Birth Team

Top 10 Ways to Prepare for a Natural Childbirth

Photo Credit: Kadi Tiede

Photo Credit: Kadi Tiede

Entering into your pregnancy journey is fun and exhilarating for most mamas and their partners. Once you get past the initial excitement, you may find yourself overwhelmed with all of the decisions that come with pregnancy, labor, birth and after. One of these decisions for you, may be deciding to have a natural childbirth. Whether you choose to be in the hospital, a birth center or at home, there are many ways to help prepare for a natural birth. Here are the top 10 ways to prepare for a natural birth:

Childbirth Education Classes: It is very important to educate yourself and your partner. A great way to do this is taking a Childbirth Education Class. If you are planning to deliver in a hospital, it is a good idea to find a class outside of the hospital to help you prepare better. At Health Foundations Birth Center we have childbirth education for families delivering with us that is tailored to delivering at the birth center. 

Hire a Doula:  Having a doula by your side during labor is not only comforting but also it proven to help reduce interventions including cesareans. Typically doulas also provide education during prenatal meetings. Interview 2-3 to make sure you find one that is a good fit. You can find a doula through friends that have used one or via the Internet.

Choosing a Provider and Facility: Once you find out you are pregnant, take your time over a few weeks to put research into finding a provider that fits your desires and needs.  If you are choosing a hospital, take a tour of a couple of different ones. You have the option of choosing hospital midwives (usually) or an OB.  Out of hospital options are wonderful for women who would like a natural birth. If you find that your and your provider aren’t meshing well, keep in mind that you can always transfer to a different provider. Current research shows your chance of having a c-section can be directly linked to the provider and / or hospital you choose. 

Nutrition and Exercise Keeping up with nutrition and exercise are one of the keys to staying healthy in pregnancy, which helps during labor.  Although we sometimes think it is a time to indulge, it is quite the opposite! Be sure to fill your diet with good proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Try and limit sugar as much as possible. If you had an exercise routine before pregnancy, usually you can continue with that. Walking, swimming and yoga are wonderful options for staying active in pregnancy. Always check with your provider before you start an exercise routine in pregnancy.

Self-Care: As your body changes, remember to allow time for self-care. Take time to rest, go on more dates with your partner, get a massage, spend time with friends, read a book in a quiet space, take warm baths in the evening. All of these things help to alleviate stress, which is good for you and your baby.

Supplements: Along with a healthy diet, there are some great supplements that help prepare your body for a health, low-risk labor and birth. Try and choose a food-based prenatal vitamin such as Rainbow Light Prenatal Vitamins. Click here for more information on choosing supplements. Always check with your provider before choosing a new supplement to add to your diet.

Reading: Find reading material that is not only educational but also positive. One of our favorites is Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. Not only is it very informative but also has wonderful birth stories to read. For your partner, a great read is The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin.

Baby Positioning: Trying to get your baby into an optimal position is more important that you would think! There are many ways to do this during the last weeks in pregnancy especially. Posture is an easy way to help get your baby in to stay in an optimal position. You want your baby to be in an anterior position rather than posterior. This will help your labor and birth to be much less uncomfortable. Seeing a chiropractor in pregnancy has been proven to help significantly with this. Be sure to look for a chiropractor that specializes in pregnancy. Another good resource is

Birth Plan: Take time to prepare a birth plan with your partner. A doula can help with this as well. Keep your birth plan simple and to the point. Be sure to communicate your labor and birth desires to your provider. Give a copy of your birth plan to your provider and bring a copy with you in your birth bag.

Find Your Tribe: Now is the time to surround yourself with supportive friends and family. Sometimes they may find it challenging to accept your labor and birth decisions. Remember to set healthy boundaries. People love telling scary stories about birth. While it is important for them to process these feelings personally, it is not the time to do it when you are pregnant. Gently remind them to save those stories for later. Find a good support system whether it be your family, friends, or an outside group.

At Health Foundations Birth Center your choices matter to us. We are here as a community of women to support you during pregnancy, birth and beyond. Call us today for a consultation or tour, 651-895-2520 or visit us at

The Top Five Fears about Having a Natural Birth

Natural Water Birth

While birth is a natural and normal experience that a woman’s body is created to do, it is common and expected to have fears leading up to your delivery. You may be feeling anxious about your ability to handle the pain, or wondering what will happen if something goes wrong. You may be worried about how you will recover from pushing a 7-10 pound baby out of your body and what you will feel like afterward. Rest assured these fears are not only normal but even healthy when they motivate you to better prepare for the experience. Here are the five most common fears about having a natural birth and how to alleviate them as best as possible. 

