10 TIPS FOR Your Best Birth
Pregnancy and birth are so full of questions. As a doula and childbirth educator, I love to help my clients find answers and determine what is best for them and their babies. I enjoy helping them work through the pros and cons of any particular choice or circumstance, and go through what the evidence and research shows so that they can make fully informed decisions.
I often hear things like, “What do you think about Dr. So-and-so?” “Which hospital is the best?” “Will I be allowed to eat/drink/shower/stay home/wear my own clothes?”
In my Gentle Birth workshops and childbirth classes I go over these 10 Tips for your best birth experience:
1. Focus on what can go right!
We are inundated with scary stories about pregnancy and childbirth in the media, where birth is almost always depicted as an emergency. Sometimes our friends or family members seem to think our pregnancies are a good time to tell us their horror stories, or that of their best friend’s cousin, or delight in sharing some scary thing they “heard.” Pregnancy is such a mystery, growing this little person we may get a rare glimpse of via sonogram, or hear their little heartbeat on occasion, feel their kicks and bumps… but otherwise we must choose to trust that all is well and growing accordingly.
We do have some power over our thoughts – we can reframe them and focus on what is going right, right now, and what can go right in the future. We can look to the evidence that the vast majority of babies are born healthy, to healthy mothers.
2. Choose your birth space carefully
You have a choice in where you give birth. In Anchorage and Mat-Su, we have several hospitals, multiple birth centers with midwives that offer birth center, home birth, and hospital delivery, and several home birth midwives. You have options! Your birth space and your caregiver is one of the most important choices you can make regarding your pregnancy and your birth. Choose wisely!
3. Move your body
Keeping your body moving is so beneficial for a healthy pregnancy and birth! I love prenatal yoga, walking, and swimming. For the most part, you can and should continue to do your usual activities and listen to your body for modifications as your baby grows and your balance changes. I also suggest considering visiting a Chiropractor trained in the Webster Technique Trained to check for and maintain proper spinal and pelvic alignment.
4. Take an independent birth class
I know I’m biased, but I can’t stress the benefits of educating yourself about the childbirth process, comfort techniques and coping skills! Just like choosing your birth space, finding the right class for you and your partner is important. There are so many options! Online, in person, private, group, Hypnobabies, Hypnobirthing, Lamaze, Bradley, GentleBirth! Reach out to the instructor, ask questions, and determine what class seems like it would be most appropriate for you.
Or, take a couple of different classes, and benefit from the varying styles and bits of wisdom you’ll gather from several methods and philosophies.
5. Hire a doula
Again, biased! But I have evidence to back me up!
Doulas are proven to lower stress during pregnancy, shorten labor length, lower pharmaceutical pain medication use, decrease use of Pitocin and forceps, lower rates of cesarean birth, and increase women’s satisfaction with their birth experiences. (Journal of Perinatal Education, Winter 2013. PMC3647727)
6. Avoid “Negative Nellies”
It’s perfectly okay to stop someone who has begun to relate a scary childbirth experience or story, or scorn your choice of caregiver or birth space. I like to encourage my clients to say, “That doesn’t sound like something I want to hear right now. I’m focusing on the positive.” And simply change the subject. Having a ready list of things to talk about instead can come in handy – like something you’ve picked out for the baby’s nursery, or a new restaurant you want to try, or the weather… anything!
If you have someone in your life that simply won’t let up, it’s okay to avoid engaging them in conversation about your pregnancy or birth choices. Just like a mama bear protects her cubs, you can protect your mental and emotional health and protect your baby from negative influence in your mind and heart.
7. Prepare your partner
Does your partner feel ready? Perhaps a class just for them would help? Would they like to go to consults for potential pediatricians? Are there books or movies that might be reassuring? Can your doula or childbirth educator offer tips on any of these, or support for breastfeeding, swaddling, baby wearing, diapering?
8. Write your birth preferences
I like to give my clients planning a hospital birth a one-page bullet-point template for writing up their own birth preferences. I find that the staff in labor and delivery are generally receptive to reading and honoring these. Calling it birth preferences rather than a “plan” allows space for things to change if need be as labor progresses.
9. Labor in water
Water is nature’s pain relief! Use the warm, soothing spray of a shower on your back or belly, or submerge in a bathtub. Contractions are sometimes called “waves”, and working through the waves of labor in water is a soothing and relaxing way to experience birth.
10. Build your labor toolkit
Recipe for filling your labor toolkit with the tools you’ll need for the hard work of labor:
- Select the right caregiver and birth space.
- Seek education for you and your partner.
- Think and talk through your preferences for your birth.
- Hire a caring, attentive support person to provide all of the physical, emotional, and informational support you might need during the big day.
Combine and mix well with your open heart and mind.
Now relax and prepare to experience your best, most positive birth!