10 Things I Wish All Pregnant Women Knew About Birth

When I was pregnant, I seemed to be a magnet for birth war stories – cords around the neck, emergency cesareans, and more. It took a lot of inner conviction to believe in birth as a natural, beautiful event that my body was capable of, rather than a “disaster waiting to happen,” as one obstetrician warned me it was.

But inner conviction I decided to have, and my four children were born at home, peacefully, and without drama or trauma. I made sure I was in awesome health throughout my pregnancies, eating an organic, plant-based diet. I did yoga daily, spent time in nature, and meditated on the type of birth I wanted to have.

And then I surrendered to the forces of nature. The power I experienced as a woman has given me confidence in so many areas of my life and I so wish this for other women.

Sadly, however, natural birth is becoming endangered! About one in three women in the US will have their babies by cesarean section. Maybe that sounds like no big deal – but actually, it’s major abdominal surgery and increases your risks of complications over natural birth.

Cesareans are grossly overdone in US hospitals. And they often make recovery and breastfeeding much more challenging. They expose your baby to an antibiotic (all moms having a cesarean are given antibiotics at the time of surgery) before she or he is even born. And most of the ones that are performed turn out to be unnecessary.

Also, many more women will have their labor induced or experience some form of obstetric intervention. The downturn in natural birth is so significant that a group of researchers wanting to study the natural course of labor couldn’t find a large enough group of women birthing naturally in any one place to study them!

But we can’t let natural birth go extinct because it's way more than just a romantic ideal. Babies born vaginally (and without medication) have many health advantages. For example, just being exposed to mom’s flora on the way out of the birth canal decreases the lifetime likelihood of developing digestive problems, allergies, and even obesity.

While we can’t fully control what happens in our births, and of course, sometimes interventions are necessary (though often they aren’t!), you can embrace core beliefs that will increase your chances of having the birth experience that is optimally healthy for you and baby.

Here are the Top 10 philosophies that helped me have my babies naturally and that I have used to support thousands of women in their birthing experiences, and that can help you have an optimal birthing experience – maybe even the birth of your dreams!

1. Birth is a spiritual journey; it's also primal.
Birth is, to say the least, an intensely physically and emotionally demanding experience. Approaching the challenge as a spiritual journey can help you dig deep into your core for the resources to persevere, and to learn about yourself and your innate strength and power.

Though a spiritual journey, it is not all incense and candles. It asks us to call upon our primal instincts – and sometimes even to get primal – making animal sounds, assuming poses that have us buck naked on our hands and knees, moving our hips in deep sultry belly dancing undulations.

Planning to take a deep dive into your subconscious and intuition to let your primal self emerge can allow you to open and birth your baby with a raw strength and power you might not now even realize lives within you.

2. Birth should not be taken lying down.

Lying down simply doesn’t let gravity do the work of helping baby come down and out! Walking, moving your hips like a belly dancer, and generally staying active facilitates a more physiologic process for baby than lying on your back in a hospital bed, which increases your chances of a cesarean.

3. Contractions are amazing sensations that get your baby born.

During my own births I used my imagination and awareness to dive deep into the sensation of my muscles working to help my baby get born. This focused awareness transformed by perception of the pain of birth into the power of birth.

I even used the term expansions rather than contractions to help me think about the sensation in a new way. It did not make them less intense, but it made the sensation my ally rather than my enemy. As I welcomed each new wave of labor, I knew I was closer to bringing my baby into my arms.

4. Fear stops labor.

Mammal mommas have powerful instincts that allow us to keep our babies safe from harm. For example, momma giraffes on the savannah will spontaneously stop labor if they sense a predator in the area, rather than dropping a helpless newborn to the ground. We too, have hormones that can stimulate labor (oxytocin) and those can stop labor if pumped out early because of fear (adrenaline).

So learning to transform fear into power and confidence is essential for a smooth birth. How is this done? Make sure you feel safe where you are birthing, that you have good support in labor, and that you have talked with your birth provider about any fears you are harboring or repressing about your health and safety, baby’s health and safety, or the birthing process. Being educated and informed can help you to dispel fears.

