You’re pregnant congratulations! What’s next? So many things. Is it a boy or girl, perhaps twins? What will the baby’s name be? How do you want to design the nursery? Is it too soon to start buying gifts for the baby? What size is the baby today? A strawberry, banana, cantaloupe, eggplant?
Many pregnant women are excellent at covering all of the bases! However, many of us are guilty of skipping the details of childbirth education due to fear, or just simply being overwhelmed. I get it. The birth process of your baby is inevitable and the goal is a vaginal birth although a cesarean (c-section) may be necessary. It is important to look into childbirth education classes to educate yourself about the birth experience so you can make informed and empowered decisions. The goal is for you to be an active participant in your birth plan. The last thing you want to feel is that your birth happened to you. Growing up my mother equipped me with this incredibly powerful, helpful, and honest statement. “It is your body and your baby and only you know what is best.” Even though this may be your first childbirth experience, it is important to educate yourself, trust your instincts, and speak up.
As a childbirth educator, I’m here to help you lay out your childbirth education choices so that you can begin to put together your vision for your birth plan.
Would You Like an Obstetrician or a Midwife?
First decision, choose your care provider. Would you like an Obstetrician or Midwife? Obstetricians deliver in the hospital and Midwives can deliver at home, a birth center, or in a hospital. Your experience with an obstetrician will be much more pathological. The approach of midwives is more intimate and holistic. You will receive the same clinical care; tests and ultrasounds. The main difference is that your visits with a midwife will be longer, around 30 minutes. The focus will be not just on the health of your baby but also you and your physical and emotional well being. Some midwives even do all the visits in the comfort of your home. How fabulous is that? If you think you may want the support of pain medication both obstetricians and midwives are able to ensure you receive that support in the hospital. Both providers are open to you having a doula. Midwives have traditionally always used the help and support of doulas whereas obstetricians are more recently accepting the practice of mothers having a doula present.
Would You Like a Doula?
A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying birth experience possible. What is great about a doula is that they accompany you throughout your pregnancy, your entire birth, and postpartum. Doulas are a wonderful resource to help provide you resources for your decision making. During birthing, they never leave your side. They do not make decisions for you but they can help you navigate your choices during your birth and provide emotional support to your partner and help you as the mother with pain management by providing a variety of relaxation techniques. Studies have proven that when mothers have a doula present, rates of interventions and cesareans are lower and attachment to baby and breastfeeding rates are higher. A childbirth class or doula can break down all of the possible interventions and the effects they may have on you and your baby. You want to be aware of all of your choices so that you can make informed decisions.
Would You Like to Manage Your Childbirth With Medications?
In the hospital pain medication is available. If you would like to avoid using pain management and go for a natural childbirth, inform your team and your nurses not to ask or offer pain medication to you. You always have the right to ask for an epidural if you would like one. An epidural is a procedure that injects a local anesthetic into the space around the spinal nerves in your lower back from which you will more than likely get immediate pain relief. Once you receive an epidural your mobility is limited from the waist down. It is still important to try and rotate your position from side to side about every 20 minutes to help move the baby down the birth canal. Try to avoid staying sedentary on your back.
Can I Eat During Labor?
There is an old practice of putting women under general anesthesia to give birth and sometimes women would vomit. As a result, the practice of telling women not to eat during labor was born. You can and should eat and hydrate during your entire labor. Think of it like a marathon. Runners hydrate and nourish throughout their race. Trust me, mothers need to do the same. The labor is challenging but pushing is hard work and you want the energy and strength to push efficiently and effectively.
Movement During Labor and Childbirth Positions
It is important to move throughout your labor to help your baby travel down the birth canal as well as to help you deal with the discomfort of contractions. Contractions are like a wave. They start low, peak, and then bring you back to shore. Try to ride the wave of each contraction and know that it will end. There is a beginning, middle, and end. Throw away clocks! Time is not of use to you. Trying to keep track of time can become frustrating and discouraging. Every birth process is different. Dilation is also not some perfect formula. For instance, after 10 hours of labor you can be only 1 cm dilated then get to 6cm in 2 hours and be fully dilated in another 4 hours. Which is why I suggest that you birth with your body and not your brain. Your brain will try and make sense of things and cause you to get anxious or to attempt to control the uncontrollable. The most difficult aspect of birth is the unknown. Find tools, relaxation techniques and breathing techniques that help you calm your mind. Some examples; dim the lights, play your favorite music, get electric tea lights, pray or meditate, wear your favorite bra or gown or just be fully nude. Try to rest between contractions and save your energy to push.
When the time comes to push be encouraged to try a variety of pushing positions. If you have not had an epidural you have better use of your legs and can get more creative but avoid just pushing on your back. Try pushing on your side with one leg up, squatting, or request the squat bar on your bed so you can pull down on the bar while you squat and push. The pulling action helps you activate your core and makes your push more effective. Squatting is typically the most preferred position because your pelvic outlet is the widest.
How to Push During Childbirth
It is important to understand which muscles are needed and which are not in order to successfully push. Get in touch with your pelvic floor muscles and your transverse abdominal muscles during pregnancy. What is your pelvic floor? The floor of the pelvis is made up of layers of muscle and other tissues. These layers stretch like a hammock from the tailbone at the back, to the pubic bone in front. A woman’s pelvic floor muscles support her bladder, uterus and colon. During a push you want to completely relax your pelvic floor, the muscles of the anus and vaginal muscles while fully engaging the core muscles, the transverse abdominals. The transverse abdominals wrap around the body like a corset. The closest thing to a push in labor is like pushing to poop. So literally visualize yourself pooping as you push. And first time mothers, please do not be afraid to poop. It happens! You want your colon and bladder empty anyway to create space for the baby to drop down and enter the world. You also want to try and soften the muscles of the face and throat as you push. A closed throat equals a closed vagina. Do not be afraid to vocalize as you push but not high pitched sounds. You want to try and create full low open guttural sounds. Believe in your strength and ability to push your baby out and call on all of your strong ancestors who have done the same for generations.
After your baby is born, skin to skin for an hour is highly recommended to bond with your baby and set a strong foundation for breastfeeding. There is a hormonal exchange that occurs when the baby is on your chest that is important for your milk production. The weighing of baby, vitamin k shot, and eye ointment can wait until after your skin to skin.
What is Delayed Cord Clamping?
Delayed cord clamping is the prolongation of the time between the delivery of a newborn and the clamping of the umbilical cord. Delayed cord clamping allows more blood to transfer from the placenta to the baby, sometimes increasing the child’s blood volume by up to a third. The iron in the blood increases the newborn’s iron storage, which is vital for healthy brain development. Most health-care providers advise a woman to wait until the cord quits pumping, anywhere from approximately 1-5 minutes.
Childbirth Education Classes
There are many things to learn and consider when looking into the birth process, and not just as a first-time mom. We encourage you to be prepared even if it’s your second or third birth, it’s a good refresher to know what you are going into! Be encouraged to equip yourself with knowledge and tools through childbirth classes and childbirth educators to have your desired birthing experience. Have birth preferences not a solid birth plan. Be present. Be open. Be confident. Never be afraid to ask questions or ask for support. There are many education programs expectant parents can look into.
Good luck, and Happy Birthing!