The birth of a child is one of the most outstanding days in our lives. It can also be described as the most feared, anticipated and emotional experiences we endure. That’s why preparing for labour is so important. So that we can be fully prepared for this momentous occasion.
Birth, the day we plan for, for months, sometimes years, is the most anticipated of moments in ones life. This is the reason many of us begin the preparing for labour very early on to ensure we end up with a healthy baby and mother at the end of it all.
The majority of Australian woman have had at least one thing happen at their birth that they didn’t know about prior to the birth. This is why informing yourself and your partner as much as possible when making birth plans, is important.
Birth is unpredictable
I’ve seen many things working with families, and one thing you have to know is that Birth is unpredictable. We cannot plan for some things, life takes twists and turns and this is not an exemption of difficulties. Simply, baby moving into a difficult position, or other more serious situations that can arise anytime without warning.
This information is to help you realise that in one of these situations, in the very moment of dealing with it, wouldn’t you like to have some prior knowledge of what’s happening so that you can make quick decisions regarding your health and that of the baby. You would know the different options before you and how to proceed. Having discussed it already with your partner, he also would know what your thoughts were on different subjects, and in the case of you not being able to respond to questions your partner can confidently answer for you.
Listed are a few of things important for preparing for labour that are recommended you do some research on and why. Use this to help you create an extensive birth plan. And inform yourself and your partner about the things that matter if they happen.
Your care in pregnancy (before you begin preparing for labour)
As soon as you know you’re pregnant it’s a good idea to check out where you want to have your baby and what type of care you would like. Do you want to share care with a public hospital and your GP? Do you want an Obstetrician in a private hospital? Do you want a Doula to care for you along side a midwife or doctor (public/private)? Ask your friends what they did and get an idea of what each option has to offer you. And remember that some Birth Centers are hard to get into, so if that is your choice then you must book ASAP. Your pregnancy care is the mot important step before you begin preparing for labour.
9 Steps for preparing for labour
1. Who will support you during labour?
Choose your birth partner with this in mind…. Do I trust this person at my most vulnerable time? Am I comfortable around them? It’s more than just witnessing the birth of your baby, they need to help you to make decisions, ease your muscles when things get tough, be positive, respect your privacy and physically support you. This person may not be the father of the baby, sometimes the father isn’t able be at the birth. It happens, so always have a back up. Some Doulas will do a birth only contract for situations like this. Just make sure the backup person has a copy of, and has read and discussed your birth plan.
2. Positions for labour
It’s a good idea to try out some positions with your partner. Some may feel totally wrong and some comfortable. No point getting into a position if it aggravates your old knee injury. Look “birth positions” up on the net and get a feel for them before hand. It can be awkward maneuvering into a new position when you’re in labour so having done it before may help you out.
3. Pain relief is an important element when preparing for labour
There are many different things you can do to ease the intensity of labour, research all the different types of pain relief and practice them with your birth partner. Make a list of the ones that feel good. Heat, massage, water, visualization are all simple and effective and you don’t need a professional to do them. If you do feel you need something stronger then PLEASE do a little research on each one as they do have side effects and you may end up regretting your decision. Epidural; gas and pethidine, being the main ones.
4. Induction of labour
Being induced is a very common procedure and all pregnant women should read up on what it involves and what it does. It helps to have some knowledge about how your labour will proceed so you understand what you are going through and why. It is common to feel a lot of intensity before your cervix is actually doing anything.
5. Positioning for labour
Your midwife or doula will suggest some positions at the time, however it is good to have an idea where you think you will be more comfortable, where you can see the baby born, if you like the idea of gravity assisting.
6. The dreaded cut, the episiotomy
We start off not knowing what it means and end up dreading it with intense fear. Many women get an episiotomy for good reasons and sadly some for not so good reasons. INFORM yourself about the reasons to have it and not to have it. A two hour protocol for the 2nd stage (pushing stage) is very common for hospitals. For first babies this stage takes a little longer. Learn how to massage the perineum in the last weeks of pregnancy. Heated towels and counter pressure, are also good. Ask for more time to focus and push your baby out on your own. And for those that will get an Episiotomy, it is nothing to fear. You get a local in the area and it’s done during your next push, and you won’t feel it. Your baby will come out in that push or the following one. Always remember that your baby was worth it!
7. Caesarean Birth
Emergencies do happen and they can be for many different reasons. So it’s good to know what your preferences are, if you do require an emergency c-section. You may not have a choice in some things in a situation like this but it is still ideal to, understand what’s going to happen, even if you have no choices in it. Anesthesia is one of the things to look into. Find out what the side effects are and how you will recover, will you be able to breastfeed right away. Can you take pictures; who can accompany you? Ask lots of questions of your health care facility. Can baby go straight to your chest for skin to skin contact? Request in your birth plan all the things you have learnt about and either do or do not want to happen.
8. Assisted Delivery
Read up on Vacuum and forceps delivery and put your thoughts in your birth plan. Do you prefer one over the other.
9. Delayed Cord Clamping
It is important to research delayed cord clamping when preparing for labour. I’ve seen some close calls and I believe that delaying the clamping of the umbilical cord is of very high importance to the outcome of a struggling baby.
The blood in the placenta is rich and is better in the opinions of many professionals to be left for the baby than discarded. Babies that have the cord clamped right away miss out on this rich healthy blood. Remember it’s been oxygenated by the mother, and if bub is struggling to breath on his own then the cord will still be supplying her with oxygen. It’s also better in the 3rd stage delivery of the placenta as its blood volume is lower and therefore less for the mothers body to expel. This is the top research subject I recommend for everyone birthing a baby. Some hospitals allow this in a c-section also, the more people that request this the more it will become apart of normal birth. Not everyone will be able to delay for long but the idea is to wait until the cord stops pulsating to clamp. The longer the wait the better.
Don’t forget to also know the early labour signs
Know what early labour signs to look out for and be aware of the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and real labour. Learn what a mucus plug looks like, so you know when it falls out.
While your pregnant it is wise to “Google” anything that comes to your attention about birth or baby. Keep a notebook on what you discover and birth the way you want to, informed and ready for anything.
If you have been through labour, how prepared were you for your ‘big day’?
If you haven’t, what are you most concerned about?
Share your comments below.
About the author: Samantha Birch is the owner of Under the Birch Tree, and is a postpartum and birth doula located on the Gold Coast. Visit her on Facebook. To see all of Samantha’s articles, click here.