Since training to support births, I’ve learned so much about birth and had so much time to reflect on my own experiences and pre-doula knowledge. I’m still learning lots and I feel I’ll always be learning – every day there’s something new I pick up. Here’s some things I wish I had known about birth:
1. You have a choice in everything that happens to you – your body, your birth. That includes place of birth, who is present at your birth (including support and health care team), inductions, vaginal exams, monitoring, scans, c-sections and so much more. You can always elect to trial for labour even where interventions are suggested. If you wonder if you’re allowed – check out this fantastic AIMS publication.
2. BRAIN – a really useful tool for decision making during birth – make sure you use your BRAIN with every decision making.
3. When you’re told there is a ‘risk‘ that something might happen – ask – “can you quantify that risk”, “what is the evidence”, “can you give me information about this risk – that I can take away and read”. This gives you the ownership of choosing what risks you want to take. You still might choose that c-section but you feel you have had ownership over that decision. We also have to understand there are many risks we just don’t know about – there are now bit of research about how increasing rates of caesearan sections might be changing humans microbiology which could increase illnesses, inductions and epidurals has been linked to many other conditions including PND in mothers – there are things we are only starting to just uncover about how birth might be impacting health outcomes – there really isn’t enough information out there but many of the hypotheses do make a lot of sense and raise a lot of questions about what we’re doing and the fact that we DON’T KNOW ALL the risks.
4. The importance of the environment where you give birth. This is one of the main reasons why giving birth at home is still the safest place to give birth and coming second midwife led units or birth centres. If you are on the labour ward for whatever reason you can still have complete control on the environment. See next point.
5. Women, like other mammals, when given the privacy and peace to birth on their own, generally choose to give birth in small dark spaces which is one of the reasons many will give birth in tiny bathrooms as they are the smallest rooms in their homes. Dark spaces help release the right mix of hormones for you to give birth and progress your labour. If you are birthing in the hospital you can still have control over lighting, privacy, sounds, smells and change it. Take ownership of the environment – make it less clinical by bringing in some things from home that are familiar to you and lower the lighting.
6. Birth is a perfectly normal physiological process – it’s not a medical procedure – it’s something that happens to all mammals.
7. Fear of birth increases our susceptibility to pain (Childbirth Without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read) – thereby we need to remove the fear. We have become fearful of birth through stories, through media portrayals of birth, through many of the mainstream pregnancy and birth books. The language we use around birth can influence what our brains and bodies believe. You can reduce and remove this fear during your pregnancy through surrounding yourself in positivity, going to positive birth movement groups, hypnobirthing, and choosing your birth classes, books, blogs and other media carefully – change your own language around your birth and when you’re talking to others. When you’re in labour – focus on breathing the fear out and peace and love in.
8. Activity in pregnancy is vitally important – walking, swimming, yoga, dancing – all help optimal foetal positioning and help to give your body the strength and flexibility to birth.
9. Movement whilst in labour will help progress labour more effectively – and there should be no prescriptive way of telling a woman how to move – if she is allowed to go into herself – she will know the best positions. If you’re going into the hospital – remove the bed from the middle of the room so you’re less likely to end up lying on it.
10. Understanding that length of labour can vary hugely in women. Some women might have long latent phases and some might have very quick labours. Keeping your brain busy focussing on anything and resting. In Amish communities when woman go into labour they set themselves tasks to do such as make jam. Use that time to do something that will keep you active and brain busy – clear out that cupboard, paint that door – do something that keeps you gently busy, in your home will make the time will pass much more quickly.
11. Due dates – there is not such thing as a due ‘date’ – your baby will come when it’s ready – don’t set any time clocks or expectations around your due date and many people will naturally go beyond 42 weeks and go into labour earlier – being post term is not a reason for induction without any other reasons.
12. Oxytocin and other hormones play a vital role in your birth AND the postnatal period – interfering in this process is something that can have effects on how you birth and how you start to parent your baby. For many, that is why even if you are planning a section for whatever reason, being allowed to spontaneously labour first can have a better outcome for mum and baby. This report by Sarah Buckley has huge amounts of information.
Having a doula to work with you through pregnancy and birth can make all the difference – for more information about the benefits of having a doula look at this article from Evidence Based Birth and Why Doulas Matter. Hindsight is an amazing thing and I wish I’d realised doulas weren’t just for those who wanted a specific type of birth – they’re there for ALL births.
Much love, Tricia xxxx