Birth Boot Camp: 10 Steps to a Natural Birth

By Sarah Clark

Everybody wants a great birth and a healthy pregnancy.  But how do you get one?  There is so much information it can be overwhelming to even begin.  Here are 10 simple tips to get you started on your journey towards a natural birth!

1- Exercise

As a natural birth instructor one of the very first things I teach every class is the importance of exercise in preparing their body for a natural birth.  Think of birth as a life event that requires effort and physical and emotional stamina.  If you were training for a marathon, you wouldn’t spend the nine months prior sitting on your couch eating potato chips with your feet propped up, would you?  Of course not!  Not if you wanted to enjoy the run and finish feeling good.

A trained runner can finish a marathon in 4 or 5 hours.  Your average first birth is going to last more than 12 hours yet so many people go into the birth with a decorated nursery, but not a thought to their physical training.

If you are already active when you get pregnant, that is GREAT!  But you should still do some exercises specific for natural birth preparation such as squats, Kegels, pelvic rocking, and tailor sitting.  These aren’t heavy workouts in the gym but are subtle lifestyle changes that strengthen and stretch the muscles used during childbirth and help ensure proper positioning of the baby and a more comfortable pregnancy.


2- Nutrition

The next thing I teach in every natural birth class is nutrition.  In fact, in preparing for a natural birth, I don’t think there is anything MORE important.  Not every woman wants a natural birth.  But for those who do, it simply breaks my heart to see them lose it because a poor diet contributed to the discomfort and even the health of their pregnancy.

The basics of pregnancy nutrition are the following:

  • Shoot for about 80 grams of protein each day.
  • Strive for at least 2 servings of green vegetables each day.
  • Eat a variety of colors in your fruits and vegetables every day including some citrus (vitamin C rich) foods and yellow vegetables (rich in vitamin A).
  • Consume healthy dairy like Greek yogurt, keifer, cottage cheese and cheeses for their nutrients and protein.  You may want to avoid overly sugary dairy products like ice cream.
  • Approximately 2 eggs  a day.  Eggs  are rich in many nutrients that help grow a baby including vitamin A and important fats.
  • Eat only whole grains and drop the refined or white grains (and sugars) that you may have been consuming.

If you eat healthy you will probably still gain weight- but it will be nutrient dense and will feed your baby (and your body) what it needs.  (Remember that each woman’s individual needs vary greatly depending on her size, health and activity level.  Discuss important nutrition decisions with your healthcare provider.)

3- Education

If you want a natural birth, then you need to know WHY you want one and HOW to get it!  One thing that is incredibly motivating for people is simply understanding the benefits of natural birth.  Let’s be honest- birth sometimes hurts!  So why skip the epidural?  If you know that avoiding induction as a first time mom can cut your c-section risk in HALF and you realize that an epidural makes it difficult to use gravity and movement to get your baby out, then you are more motivated to get that natural birth.

The best way to get a complete birth education is of course through a comprehensive natural childbirth class.  I teach natural birth classes so I am biased towards them.  But you would be amazed how much you can learn from another experienced mother and how much you and your partner can learn to work together in a good partner focused natural birth class.

The tools to achieve natural birth are out there- but it really helps to have somebody who has done it before help you along your way, guide your knowledge and help you separate fact from fiction.

4- Relaxation

So now you have done some preparation.  But what do you need to know IN LABOR in order to get that natural birth?  The simple truth is that relaxation is the key to a more enjoyable birth.  How do you relax during contractions?  Simple- you practice BEFORE you are in labor.  Your birth class should have lots of good relaxation practices for you to use.  Birth education should also include teaching your birth partner to help you relax.  This may include relaxation scripts, verbal affirmations, physical touch (like massage), and emotional relaxation.


Often people ask about “the breathing”.  Do you need to learn to breathe a certain way in order to relax in birth?  Not really.  You know how to breathe.  But it is important to understand the difference between deep abdominal breathing (helpful and relaxing in labor) and shallow chest breathing (painful, increases tension and not helpful in labor) and to be able to do the former with ease.

5- Care provider

Another critical element in your natural birth is the right care provider.  You don’t just want somebody who will go along with a natural birth, you want a care provider who will truly support you in one and who practices evidence based medicine and mother-friendly care.  This means your care provider should understand and respect you, recognize the benefits of natural birth,and have low intervention rates  (low c-section and episiotomy rates) in their practice.

Consider midwifery care too.  Many midwives work within the hospital, some attend births at home but almost all of them support natural birth.

6- Birth place

Your choice of birth place is perhaps more important than anything.  Even if you keep yourself healthy and prepare well, if your hospital doesn’t support natural birth then you will struggle to accomplish one.  What should you be looking for in your hospital?  Lenient polices on eating in labor, encouragement of movement and position changes, doesn’t push induction before 42 weeks (at least 41), low c-section rates and great breastfeeding support are all things to pay attention too.

Remember- just because a hospital is close to you in proximity, doesn’t mean it is the best choice for a natural birth.  Shop around.

7- Partner

Do you want your partner there at the birth as a supportive and loving presence?  Of course you do-  but they might not know instinctively what to do.  This is where the birth class you take comes in so handy.


If you have learned to work together, if he is comfortable with the birth process, and if you have watched birth videos and are familiar with the sights and sounds of labor then you will be better prepared for a great birth for BOTH of you.  Remember- if your partner is scared, it will rub off on you.

8- Doula

A doula is kind of like a best friend for your birth.  A trained doula can help comfort you, give your partner a break if he needs it, and can even help with an older child.  Hiring a doula (a woman who knows just how to help a woman in labor) is often a priceless investment for birthing women.  They can help with anything from emotional fears to back-rubs and their presence lowers your chances of cesarean section.

9- Chiropractor

A chiropractor is trained in the art of adjusting the spine so that you can have optimal health and reduced pain.  A Webster Certified chiropractor is specifically trained in adjusting a pregnant woman.  In particular they focus on the pelvis and keeping it moving in a healthy way so that your baby can be well positioned.


Many midwives encourage all of their clients to get regular chiropractic care during pregnancy because they see babies better positioned for birth (head down rather than breech and with the head in an anterior (facing the tailbone) rather than a posterior position).  Not only can chiropractic help your back feel better, it can even help your labor be less painful and shorter.

10- Let Go!

The tenth step for obtaining your natural birth is probably a little surprising- letting go.  First, letting go in labor and letting your body do what it needs to do is an integral part of the birthing process.  It can be difficulty to get out of the way and let birth happen, but it is an important emotional part labor.

The same is true for pregnancy.  As you can see there is a lot we can do to prepare for a amazing natural birth and we SHOULD do all we can.  When it is all said and done birth is sometimes surprising, always humbling, and doesn’t always turn out just as we planned.  But going into the process having prepared helps us be at peace with our decisions and the final outcome.

Enjoy your birth and the journey that gets you there!

Sarah Clark works as an instructor trainer for Birth Boot Camp, a natural childbirth education company specializing in online and in-person birth education.  She has also trained couples in natural birth for the last five years and has been published in numerous natural family magazines. Sarah writes regularly for Mothering Magazine online and on her personal blog, Mama Birth.