Let nature take its course
Midwives (and many doctors) view childbirth as something that needn't require medical interference, such as fetal monitoring or giving Pitocin, a drug used to speed labor. Research has shown that having fewer interventions results in fewer tears, less bleeding, and a faster recovery.
When Lisa McGuire's contractions stalled, her midwife held off on Pitocin and encouraged the Carbondale, Colorado, mom to try nipple stimulation, a warm shower, and various labor positions first. "Those three simple things did the trick — I went from five centimeters to fully dilated in twenty minutes," says McGuire.
Take-away advice: "Ask how often and under what circumstances your caregiver does continuous monitoring, performs episiotomies, uses forceps or vacuum-extraction, and does c-sections," Walsh advises. If your ob has many high-risk patients, of course, the intervention rate will be higher. You want to get a sense that she uses technology on a case-by-case basis rather than as a matter of routine.
Spend as much time laboring at home as you can. In familiar surroundings you may feel more relaxed, which helps labor progress, and you avoid getting on the high-tech treadmill sooner than you may want to.
Your body knows what to do What expectant mom doesn't worry, at least secretly, that labor will be overwhelming or that something will go wrong during her baby's birth? Rest assured: The female body is designed for labor and childbirth. "It's something you do, not something that happens to you," says Lowe.
Take-away advice: Of course, having an active role in the birth process isn't the same as controlling it. Familiarize yourself with the stages of labor, practice the breathing exercises you learn in childbirth class, and know your pain-relief options. But be realistic: Breathing techniques often fly out the window when contractions are coming fast and furious, and even if you have your heart set on an epidural, you may have to power through part of labor without one.
Midwives know that it often helps to go with the flow. Get into whichever positions feel comfortable; grunt or yell if you want; take a bath or shower if you can; or just try to tune in to your body's cues rather than rely on the monitor or the nurse. For me, that meant switching my brain off, hunkering down on all fours during each contraction, and emitting a groan that seemed to come from my core.