By Cheryl Sheriff
Birthing a baby is an outstanding experience in your life during which you become acutely aware of your vulnerability as well as your power. It takes planning, preparation, a strong desire and a carefully chosen support team by your side to help you achieve this. With the overall caesarean section rate trending upward and now at 32.3% women are often working against the odds to achieve the birth they want in our risk- averse hospital system.
As most women are choosing to birth in a hospital we need to create an environment that supports their desire and right to have an intervention free positive birth. There are many strategies which will set you up for success. Following are just a few:
Go into labour naturally
A labour that starts naturally is more likely to end naturally. You will be able to establish labour in the comfort of your home, with the nurturing support you need. So often I hear women say they want to avoid a caesarean section but have not considered the connection between having their labour induced and the increase of a possible caesarean. An induced labour is managed, and opens you to the cascade of intervention. This environment does not support you to feel safe, relaxed, undisturbed, and unobserved all of which supports your body to work at an optimum level.
Choose your place of birth wisely
Choose a hospital with low intervention rates and consider the midwifery model of care if you are a low risk pregnant woman. Midwives are the experts when it comes to natural birth. Private obstetricians are skilled with high risk women and medical issues. If you have private obstetric care-open up lines of communication so they are aware of your preferences. Enlist their support to help you achieve a natural intervention free birth, if that is your desire.
Gather your team
Professional childbirth support is never really understood or appreciated until your birth is over. Doulas bring with them a sound knowledge of birth, the system, and personal knowledge of all that is important to women and their partners during labour. Effective support requires emotional skills that rise to the level of a skilled counsellor. There will be times when she needs to know the mother’s need before the mother. These skills take years and hundreds of births to perfect. She has to be able to correctly read and communicate with everyone in the room. Outcomes of labour with professional support:
- 51% reduction in caesarean rates
- 60% reduction in epidural requests
- 40% reduction in forceps delivery
“If a doula were a drug it would be unethical not to use it.” John H Kennell MD
Optimal Foetal positioning.
It is not enough to know your baby is in a head down position. We need more information. As birth support professionals we are witnessing more babies in posterior positions(or O.P. occipito posterior as it is referred to) The baby’s spine is against the mothers. This position contributes to labours which are associated with continual back pain, are slow to establish, and progress slowly. You are more likely to need an epidural for pain relief or an assisted birth to rotate your baby. Specific activity from 30 weeks will “encourage” optimal positioning for baby. It is easier to work on this prior to labour than during it.
Prepare for your marathon or sprint
Knowledge and a tool kit filled with effective techniques will assist you though the challenges of labour. Whether it is active birth, calm birth, or yoga and breath work, you will need something familiar to work with. Practice will take you to a place of confidence and calm and give you the skills you need. Make sure your support team are on board with your preferences and able to encourage you. Know your natural pain relief options and plan to work with these as well. Heat, visualisation, massage, water, music, aromatherapy. There may be some times you will reach a crisis of confidence during your labour and this is when you need your support team to be strong and encourage you through these challenges. It is not a time for them to cave in, but to be strong and offer you the additional love, support and reassurance you need at this time.
Understand how your body works
We want you to labour and birth with drugs-we just want them to be your own. Do whatever you need to do to feel safe to optimise the production of these powerful hormones. Beta endorphins are naturally occurring opiates and will help you reach and altered state. Fear will be your enemy so dig deep and face them prior to labour. Understanding the physiological process and how you might feel both physically and emotionally will help you prepare for the unfamiliar sensations you will experience.
Trust your instincts
Instinctive behaviours may come easily to some women during labour but not as easily for others. Sometimes our instincts may need help.
Create a birthing environment that allows you to tap into the power within you. A quiet, warm room with dim lighting, a balance of privacy, and support, and the love of your partner is a great start. Birth can be overwhelming for partners when they want to be able to focus on supporting and caring for you. There are times when they too benefit from the support of an experienced professional support person who is there just for them. Father’s deserve to have a positive birth experience they can look back on knowing they have given the best of themselves. If they bring fear an adrenaline into you environment you will sense it. Fear, tension, pain, are to be avoided and replace with feelings of calm, relaxation and reward. Strong emotions are stored in our long-term memory. These feeling, can be recalled with clarity years later. Giving birth is not just another day in a woman’s life. She carries this experience with her always.
You can be in charge of your birth experience; you can choose how to think and act to create the best possible birthing environment and experience for you and your baby. The power of what you think, and believe impacts on your body. Women’s bodies are designed to give birth naturally we just need to give them more opportunity to do so.
Article by Cheryl Sheriff www.idealbirth.com.au
Cheryl has had the privilege of attending approximately 1,000 births in her 30 years as a midwife and doula. She currently works closely with Brisbane couples planning hospital births and is writing a book on achieving positive hospital birth.