5. Question Authority (or Nice girls can ask questions – and say, “No”).

Obstetrics practices are not always based on the best science. The September 2011 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the official publication of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), reported that only one third of all obstetrics guidelines in the US are based on good scientific evidence, one third are based on limited or inconsistent evidence, and the remaining third are based on expert opinion, which is “subject to bias, either implicit or subconscious.”

So just because a doctor (or midwife) tells you something is required (lying down in labor, having a vaginal exam, wearing an external fetal monitor for your entire labor, having an IV drip routinely), doesn’t mean you have do it unquestioningly — or at all. As girls and young women, many of us learn not to question authority — just be a “good girl,” and don’t be the geek who asks questions. Many of the procedures done in hospitals are done “just because” they are routine but often not necessary.

So if something is recommended or expected that makes you uncomfortable or you’re not sure of the reason, ASK! And if you’re not comfortable with the explanation, you can decline. Having an advocate there who can help you sort through decisions, especially when you are otherwise occupied doing the work of labor, is especially valuable.

6. Women should eat and drink during labor.

Current scientific evidence has demonstrated that low-risk women who eat and drink in labor are not at significantly increased risk of food aspiration in the event of a cesarean, which has been the much-feared reason for keeping women on an ice-chips and fruit-pops-only regimen in labor for the past few decades.

In fact, keeping up your energy with light and nourishing fare has been found, by many midwives and mamas, to facilitate labor and reduce the likelihood of labor petering out, or needing Pitocin or a cesarean.

7. Your body is a marvelous, perfectly crafted force of nature.

Believing in yourself is powerful medicine! Yet most of us go into labor believing our bodies might be lemons – the reject in the batch that just doesn’t work properly and needs to be sent back to the factory on a recall!

The reality is, nature is amazing at creating powerful systems that work. Setting intentions and learning to have confidence in the birthing process – and your body – are among the most powerful tools you can use to go with the natural flow of labor and birth and gain some self-enlightenment in the process.

8. Obstetrics is BIG Business.

There is a whole system of medicine out there, called obstetrics, making a fortune off of your body! In fact, there is enormous financial incentive for obstetricians to do ultrasounds (in my community, a doctor’s office charges the insurance company $700 per ultrasound), offer endless tests, and big bucks when it comes to doing a cesarean rather than supporting a natural, vaginal birth.

Want to avoid unnecessary medical interventions? Then make your body your business by getting educated. Read about birth. Some good places to start: Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth, Henci Goer’s The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth, and my book, The Natural Pregnancy Book.

9. Birth is something you do, not something that is done to you.

Whether you dance, groan, or hypnobirth your way through labor, it ain’t called labor for nothing. It takes work, focus, and sweat to get a baby out. Powerful muscles move a 6 to 8 pound being (on average) a short distance through a relatively small space. This means EFFORT is required.

Just as with any hard task, being realistic about what’s involved, setting your mind and heart to it by getting psyched ahead of time, and then having strategies to call upon when your energy or determination wavers will get you to the other side of the finish line with power and pride.

10. Birth can be ecstatic.

While there might be some huffing and puffing, grunting and groaning, and even a holler or two if you need to vocalize the intense energy moving through you as you bring your baby out into the world, birth can be an ecstatic experience, particularly when you appreciate yourself for the accomplishment of a hard job done with determination and experience the ecstasy of holding your new baby in your arms.

As you get closer to your baby’s birth, and even in labor, here’s a simple mantra to tell yourself, “I’ve got this!”

Wishing you an ecstatic birth,






P.S. I've got a gift for you!!! Get my FREE Ebook, Herbal Medicines for Kids. To receive your copy, click here. In one easy step it will be delivered to your inbox.


Originally published at Mind Body Green

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Melanie Brown

I had to have a cesarean with my son because he was in breach presentation. It has been 4 years since then and I am planning on having another baby within a year or two. Any advice on preparing my uterus for a natural vaginal birth? This time around I am seeking a midwife within a more natural birth center setting. I completely agree fear gets in the way of having a more natural birth. My entire pregnancy I held on to fearful thoughts of having a cesarean and it ended up being a self fulfilling prophecy. I was also in a very stressful relationship at the time. This time around it will be a completely different experience and I want to avoid having any sort of complications. I should also add that I am in my early 30's in very good health and I also turn to herbal medicine most always. I loved this article, thank you!

