Alternative Birthing Methods

Alternative approaches to childbirth are more popular than ever. Water, acupuncture and acupressure, and hypnosis are some of the ways expectant moms are coping with labor pain. Here’s a closer look at these methods.

It took 29 hours of active labor – 4-1/2 of them pushing – and pain that hit 15 on a scale of one to 10 for Amy Welp to give birth to her first child, Katie. She seriously considered not having a second child, until she learned about waterbirth.

Another mom, Karlon Kepcke, turned to HypnoBirthing to see her through childbirth and experienced so little pain that no one believed she was actually in labor.

Like these moms, women in increasing numbers are discovering drug-free, alternative-birth methods for coping with childbirth. From waterbirth and birthing with hypnosis to acupuncture and yoga, these “new age” methods encourage women to take charge of their own pregnancy, labor and delivery.

“The norm in our country is to be medicated during birth,” says Rosanne Gephart, a women’s health and birth center director who was one of the country’s early advocates for waterbirth. Gephart believes many American women are unaware of natural, healthy alternatives to prescription drugs and epidurals during childbirth. “The goal with birth should be to cope, not to erase the pain,” she says.

A strong advocate for natural childbirth, Gephart says many intervention-free birthing methods date back hundreds of years or are common in other cultures, but are just not part of modern American culture. But that could change as pregnant consumers begin to demand alternative methods.

What are My Options?

Traditional birthing methods—which involve an attending physician issuing pain-numbing prescription drugs or an epidural—remain the norm in the United States, but more and more mommies-to-be are exploring other options. And they’re finding many to choose from.

Once seen as nothing more than new age novelty acts, alternative birthing methods have surged in popularity over the last decade. What’s more, traditional medicine is beginning to embrace—and even accommodate for—these alternative options. In 1991, for instance, waterbirthing facilities were available in just two American hospitals and a handful of birth centers. Today nearly 250 U.S. hospitals and 70 percent of all birth centers now support waterbirthing.  

So which (if any) alternative birthing methods is right for you? That depends largely on your situation, personality and stance on receiving painkilling medication during delivery. To help you with this important decision, we’ve taken the latest information on alternative birthing methods and put together a series of straightforward, impartial articles. Keep in mind that no one birthing method is better than the others—but one may be better for you.

What's New in Waterbirth

How HypnoBirth Works

Assessing Acupuncture/Acupressure

The Benefits of Yoga: Before, During and After Birth

A strong advocate for natural childbirth, Gephart says many intervention-free birthing methods date back hundreds of years or are common

Nurse-Midwives: A Safer Alternative?

7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Birthing Method

What is a Doula?

Additional Resources