to teach and stay physically active until the end of each pregnancy.
“You’ve really got to pay attention to your body,” Trisha says about exercising throughout her pregnancies. “A lot of what I do is low impact.”
Trisha makes every effort to take care of herself and her family’s health, but she admits there’s a balance. Even though Patrick grows a lot of their food and he hunts and fishes, she’ll still buy cereal.
“We try to grow as much food as we can,” Trisha says. “We make smart food choices, and I just try to balance everything.”
And for her, hydration is key, along with taking vitamins and probiotics. Although Trisha didn’t give birth to all of her children at home, her last five children were born at home. When it comes to staying in shape, Trisha has mainly tried to keep her weight gain in check during each pregnancy. Post-pregnancy, she takes a health-focused approach.
“The first five pregnancies didn’t phase me, but it’s gotten a little harder with each one after to get my body back,” Trisha says. “It just takes longer now. It’s a slow, healthy progression, and I feel like staying active definitely helps.”
Trisha and Patrick weren’t planning for 10 kids, and Trisha admits it’s crazy. From the beginning, she knew she wanted four or five kids, and she thought that would be too much for Patrick. It turns out Patrick wanted six, but now they’re 10 in.
“We’re just really blessed,” Trisha says. “I’m grateful because Patrick is 100 percent in.”
Trisha gave birth to her first two children in a hospital in Savannah, Georgia, before moving to Ocala. Giving birth to her third child involved the midwives and then the hospital, and, with her fourth, she didn’t make it to the hospital. She calls it her driveway birth, because that’s exactly where she had her baby.
“That’s when my husband became a believer in home birth,” Trisha says.
One midwife identified why it was so hard for Trisha to gauge when to go to the hospital. For her, contractions kick on and kick off for several days, and then she’ll go into a super-fast labor. This is just one of the reasons she and Patrick decided to move forward with home births.
“I go overdue—I carry the baby forever,” Trisha says. “I wait and wait, but mine just shoot out.”
If she were to give advice to a friend considering a home birth, she would encourage them to look into it and do their own research to make sure it’s the right move for them. Although Trisha prefers giving birth at home, that doesn’t mean everyone does. She points out that midwives are licensed and trained in delivering babies, but they just approach the birthing process differently than most doctors do. In Trisha’s perspective, a doctor will focus on the medical side of things, and a midwife will focus more on the natural way of birth and the mother’s body.
“[Midwives] are big on education. They have taught me so much about how to read my body,” she says. “Birthing is peaceful, and I think it’s because they sit back and let your body do what it does. With the midwives, they would ask: ‘What are you feeling?’ They were listening to me, and they were trusting me.”
The trust the midwives placed in her empowered her, and she’ll take her home environment over the hospital every time. Post-delivery at home with midwives was a bit different for Trisha than it was for her at a hospital. In Trisha’s experience, the midwives leave the baby attached to the placenta until it stops pulsing because they believe it’s shooting one final round of nutrients into the baby. Additionally, they don’t clamp the umbilical cord right away. Trisha has noticed that the delayed clamp heals faster and requires almost no care in contrast to the three weeks of careful cleaning she did when one of her babies had an earlier clamp. With the midwives, Trisha is able to lay in bed while they clean and check the baby.
“They’re just women taking care of women,” she says. “I love birthing. It sounds insane, but it’s amazing.”
Trisha first met her midwife, Colleen Bach, through a birthing center, but since then Colleen has gone off on her own. Her practice is called Safe and Sound Birth, and she has two team members—an RN and a birthing assistant. In addition, Colleen doesn’t hesitate to send a woman in labor to the hospital, and she makes sure to accompany them. Trisha has developed a close relationship with her, and Colleen’s visits have always felt like those of a friend.
“All experiences have been equally amazing,” Trisha says, though home births are her preference. “As a woman, it’s just the coolest thing.”
If you’re considering meeting with a midwife or touring a birth center, we have a list just for you.
Gentle Journey Midwifery & Birth Center: 607 E University Ave., Gainesville, gentlejourneymidwifery.com
Safe and Sound Birth: 228 E Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala, safeandsoundbirth.com
The Ocala Birth Center: 5455 SE Maricamp Rd., Ocala, theocalabirthcenter.com
Loving Arms Birth & Wellness Center: 1111 NE 25 Ave., Suite 201, Ocala, lovingarmsbirthcenterocala.com
Midwives of Ocala: Munroe Regional Medical Center Women’s Center, 1307 S Pine Ave., Ocala, munroeregional.com/midwife-care
Midwives Cooperative: 2602 NW 6 St., Gainesville, midwivescooperative.com