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I had a cesarean. I would like to find a midwife who would do a Vbac, there HARD to find in MA. I am wondering if u have Any suggestions or books you recommend. Though i am Not pregnant the thought of having another one stops me fyi having another child. Thanks So Much

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Helene B Leonetti, MD

I have known Dr Aviva many years as a brilliant herbal midwife, and now I see her transformed into a magnificent advocate to empower women to do what it is God sent us to do. As an obstetrician/gynecologist for the past 35 yrs, I witnessed the medicalization of pregnancy mildly relaxed (after working in the early 1960s as a nurse seeing blue and limp babies born after the toxic ether anesthesia was administered, and the daddies relegated to the waiting room smoking stokies). A slight improvement with birthing centers but they too have become bastardized as mommas are attached to IVs and cardiac monitors with fear evoked with every heart deceleration. Fear is the emotion that puts the brakes on the awe and magnficence of labor, and as Aviva has reminded us so eloquently, our primal instincts come even to surprise us with the power within. I honor her for sharing what is so vital to bring a new generation of children into this blossoming evolution of a conscious planet.

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Lisa L.

Thank you for this magnificent post!!! WHen I birthed by first daughter, it was highly medicalized and labeled high risk because I have Type 1 Diabetes. I didn't know that I could ask questions and say no. Well, second time around, I was going to change that and despite being in a foreign country, I found a doctor who I thought -just maybe- might let me birth the way I wanted to- naturally. I prepared myself with birth hypnosis and relaxation, and reading Ina May Gaskin. My water broke at home and contractions started hard and fast. There was no time to get to the clinic. My beautiful daughter #2 was a surprise home delivery, assisted only by my husband and 4 year old daughter. It was beautiful, healing and although it was not what I expected, it was exactly what my body needed. Although I wish I had known more for my first delivery, experience is the best teacher. Labor and delivery, when left to its own devices is awe-inspiring. Our bodies know exactly what to do and I am happy that I was able to experience it. Thanks for the incredible support you give, Aviva!!!!

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Beautiful article. I was able to prepare for a natural un-medicated birth by reading inspiring birth stories; informing myself about routine maternity practices vs. evidence based care; and practicing prenatal yoga. I love your point about questioning authority and saying "no". It is so important for women to be informed and believe in themselves, so they don't give into unnecessary interventions. For me, preparing a birth plan was helpful, so I could talk through each part with my doctor ahead of time, instead of trying to advocate for myself once I was already in labor. My mantra was "open, open, open," and it sure worked for a speedy active labor!

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http://mommytheorist.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/homebirth-of-bliss/ I will definitely share this post with friends who are expecting. I'd also recommend the book Birth Skills, by Juju Sundin. It helped me during my last all natural labor. I'm including a link to the birth story and video, because it was truly an ECSTATIC BIRTH, and I want women to hear how that may sound (loud! joyous!). I think this could be called an orgasmic birth (given the soundtrack). Our first baby took so long to come -- 36 hours and I pushed for seven and a half hours -- so, when our second baby was coming fast, I was elated! To some, these sounds may not sound happy -- as Aviva writes, I was experiencing intense, thunderous waves -- but inside I was overjoyed! http://mommytheorist.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/homebirth-of-bliss/

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Yes, thank-you for a great article! I have two daughters and had wonderful experience with both, thanks to the support and wisdom of women like you. With my first, I went 5 days overdue, declining to be induced, despite a weight estimate of over 8 lbs. Of course, being a first time Mom, that alarmed me a little, but I was aware of how inaccurate those can be, and stuck to my goal of no interventions unless TRULY necessary. My daughter was born after 3 hours of real labor at 7 lbs. 11 oz. My husband and I laughed later because a seasoned nurse has told him that we would be "real lucky" to have a baby by noon, and she was born at 8 am. During my pregnancy, I was asked a couple times "You aren't afraid?" No. Why should I be? Odds are I can do this by myself, and if I can't, I will be in an American hospital. My Grandmother delivered twins in the Brazilian jungle in the 60s, with her engineer hubby as the doctor. Not planned that way, of course. Now THAT would would make me nervous! Anyway, with my second daughter, and uneventful pregnancy, I actually skipped my 39 week checkup in favor of going swimming, and she was born 3 days later and 2 1/2 hours after I was SURE I was in labor. My water broke in the ER and I delivered in triage. I had called ahead, but the nurses said they didn't really believe I was in labor. Aviva didn't warn me to the possible DIS advantages. Lol. I should also note that I took red raspberry leaf capsules and tea during both pregnancies as often as I remembered, and evening primrose oil capsules twice a day during last few weeks of my pregnancy. So grateful for Aviva and women like her that shared their wisdom with me. :)