  1. What if I tear? Unfortunately, the chances of tearing when having a vaginal birth are high, about 90 percent. The good news is that about 99 percent of those tears are minor and superficial, requiring only a couple of stitches if any at all. While tearing may be inevitable for most women, there are some ways you can help prepare your body for the big task of pushing baby out and reduce the chances of more severe vaginal trauma. These techniques include doing your pelvic floor exercises regularly, practicing perineal massage, laboring in water, choosing a birthing position that aids in baby’s exit, placing a warm compress on the perineum when crowning begins and following your body’s lead and natural instincts when it comes to pushing. Even if you do experience some tearing or the need for a few stitches, your vagina and perineum will heal in about a week to ten days.
  2. What if I can’t handle the pain? While we won’t say that you’ll experience a pain-free childbirth, we can say that there are certainly ways to prepare yourself for the experience and natural ways to manage pain during labor and delivery. These ways include: 
    • Surrounding yourself with loving and supportive people who can help you stick to your wishes of a natural birth and provide any assistance you may need during labor and delivery. 
    • Hiring a doula to assist in your birth. Women who have delivered with the support of a doula report having less overall pain and fewer interventions.
    • Using any number of natural labor pain management techniques including massage, hypnosis, acupressure, laboring in water, guided relaxation, breathing exercises, and even the use of nitrous oxide to give you some temporary relief.
    • Prepare ahead of time. Whether this involves writing a birth plan, taking birthing classes, or having your partner learn special massage techniques, take the time to prepare for your birth as you would any other major event in your life.
    • Lastly, remember that your body was miraculously designed for the job of delivering your baby so you are already more prepared than you realize.
  3. What if I don’t make it to the hospital or birth center in time? While just about every movie that contains a birth scene depicts a woman frantically racing into the hospital in the 11th hour being rushed into the delivery room right in the nick of time, in real life labor takes time. In fact, the average amount of time active labor takes is about 8 hours and perhaps even longer if it’s your first. More likely than not, you will have plenty of time to get where you need to be for your delivery and probably even enough time to check over your bag, take a shower and drop the dogs or other kids off with a neighbor or grandparents. Not to mention, you will likely also have plenty of warning signs that baby is preparing to make his debut from intense cramping and contractions to back pain and possibly even your water breaking.
  4. What if I poop during the delivery? You may not have voiced this concern to your care provider yet but we know you’re thinking it. All women seem to worry about this one! Having a bowel movement when pushing a baby out is a completely normal and unremarkable thing given the basic physiology of the body. While the thought may horrify you (or your partner) rest assured that your midwives or doctors will not even be the slightest bit phased if you deliver more than you had planned on. If you are feeling particularly anxious about this possibility, try sitting on the toilet in the early phases of labor to empty yourself out before the pushing phase. It’s not uncommon for your midwife to recommend this strategy and it may help circumvent the issue. But, if it does happen, we guarantee you won’t care at all in all the excitement and adrenaline of the moment.
  5. What if something goes wrong? This is a big one for most expectant moms and understandably so. There are so many things that could happen during childbirth and most of them are not things we can plan ahead for. First off, trust that you have surrounded yourself with capable and compassionate professionals who have the best interest of you and your baby at heart. Should complications arise, your birthing team will know what to do and what the next steps should be. Discuss possible obstacles that may arise and how you would like to handle them ahead of time. Learn about what changes to the plan may be made in the event that you or your baby is experiencing any sort of distress. If one of your biggest fears is having a C-section, consider factors such as having a care provider that is supportive of natural birth, using a doula to assist in your birth and delivering outside of a hospital setting--- all which may reduce your chances of it occurring. Try to be flexible going into your delivery. While birth plans are an awesome way to detail your preferences and wishes for your birth experience, it’s important to prepare yourself ahead of time that things may not go exactly as planned.
Natural Birth w/ Midwife

It is completely normal to have fears leading up to childbirth. The best way to address those fears is to educate yourself through speaking with your care providers, taking classes, reading books and talking to friends who have experienced different types of births. It’s also important to familiarize yourself on the reasons why you have decided that you want a natural birth. The ‘why’ behind your desire to deliver your baby naturally will help you find the strength that you’ll need during labor to keep going. Just remember that despite your fears, you are strong, you are able bodied and you were created to do this. For questions about how you can have the natural birth you’ve always wanted contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.

Meet Catherine Mascari ~ Certified Nurse Midwife


Catherine Mascari 


St. Paul


I am married to John and we have two adult daughters Sara and Samantha.  Throughout the years, we have/had many different kinds of furry-four-legged family members, too.    


I am happy to be joining the midwifery team!  Providing care, with intention, to healthy women and families.  Being engaged and present, respectful relationships, being a part of an energized and knowledgeable community.   And growing along the way.


