Labor & Delivery

Q&A: Alternative Birth Methods?

Lately a lot of my friends have been talking about alternative delivery methods, like water birth or hypnosis. Can you give some more info about this?

While the “on your back, epidural-numbed”labor has long been the American standard, we're hearing from more and more women who are opting for lessconventional birth methods and pain control techniques. Here are a few waysthat women are now welcoming their little ones:

Water birth
Ever thought of delivering yourbaby in a Jacuzzi? With a water birth, you progress through labor in awaist-deep pool of clean, warm (around body temperature) water. More and morehospitals are offering this option. You can also deliver at a birthing centeror even rent a pool for your own living room! The big benefit: Hanging out in abirthing pool during the first stage of labor (when the cervix is dilating buthasn’t reached 10 cm yet) has been known to greatly decrease a woman’s chancesof screaming for an epidural. Some women choose to hop out of the bath oncethey’ve dilated, but with a true “water birth,” you stay in the tub until babyis out and swimming along with you. (The doctor/midwife pulls his face up intothe air right away.) Fans of water birth say it makes natural childbirth easieron Mom, and the transition to the outside world is easier on baby.

Home birth
A home birth is just what it soundslike — giving birth at home. This option isn’t super common in the U.S. (roughly99 percent of births still take place in a hospital), but home birth storiesare popping up all over the media these days. Celebs like Ricki Lake,Charlotte Church, and Joely Fisher have chosen to skip the hospital for theirdeliveries. Most docs aren’t into this — they warn of the dangers involved withgiving birth outside the reach of a hospital’s emergency care. Others, however,argue that home births are actually the saferroute. They say forgoing the hospital protects a woman from unnecessary drugsand episiotomies and that remaining in a comfortable, relaxed environment helpsthe birth to go smoothly — just as nature intended.

Acupuncture is a traditionalChinese method of stimulating points on the body (usually with strategicallyplaced thin needles) to help balance the natural flow of energy (or qi). What does this have to do withdelivering a baby? Well, certain studies have shown that the needles may makelabor easier. In one study, patients receiving acupuncture were 50 percent lesslikely to ask for an epidural; in another, the treatment was effective ininducing labor in women whose water had already broken. Quirky fact: Some sayacupuncture can help turn breech babies too.

Think you could talk your brain outof feeling the pain of labor? Some women claim that self-hypnosis methods havehelped them to have less painful deliveries. How does it work? These techniquesare meant to help you retreat into yourself and essentially program your brainto believe that labor will be totally comfortable. Women that have gone thisroute commonly allege that when they arrived at the hospital, nurses refused tobelieve they were in labor (until they had their internal exams, of course)!Kerry Tuschoff, founder of the hypnosis training program Hypnobabies, goes sofar as to call her methods “software for the mind.” If you’re skeptical,consider this: Recent studies show that self-hypnosis can reduce the need for painmeds in labor and make for more satisfied mommies.

By Erin Walters