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I admire all women who do a natural birth!! I had my two babies with a epidural. I know it's better to do it without but somehow I can't. My daughter was 4kg at birth and my boy 4,6kg (they say because I'm diabetes type 1). That's always my excuse to have taken my epidural. What do you do when mommy to come is just scared? I don't think a would have had kids if I couldn't take a painkiller.

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Donna Duncan

I would like permission to post this blog on my FB page and "reprint" in my blog (on my website). This is excellent information!

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    Thank you so much! Please contact my office at [email protected] for permissions requests. ~AR

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I loved this!! My mom thought I was trying to be "trendy" amd "different" because I chose to see a midwife for my prenatal care. I told her she was crazy. Not that hospitals are bad, but like you stated above, 'Obstetrics are BIG business' and they wanna get you outta there so they can get the next one in. I had a healthy pregnancy up until week 39, and I didn't have the option to deliver at my midwife birthing center. I began labor at 40w3d and when I arrived at the birthing center, my blood pressure was sky high and my platlet count was extremely low.I had to be transported to the hospital. Needless to say, I was scared, sad, and pissed. Those emotions due to my transfer halted my labor. I went from having contractions every 5 minutes to on NOT having contractions for about 13 hours. I told the end doctors and nurses that I wanted NO interventions of any kind and they honored my wishes. Of course with my platlet count situation, an epidural was not an option. After 24 hours of grueling contractions, the nurses had sit straight up on the edge of the bed and told me that my baby should slide down after two hours. ABSOLUTELY NOT! I was not about to sit for 2hours. I listened to my body and I moved around, I used the birthing ball, I rotated my hips, I walked around and 15 minutes later I was pushing. We have to power ladies. Just listen to your body, we were desiged to give birth!

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THANK YOU! Thank you for this article cause now i don't feel like a lunatic, preaching natural birth and confidence in own body. The mayor issue that humans have nowadays is that we fear pain as if any pain could kill us. But pain is our teacher, it shows us how amazing we all are, it helps us become stronger. And you are right, we do posess inner strenght and power that we are not aware of, mostly because modern life requires too high dose of false decency. Lennon said long ago that we live in a world where making love is shamefull but killing isn't. So thank you once more for your honesty.

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Zahri G.

I love this. I'm 20 and I recently had my first baby (4 months ago) in a hospital in Maine. I think one of the most important things for me was having outstanding birth support. My mother, mother-in-law, and a seasoned doula-made-nurse that stayed two hours after shift change to stay with me through my labor. These three fantastic women are the reason I was able to keep my focus and make it through the moments of self doubt and fear. I went into labor knowing I wanted to strive for a natural birth, but when things got truly intense I admit I became afraid of the pain I was feeling and doubted my ability to do it on my own. Thankfully (I am glad it turned out this way) when I asked for medication it was already too late to receive any. I had great birth support to get me through it and by the end I felt powerful and accomplished and so proud for bringing my little angel into the world exactly the way I had wanted to. Without such amazing support, I might have had a very poor birth experience and might even have been put off having any more children. So I think birth support is immensely important, right up there with belief in self and empowerment of self!

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Aviva, I love this list and have shared it multiple times with my friends and doula clients. I watched your presentation during the Orgasmic Birth seminar, and found your mention of how fear can be sensed on a primal level incredibly interesting! Can you tell me whom you referenced during that section? I have been trying to find more literature on it, and have found some info about chemosignals, but nothing like your example.

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Sahaja Springer

Aviva, Thank you so much for putting it so succinctly and so matter of factly. Point 4 made a huge impact on me as I work both as a kinesiologist and doula and am grateful for that explanation to be able to pass on. I have shared your list with my FB people. 37 years ago when I gave birth I was blessed to have Ina May's Spiritual Midwifery as my bible and my gorgeous daughter was born amongst friends and family in a hut in the forest. Some called it irresponsible but I just knew.