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:

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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.

Anchorage birth doula Alaska childbirth class placenta encapsulation

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!

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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)

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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.

Anchorage birth doula Alaska childbirth class placenta encapsulation

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.

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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!

XO,
Shanna

 

Postpartum Prep: A PRACTICAL LIST OF ESSENTIALS FOR YOUR TENDER POST-BABY BODY

As you prepare for baby and carefully consider all that your new little one will need, don’t neglect to prepare for self-care! Consider gathering some of the following postpartum prep items to have on hand for your comfort and relief after your baby is born.

Vaginal Birth:

1. Peri Bottle

You will likely be given a peri bottle if you give birth in a hospital or with midwives in either a birth center or at home.  Filling this bottle with warm water and squirting it on your perineum while you urinate can help encourage urination and take the sting out of urine on sore tissues.  Once your bladder is empty, fill the bottle with warm water and squirt again to clean the area, and then gently pat dry.  Plan to have a peri bottle in each bathroom and bring one in your baby bag if you’ll be away from home in the early days after your baby is born.

peri-bottle

2. Sitz Bath

A sitz bath is a small plastic tub that fits into your toilet rim and you can use it as a mini bath for your bottom.  This also keeps the area clean, can encourage urination, and help with healing.  Many women find sitz baths offer much relief and comfort for sore tissues.  Your hospital may have one or you can find them at any pharmacy.  Dermaplast is an over the counter cooling, numbing spray that can ease the irritation and discomfort of a sore perineum or stitches.  Ask your caregiver for their recommendations if you still feel sore after trying these.

Vaginal or Cesarean Birth:

3. Witch Hazel or Tucks pads, Padsicles

Witch Hazel is an astringent, useful for helping to shrink hemorrhoids and soothe sore bottoms.  You can gently apply witch hazel on a cotton ball, or buy ready-made wipes or pads, like Tucks.  You can also apply witch hazel to maxi pads and freeze them to make icy cold “padsicles”.  Many women find these very soothing for swollen and sore parts.

tucks

4. Doughnut pillow

Some women experience tailbone (coccydynia) or pelvic floor pain after pregnancy and birth.  A doughnut shaped pillow can help to relieve this discomfort.  Most pharmacies have pillows, or you can try a DIY  with a pool noodle formed into a ring with duct tape.

5. Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is preferred by most caregivers for pain relief, afterbirth cramping, inflammation and soreness.  800 mg every 8 hours is the typical prescription, but check with your caregiver for their recommendation if it doesn’t seem to be working well enough for you.

6. Colace (stool softener)

To ease those first few postpartum bowel movements, you may want to consider a stool softener, no matter how you delivered your baby.  Pain medications can make your bowels more sluggish, and Colace can be taken as needed to help keep things gently moving.  It does not cause intestinal cramping, is generally well tolerated, and is available over the counter.

7. Maxi Pads 

You’ll want extra-long or overnight with wings.  Initial postpartum bleeding can be very heavy, at least for the first few days.  Bleeding, called Lochia, is normal for several weeks following the birth of your baby.  It will be very heavy and red at first, tapering off to brown and then more yellowish.  During this time, you’ll need to use pads rather than tampons or cups, and not introduce anything into the vagina until the bleeding has ended.

8. Mesh (granny) panties or Depends, a belly binder

If you give birth in the hospital, you will be given mesh panties after your baby is born.  They are snug and high waisted, which many women like because they tend to hold your loose belly in.  You can tuck a pad or ice pack inside.  Some women like to wear Depends disposable undergarments for the first few days of heavy bleeding, again with a maxi pad, ice pack, or padsicle tucked in.

After your baby is born, it takes some time for your abdominal muscles to return to normal and your belly and back muscles will feel a bit loose.  Some women like the way an abdominal binder or Bengkung belly binding helps them to feel more held together as they regain core strength.

depends

9. Nursing pads –Disposable or reusable

When you nurse your baby, you will experience a release of milk from your breasts called a “let down.” Sometimes when you nurse from one side, the other breast will leak, and when you hear your baby cry, you may also leak milk.  Nursing pads tucked into your bra will catch the leakage and keep you from needing to change your shirt multiple times a day. (Though that will probably still happen, babies can be so messy!) You might also like to buy a couple of nursing tank tops.  These usually have a shelf bra and snap down sides for ease when nursing, they are comfortable and stretch for engorgement, and you can tuck nursing pads inside.   If you don’t plan to breastfeed, you will still need pads for a little while and you may want to buy a head of cabbage, as the leaves tucked into your bra will help with engorgement.

