When it comes to preparing for your baby’s arrival, there’s a tendency to believe that we have no control of how our baby arrives. When working with parents, I encourage them to focus on all of the things they can control.
Following are 10 tips to help you stack the odds in your favor of having a positive birth experience, no matter how your baby arrives.
• Choose your place of birth carefully. According to recent U.S. research, your risk of having an unexpected cesarean section depends more on your choice of hospital than any health complications you or your baby may experience on the big day. Not all hospitals are the same, and doing some homework in early pregnancy can make your birth a much more positive one.
• Move your body in pregnancy and in labor. Half of all first-time moms in the U.S. are considered obese at the beginning of pregnancy. That doesn’t mean crash diets and CrossFit classes are recommended. Light exercise in pregnancy reduces your risk of complications and helps you build endurance and focus – all useful in labor. Being upright in labor is associated with shorter labors, less pain and less fetal distress. You get to share those lovely happy hormones (endorphins) with your baby, too. Yoga, walking and swimming are great options.
• Take an independent birth preparation class. Traditional hospital birth preparation classes often focus on what can go wrong in labor rather than on what can go right. In an independent childbirth class, you’ll learn about your hospital’s policies as well as all of your options so that you and your partner can navigate any decisions that need to be made more confidently. An independent teacher works for you – not the hospital.
• Hire a doula. There’s a saying, “If doulas were a drug, it would be unethical not to use them.” There are many benefits to hiring a birth doula, including less need for epidurals, significantly reduced cesarean births, less Pitocin and higher breastfeeding rates.
• Avoid the Negative Nellies. No doubt you’ve already met a few – those well-meaning friends and family members who can’t wait to tell you how awful labor is. Find your positive birth tribe – people who will uplift you, encourage you and keep you feeling excited about what’s to come. Find like-minded groups, both in person and online.
• Prepare your partner. Far too often, partners have been sidelined in the birth room, but with support, information and training, they can be the rock you need for emotional and physical support.
• Write down your birth preferences. Written birth preferences are a wonderful communication tool. It’s not a contract or guarantee, but it can help you and your partner explore your options for birthing day and access personalized care rather than the standard hospital protocols, which may or may not be evidence-based.
• Labor in water. It’s also known as the “midwife’s epidural.” Deep, warm-water immersion shortens labor, reduces pain and allows for greater freedom of movement. You are weightless – absolute bliss in labor.
• Build your labor toolkit. Don’t give birth without a fit ball. Just sitting on it opens the pelvis and reduces pain as you move your pelvis around your descending baby. A TENS machine, acupressure, music and mental strategies such as the GentleBirth App also can help you feel calmer and more in control. In addition, medication is part of your labor toolkit – keep everything on the table for the most positive birth possible.
• Focus on what can go right. Despite what you see on “Grey’s Anatomy,” in most cases birth goes really well for healthy women and babies. Your mindset heading into birth is hugely important. Train your brain in pregnancy to prepare for a calm, positive birth, no matter how your baby arrives on the day.