So you are having a baby, you getting bigger and it is becoming clear that your baby will soon have to leave your body in one of two ways. Most people tend to talk about how awful, painful and exhausting it is to give birth and, thanks to a few tv shows, we expect to feel out of control, to be screaming and to be under constant instruction from a midwife. It can seem pretty daunting and it can seem scary but, once pregnant, who have no choice and birth stands between your pregnancy and you meeting your baby.
But does birth have to be crap? Is birth just down to luck? I have worked with expectant parents across Tyneside for about 14 years and my role is to provide good information and practical skills, along with the opportunity to ask questions, so you know what your options are and you know more about how to stay as calm as possible, to manage any anxiety or panic, to know what can help your labour work and how to manage interventions such as induction.
if you are about to have a baby, here are some things to think about…
- be assertive – if you need something ask for it so you can be as comfortable and secure as possible. Throughout labour you may have a need for more information, food and drink, warmth, a cuddle, a calm environment, to change position, to have a wee, to go for a walk, to rest, to have pain relief, to have help, to have some space, to be encouraged
- knowledge is power – it can help to know what to expect and to know what your options might be. Not only can this prevent you having to adjust to new information in labour or help you know which questions to ask your midwife. This could be anything from knowing more about what happens when you go into labour and what your options are for using a birthing pool to how your options change if you are being induced or you are classified as high risk.
- gravity is key – move your ass, rest when you need to and move your ass some more. Listen to your body to make yourself as comfortable as possible and to help your labour flow as it needs to. Your baby may need more room to move and you may need to ease any pressure on your back so get yourself upright – chances are this will feel better and will make your contractions easier to work with.
- take control – this links back to being assertive and thinking about your birth environment. Most of us need medical observation and not medical intervention in labour so we need to do what feels right to labour well. This might seem challenging but it can be really beneficial to say how you want to manage your labour: “I’m going to stay as active as I can” especially if the expectation could be to get on the bed. “I would like the lights dimmed so I can rest and relax more.”
You don’t need permission, just say what you need.
- think about your birth environment – this could be the place where you give birth (home, hospital, birthing centre) and it could also be about making sure your birthing room is quiet, dimly lit and comfortable so you can move about and rest as you need to.
- rest when you need to because labour can be long and exhausting and conserving your energy is important.
- work with your midwife, she’s part of your team. But remember it’s not one way, you need to be able to tell your midwife what you need, she should be able to listen to you so she can support you and encourage you to listen to your body and to do what feels right for you – after all it’s you who is having the contractions. Your midwife is not a mind-reader and she can’t always guess what you need.
- it’s important to remember that there isn’t a right length of labour to aim for – some labours are fast and some plod along. As long as you are ok and as long as your baby is ok, all you can do is take it one contraction at a time and ask for the support and reassurance you need to keep going.
- contractions do hurt, they are a sign that your body is working hard to bring you your baby. It’s not a normal pain, nothing is wrong but that doesn’t mean that your contractions are easy – try to accept them because you need them and all you can do is take them one at a time.
- know how to stay as calm as you can and how to deal with any panicky moments, which can happen in any labour.
- remember the basics – eat, drink. move, rest, breathe
Janine Rudin – a specialist in pregnancy, birth and early parenting