10. Nipple Cream

Sometimes your nursing baby will cause your nipples to become sore.  A cream like Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter, or a lanolin based ointment like Lansinoh can soothe and protect sore nipples.

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Finally, you’ll need support.  Have you made a list of friends or family you can call?  Have you connected with our local postpartum or baby groups?  Do you have your doula’s number in your phone?

Experienced parents, what would you add to the list?  

XO,

Shanna

 

Anchorage Alaska Birth Services

DO YOU KNOW THE DOULA?

Anchorage Birth Services Doula Classes PlacentaHi and welcome! 

I’m Shanna.  It rhymes with Hannah, not Donna… and nope, not Shannon.  My sweet mom saddled me with a name that’s a pain to explain. Anyway, enough of that.  I’m so glad you’re here!  Whether you’re pregnant and considering a birth doula, interested in postpartum doula support, or looking for information on becoming a doula yourself, I’d love to meet with you and encourage you on your journey. Let me tell you a little bit about me and why I’m a doula, and why I love being Alaska Birth Doula, and owner and operator of Anchorage Alaska Birth Services.  

First and foremost:

I absolutely love supporting women through pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum.  It is my passion; breath and life to me.  It makes my soul sing, and I still can’t believe I get paid to do this amazing work. 

It is an honor.  A privilege. A blessing.  

  1.  I was inspired to become a doula when I was pregnant with my second child, in 2006.   I had read the “birth bible”, Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and recognized through the beautiful stories that the support of someone who knows and is comfortable with the natural progression of labor during birth is priceless.  The soothing words they would speak, and the physical support through massage and touch were obviously so beneficial to the laboring women.  I knew I wanted to experience that.  
  2.  My first doula baby was born in 2009. I had dipped my toes into birth work, inquiring with a doula friend about her experience, and I was asked if I’d like to shadow another doula as she supported a laboring mother with her first birth.  While I had experienced 3 births of my own at that point, I’d never witnessed someone else giving birth in person, and to be truly with a woman, breathing with her, speaking words of encouragement and peace to her, bawling along with her when her wet and wailing baby girl was placed on her chest… I was never the same.  I had to do this work.  I was made to do this work!
  3.  My own four births shaped me as a woman and as a mother. Birth matters.  The way we are made to feel when we experience birth matters.  It is important that a laboring woman be given the information she needs to be in control of the many decisions to be made during her birth.  We may not remember every detail of each birth, but we will always remember the way we felt; whether we were supported, listened to, trusted, and empowered.  
  4. I believe in birth. ALL birth. Natural birth.  Medicated birth.  Vaginal birth.  Cesarean birth.  Hospital birth.  Birth Centers. Home birth.  I believe women are uniquely, intricately, wonderfully designed to give birth, and I also believe in a woman’s right to decide she wants to birth with augmentation or medication.  I will provide information; benefits, risks, advantages, and disadvantages. Ultimately, I believe in supporting women energetically, emotionally, physically, and with the information they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their babies.
  5. I love being woken up to attend a laboring woman.  Yep.  I’m on call most of the time.  That means no wine with dinner (or just a sip!) Having my cell phone on at all times and never being without it.  Making sure camping spots are within an hour’s drive of my client’s birth space, and that I have phone service! (Oh, Alaska…) Having my doula bag packed and with me.  I get a thrill every time I get a call that starts out “I think I might be in labor…”
  6.  Last but not least, I love coffee with lots of cream and sugar.  And chocolate, especially when it’s surrounding or coupled with peanut butter.  And wine — my favorite way to celebrate a birth, right before I take a nice long nap!

I am a doula.  It’s not just what I do.  It’s who I am, and exactly what I was made to be.

XO,

Shanna

Anchorage Doula Shanna Alaska Birth Services