When I teach a childbirth class, I prefer to do an all-day event so there is plenty of time for discussion, practicing techniques, and working on emotional aspects of giving birth. When I don’t have time (for example, an evening class), I focus on the most important things I feel will help women to have an easier birth. Here are my top ten for an easier birth:
1) Choose your birth place and birth team very carefully. What should you look for?
- Proven safety, and feeling of safety (do not disregard your intuition about a potential birth place or care provider)
- Low intervention rates, implying more hands-on care and the promotion of normal birth
- Takes the time to listen to your concerns and answer your questions with respect and interest
- Has assisted women having your ideal birth (epidural, natural, water birth, vbac, etc.)
2) Prepare for an easier birth, now!
- Don’t watch A Baby Story! Instead (if you are interested in watching birth videos), watch movies like The Business of Being Born, Orgasmic Birth, Pregnant in America, Water Birth, Special Women, and normal birth videos on YouTube which represent birth as it usually is. TV specials on birth are designed and promoted to offer drama and attract viewers, not to support women preparing for birth.
- Don’t read What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Nearly every woman I have spoke to said this book scared them more than it gave them confidence and reassurance. Instead read books like Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin and Creating Your Birth Plan by Marsden Wagner. Other good reads can be found on my lending library list.
- Eat well, getting a variety of foods in your diet, focusing especially on protein, green veggies, water, limiting sugar and processed foods, and salting foods to taste.
- Rest up, both for your current health, your energy level during birth, and for the late nights you’ll spend with your baby.
- Exercise. This means pelvic rocking and tilts, kegals, tailor sitting, squats, walking, swimming, and similar activites.
- Practice relaxation and visualization. Both of these are extremely helpful in having a tension free and easier birth. Hypnobabies is helpful for many in this respect.
- Position baby well. The position of your baby prior to labor greatly influences how easy or difficult your birth will be.
3) Have continuous labor support by a birth doula
- Moms supported by birth doulas have fewer complications, fewer interventions, more satisfying births, better bonding experiences with dad and baby, better baby outcomes, and less postpartum depression.
- In one large survey, moms who used doulas rated their support better than everyone else’s – doctors, midwives, nurses, dads, their mothers, sisters, and friends. Yet those present to support mom reported feeling more confident and relaxed themselves when a doula was present to support the mom.
- There are many myths about doulas, read this article to find out what they are and why they are myths.
4) Do not get induced!
- 40% of women are induced for lots of reasons, but it is only medically necessary in 5-10% of cases, for the following reasons: Pregnancy beyond 42 weeks, evidence of placental malfunction, baby small for age, preeclampsia, membranes ruptured beyond 4 days with no labor (less than that if there are signs of infection), true fetal distress confirmed by fetal scalp sampling or a biophysical profile.
- Alternatives to medical induction are waiting it out or using natural methods.
5) Stay home as long as you can
- Staying home until contractions are consistently less than five minutes apart and distracting you from other activities helps to ensure that active labor has begun and you will not be sent home from the hospital for false labor. It also reduces your chances of having interventions used on you that may not be necessary.
- In the meantime, rest, eat well, drink lots of fluid, visualize your birth going well, and carry on with normal life as much as possible.
6) When you get to the birth place, stay active
- Your pelvis is flexible, especially by the end of pregnancy, and staying active helps to ensure freedom of movement of your pelvis so that your baby can move down and be born easier. Staying upright and moving also helps labor to go more quickly and be less painful for you.
- If you are restricted to bed, first make sure it is actually necessary, then ask for help in finding different positions to use in bed to keep baby moving and make labor easier for you.
- Make sure to change positions frequently, drink and eat, and take breaks to rest, using upright positions which keep you fully supported.
7) Avoid uncessary interventions
- Do your homework on all possible interventions and ask questions anytime one is suggested to you!
- Possible interventions which are common include: vaginal exams, electronic fetal monitoring, IV, rupture of membranes, pitocin, episiotomy, epidural or other pain meds, restriction to bed, restriction of food and drink, and cesarean section.
- Interventions used which are not justified carry risks which do outweigh the benefits of using them. Unless there is very good reason (see articles linked above) to use them, you are likely to suffer consequences that could easily have been avoided by not using the interventions.
8 ) Don’t push on your back
- Remember your pelvis is flexible
- Pushing on your back is rarely a good thing and unless baby needs extra help being born, carries multiple risks.
- Ask about alternative pushing positions like hands and knees, squatting, sidelying, or standing.
9) Keep your baby with you
- Having your baby put on your chest after birth offers you and your baby multiple health benefits and is great for bonding.
- All routine newborn exams and procedures done immediately after birth can be done on your abdomen or right beside you, unless your baby needs extra help starting to breath.
10) Remember, you were designed to give birth!
- Even if you have had a difficult birth before, or know someone who has, your body was designed perfectly for birth. Sometimes things can make that more difficult, like a less than ideal diet, a pelvic injury, or interventions used in labor which made birth more difficult, but 90+% of women giving birth are able to have normal births if they are healthy and well supported during birth.
- Labor is hard work, it may hurt, and you can do it. That’s the bottom line, everything else you learn is icing on the cake (statement adapted from Birthing From Within).