Birth is a big deal. The way you birth can have a profound effect on the days and years following. A great birth experience can leave you feeling full of confidence, empowerment, and ready to tackle parenthood. Alternatively, a negative birth experience make you powerless, unconfident and even traumatised. Personally having experienced both a fantastic, empowering birth and a traumatic birth that effected so much of my life, I have learnt the most important decisions (in my opinion) to give yourself the greatest chance of having a positive, empowering birth experience.
1. Choose your care provider carefully
Choose your care provider carefully This is SO important. You must choose a care provider that supports the type of birth you envision. There is really no sense in choosing a private obstetrician/hospital that doesn’t facilitate water immersion, when you really desire to have a water birth.
If money is no object, I highly recommend choosing a private midwife. A private midwife will be responsible for your pregnancy care, birth and postnatal care. The major benefit here is having continuity of care, I cannot understate the positive impact that having midwife you have developed a relationship with throughout the pregnancy will have . She will know your birth choices, your personality and your fears.
If money is an issue and public hospital care is your only choice, look into their midwife programs. My local hospital has an amazing Midwifery Group Practice, which provides the continuity of care throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum. It also allows you to use water immersion and have access to beautiful birth suites which feel like home, rather than a sterile hospital environment. They will also facilitate a hands off birth experience by using intermittent monitoring, allowing you to move freely. The down side, you have to be low risk (low BMI, no gestational diabetes, no VBACS depending on local hospital policy).
2. Hire a doula
Hire a doula I know what you’re thinking. But truly, my second birth could have been a much better experience if I had had the extra support of a doula. A doula would have been an awesome support for my husband, as he was scared, tired and evidentally wasn’t very emotionally or physically available to support me (his wrist was too sore to massage me apparently).
Having a doula would have made the environment more comfortable, with things such as music, aromatherapy, lighting, or ensuring my privacy by closing the door that was inadvertently left wide open. Simple things my husband didn’t think of, and I was too distracted to do.
And when shit hit the fan, a calm, reassuring face would have been amazing. Someone just to put a hand on my husband’s shoulder and say “it’s going to be ok”.
The midwife was ultimately doing her job, taking care of the medical side of birth, ensuring my health and my son’s safety. But where the emotional support was truly lacking, a doula would have helped immensely.
3. Research, research, reasearch.
Surround yourself with knowledge, knowledge is power! During my first pregnancy, I immersed myself in books, blogs and youtube birth videos. I read Ina May Gaskin’s “Guide to Childbirth” and that instilled me with the belief that childbirth is normal, natural and safe. My body wasn’t broken, birth isn't a medical condition. I knew I could birth a baby without pain relief, augmentation or intervention.
I had many people saying “don’t be so naïve, you’ll have an epidural” or “birth was excruciating, I needed drugs, so you will need them too”. But this just made me more determined.
So read books, watch natural birth videos, talk to women who have birthed naturally. Dispel any fear you have with positive information.
4. Write your birth preferences
I’ve seen so many comments regarding “Birth Plans”, mainly saying they are a waste of time, you can’t plan birth, you need an open mind etc. My honest opinion is that birth preferences are for you and your partners benefit, so you are aware of the choices available. Each choice requires you to research, therefore you know the benefits, risks and alternatives. This is the most important thing.
If you don’t look into birth preferences, and have no knowledge of your choices, you may end up making a decision without knowing the full risks.
You may be asked to make decisions on the spot in the depths of labour, and your logical mind won’t function (and it shouldn’t). But if you have birth preferences written up, your support persons will be able to help remind you of your choices.
It’s a great idea to have alternative birth plans incase something goes astray.
5. Labour at home for as long as possible
Especially for a first time mum, it’s tempting to go into hospital as soon as contractions become regular. But going to hospital too early will leave to open to unnecessary interventions and may slow labour progress.
Home is where you feel comfortable, oxytocin (the love and labour hormone) flows freely. It’s the ideal place to relax and really open into the labour. Hospitals are less homely, and it can be hard to truly relax with a stranger in the room (unknown midwife), so labour can stop or slow dramatically.
So avoid the temptation to rush into hospital if you can.
These are just a few suggestions! More to come.