University of Minnesota graduate with a master's degree in nursing (MSN) within the midwifery program.  Almunae of Bethel University for my baccalaureate in nursing (BSN).  In 2004, certified as a CNM by the American Midwifery Certification Board to provide full-scope midwifery care.  I belong to ACNM on the national and MN affiliate level and am a member of ACNM's consumer committee for the Healthy Birth Initiative.  I have  completed ultrasound training for early 1st trimester dating of pregnancy and 3rd trimester biophysical profiles and amniotic fluid checks.  I have practiced in a variety settings and recently attended in the underserved areas of South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Arizona and New Mexico.       


There is six girls then two boys in my family od origin and I am #4 of 8.  My mom, Joyce, tells me she was hanging clothes outside when in early labor.  She and dad left for the hospital at 7P or so and I was born at 927P on a warm July Thursday.  (I do encourage everyone to know their birth story.)    


Recently, John and I have started  to travel and have magazines galore to plan these trips.  I also have two long-time childhood friends, and several siblings, who are terrific to travel with.  Our family is planning that "trip of a lifetime" to Ireland in 2016.  I also enjoy LIVE theater, community events, walks, gardening, am a foodie while living on the edge with high-wire zip-lining and tandem sky-diving.


Being the doula for my sister who had a midwife-attended birth.  Both my children were born into a midwife's hands though preparation to become a midwife was delayed to raise my family.  (BTW:  my family is amazing and they continue to be supportive of all things midwifery!)  It was the loss of a young family member that made it clear the only regret I may have in life is not having done those things I've wanted to do.  


That labor and birth can be calm and peaceful or it can be primal and loud.   There is no right way or better way - it is what speaks to a laboring woman.  Though birth is the transformative period for she and her family the prenatal and postpartum period are significant, too. 

   photo from


photo from


I am excited to join HFBC and return to the community I call home while being welcome into a supportive practice that embraces and values relationships.        


There is variation to normal during pregnancy, labor, birth and post-partum.  Trust you seek what you need and want. There is a great selection of authors, childbirth workers/birth keepers - find what is essential to you.  If you like numbers and stats go to Eugene DeClercq or Henci Goer;  Michel Odent for human interactions; Ina May Gaskins, Rebecca Dekker of Evidence Based Birth, Sara Wickham, or Rachel Reed of Midwife Thinking; organizational leaders such as the Childbirth Connection, Choices in Childbirth, Coalition for Improving Maternity Services and Improving Birth.  Remember our very own local resources, too!   

What Does a Doula do During Labor

If you are planning on a natural birth, you may be considering having a doula assist you in the birthing process. Whether you will be giving birth in a hospital, birth center or at home, a doula can be a tremendous asset to you and your family during this special time. Doulas are trained professionals who specialize in providing the mother with physical, emotional and educational support before, during and after childbirth. While your midwife or doctor must focus on the medical support you and your baby need during the labor and birthing process, your doula is there to provide continuous reassurance, encouragement, guidance and comfort. Here are just a few ways having a doula during labor can help you create the birth experience you want.

Natural Birth with Doula
  • Doulas are another person on your team that can help ensure that your birth plan is respected. 
  • Particularly in a hospital setting, having a doula as another advocate for you to help make sure that your doctors understand your desire for a natural birth and minimal interventions.
  • Doulas can help you find positions during labor that will ease the pain and ensure optimal fetal positioning for baby. Proper positioning can also help your labor progress smoothly.
  • Doulas can talk you through emotional blockages during the labor process that may affect your decision to continue with a natural birth. Your doula is there to remind you every step of the way that you are strong and capable of your goal of a natural birth.
  • Doulas can help make your birthing environment calming and conducive to a peaceful and memorable birthing experience. This may include utilizing aroma therapy, music you have selected, candles or anything else you feel will make you more comfortable.
  • Doulas can help with your physical comfort during labor by providing massage and other healing touch.
  • Having a doula by your side throughout the entire labor can allow your partner and other family members to relax and enjoy the experience.
  • Doulas can help photograph your birth experience and document your special day.
  • Doulas can provide an objective viewpoint should issues arise and aid you and your partner in making informed decisions that are consistent with your values and wishes for your birth experience.
  • Your doula will provide continuous reassurance and encouragement for you from start to finish, beginning before labor begins and continuing often well into your postpartum period.
  • Doulas help aid in the communication between you and your partner and your care providers.
  • Your doula can help your partner be involved in your labor at his or her own comfort level.

At Health Foundations, we have a very special opportunity for our families to work with one of our specially trained Doula Interns for free. These doulas are women who have completed their training with our Birth Center and are seeking to assist births as part of their certification process. You can visit the doula page to view the profiles of our doulas and can elect to interview potential candidates before deciding who will attend your birth. To learn more about having a natural birth with our midwives and doulas, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and a tour of Birth Center.