Midwife, Caroline, shares tips on preparing for labour.
Ok, so a no brainer to start with. It hurts, there are no two ways about it. Even if you have an epidural you still have the pain associated with putting the epidural in. It is important to remember that labour hurts for a reason. Just think for a minute what would happen if it didn’t? For me as a mother, that would mean my second baby would have been born at the local playground! It hurts so that you know it is happening and you can get to your safe place, be that the hospital or your home. That doesn’t mean you have to stop everything at the first contraction and panic, in fact it is probably better to ignore them for as long as possible, but it is time to make preparations.
2. Birth Support
It is a birth day, not a party. Think carefully about who you really want at your birth. You need to be comfortable enough to be naked, to be yourself, to yell, scream or fart in front of these people and to be able to look them in the eye again afterwards! If you feel inhibited you will not labour well. You need to be able to switch your logical brain off and engage your primitive brain when you are in labour.
For most of the population, labour and birth are normal everyday events. The majority of women can labour well, given the opportunity to do so. There are some women though, who will require assistance. Interventions are not without risk and will result in an action that may or may not be positive. Michel Odent (obstetrician) believes that the first intervention is leaving your own front door. Leaving the comfort of your own house to go to hospital can slow labour down. The oxytocin drip that speeds up your long labour may test your baby’s ability to cope with the contractions. The epidural that allows you to be pain free may cause your blood pressure to drop. Labour is not the time to be doing your research about interventions. You need to have done this during the pregnancy so you know what you are and are not happy to accept and under what circumstances.
Don’t fight it, work with it. It may not make sense to you right now, but when you are in labour it helps to ride the wave of the contractions not fight against the tide. You will quickly become exhausted if you fight every contraction. You need to stay calm, relaxed and focused. There will be moments when it all seems overwhelming and you loose your focus, but work on regaining it with the next wave and remember to breathe! Your instinct is likely to be to hold your breath but that makes the pain worse. It is the blowing out part of the breath that helps you relax so concentrate on this. Pretend you are blowing out candles, blowing a little sail boat across a pond, blowing the petals off a flower, whatever works for you, but make sure you breathe.
5. It’s all worth it!!
Finally, the only thing that is absolutely guaranteed in labour is that it won’t last forever. You will get to meet your beautiful baby at the end of it. Remember that when the going gets tough.
Caroline May qualified as a Midwife in 1999 and has worked in both community and hospital settings around Australia and in the UK. Currently residing in Perth with her partner and two young children, Caroline is particularly interested in home and waterbirth and is passionate about enabling women to make an informed decision and play an active role in their care. You can find all her articles here.