8 Ways to Increase Your Chance of a Vaginal Birth

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Most mothers do not plan to have a cesarean birth, but about 33% of mothers will.  That’s 1 out of every 3 women!  When medically necessary, c-sections can save lives. When overused or as an elective procedure however, the risks outweigh the benefits. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a c-section rate of just 10-15%, which is much lower than the current average of 33%!  In my Bradley Method classes, about 7% of moms have c-sections.  

Why the big range of numbers?  Our birth culture and maternity care are not supportive of low-intervention, vaginal births. Even when a mother prepares for a vaginal birth, she might be met with care that isn’t supportive of her desired birth. Unfortunately, avoiding a cesarean often becomes the responsibility of the birthing woman. 

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The WHO’s and The Bradley Method’s recommendations for fewer c-section births are informed by evidence-based research, therefore we know it is possible to have more vaginal births.  So what can you do?



#1:  Low-Risk Providers For Low-Risk Mothers

Learn how to stay healthy and low-risk in pregnancy and find the right provider.  Midwives provide wonderful care for low-risk women. They are trained to support normal physiological birth.  While midwives are trained to help facilitate normal physiological birth, obstetricians are more likely to be trained to manage labor. They are also trained surgeons. This training is excellent and needed when caring for a high-risk mother, but is often unnecessary for low-risk women. Therefore, some women may end up with procedures that they really didn’t need.


#2:  Hire A Doula!

Women who utilize doulas (professional labor coach) not only report more satisfaction with their labor and birth experience, they also increase their chances of a vaginal birth. Having a doula present:

  • Increases the likelihood of spontaneous vaginal delivery.
  • Increases satisfaction with the birth experience (for both mother and partner).
  • Increases rates of breastfeeding at 6 weeks postpartum.
  • Increases the mother’s self-esteem.
  • Decreases utilizing medicinal pain relief, including an epidural. 
  • Decreases labor induction and augmentation with the synthetic oxytocin (which does not act the same way as natural oxytocin).
  • Decreases vacuum or forceps assisted birth.
  • Decreases c-section birth.

The evidence speaks for itself. Continuous labor support from a doula can help increase your chance of a vaginal birth.


#3:  Knowledge of Birth Options & Interventions

Knowledge is one of the biggest benefits of the Bradley Method classes.  Many first time expectant mothers assume a hospital delivery with an obstetrician is their only or best option. Parents are not made aware of different interventions or alternatives available to them.  Obstetricians have a key role in maternity care. It is important that we have access to life saving interventions when medically necessary. Statistics, however, tell us that access to other birthing professionals and locations other than hospitals – even at home – can help increase vaginal deliveries.  Parents who are educated about the different interventions are able to make informed choices around their care regardless birthing place, and are more likely to give birth vaginally.  About 93% of Bradley Method Moms will have a vaginal birth! 


#4:  Learn Natural Comfort Measures

Labor is hard work, and women need coping techniques and comfort measures.  Encouraging and educating parents about natural comfort measures has shown to increase vaginal delivery rates. The Bradley Method covers numerous ways of managing the intensity of labor with relaxation, mindfulness, the use of warm and cool compresses, aromatherapy, counter pressure, position changes and so much more.  The techniques can help moms cope with contractions while adding little to no risks.  Once medicinal pain relief is administered, most women are required to stay in bed and have limited mobility. This removes or limits the ability to assist baby in its decent with mom’s movement. Epidurals can also make it difficult for mom to feel the urge to push which can increase the risk of needing assisted delivery.


#5:  Encourage Movement

Before hospital birth became the norm, many women stayed active and moving during labor. Now it’s not uncommon for women to go to the hospital early in labor and remain in bed.  Barring medical necessity, staying in bed is not an evidenced based practice. Moving during labor helps women cope with contractions, and facilitate baby’s movement into the pelvis and through the birth canal. In the Bradley Method, we practice several different positions to help move labor along.  Coping with contractions, using gravity and facilitating easier movement for baby can help increase vaginal births.


#6:  Keep Women Off Their Backs

When a woman delivers on her back labor is often more difficult.  There are many benefits to giving birth in an upright position including:

  • The assistance of gravity.
  • More efficient contractions.
  • Better blood circulation.
  • Less pain.
  • More pelvic space for baby to make its way through.
  • Shorter labor.

These benefits can help increase your chances of a vaginal birth. Giving birth in an upright position as the norm in many parts of the world and here in the US until about the 1700s.


#7:  Induction & Augmentation Only When Medically Necessary

Mother and baby fare much better when labor begins and progresses naturally. If providers use only evidenced based practices when deciding to induce and augment labor, we would see an increase in vaginal births.  Unfortunately, the current rates of induction and augmentation do not reflect that they’re being used only when medically indicated.  Many mothers have felt pressured into augmenting her labor simply because she’s labored “too long” although she and baby are both healthy.  


#8:  Build Everyone’s Confidence in Normal Physiological Birth

Dr. Bradley of the Bradley Method, said birth is a normal bodily process that often unfolds well with a healthy mother and baby as the result. This may be hard to believe with the current high level of interventions, but it’s true. The US invests an absolute fortune into maternity health care (more specifically, technology), but has some of the highest newborn and maternal death rates in the world. When a provider is trained to view physiological birth as the norm, and necessary intervention as the exception, their care will better facilitate vaginal births (and make breastfeeding easier too). When expectant parents are educated about normal physiological birth, remain an active participant in their care, and make evidenced-based choices during childbirth, they are likely to have a healthier birth experience.  Being an informed consumer is the cornerstone of the Bradley Method.


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In Colorado?  Sign up for a Bradley Method Class or Breastfeeding Class!

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