The language we use to describe birth is a tricky and often touchy issue. I had originally referred to the posts for this birth blog carnival as “birthing success stories,” but as one reader pointed out, using the word “success” implies that birth can also be described in terms of “failure.” Women, listen up: you cannot fail at birth. For this birth blog carnival, Giving Birth with Confidence will share stories from women who describe a positive birth experience in which they were successful at implementing one or more of the Six Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices.
What is a ”Healthy Birth Practice” anyway?
The Six Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices are tried-and-true ways, based in research and best medical evidence, to keep birth as safe and healthy as possible. Understanding these practices can help you alleviate common birthing fears, know how to manage pain with minimal or no medication, and provide the foundation for informed discussions between you and your care provider.
After collecting the stories for this carnival, I noticed several recurring themes. Just like you can’t make a cake without flour, it appears that a positive birth experience requires certain elements.
Nearly every contributer mentioned the importance of their care provider.
“…take the extra time, make the extra office visit, to find a great fit for you. Birth is a big deal — spiritually, emotionally, physically, you name it. You want someone with you who is on the same page: who reads your birth plan, who takes extra time when needed, and who is responsive and listens well. Don’t be afraid to change providers, either: better a change in the midst of your pregnancy than a rough birth experience with someone you didn’t trust to begin with!”
Tricia at The Planet Pink interviewed her midwife prior to the birth of her third child:
“The hubs and I made an appointment and met with a midwife who we quickly agreed would be the perfect person to partner with. She was laid back and relaxed and not at all concerned about making my pregnancy or labor fit into a certain box.”
Laboring at home for as long as possible is a big deal.
For first-time families, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and want to rush to the hospital or birthing center at the first sign of labor. I know because I did it too. Laboring at home until your contractions are regular and “longer-stronger-closer together,” however, can have a big impact on your overall birth experience.
Tricia at The Planet Pink talks about how she spent an entire day (not completely convinced she was in labor) walking the mall, enjoying lunch with her husband, walking her neighborhood, watching movies, bouncing on a birth ball and spending time in the tub before finally experiencing consistent and strong enough contractions to leave for the hospital at 3:00 am. When she arrived, she was 8cm dilated!
Now, on to those Healthy Birth Practices.
Letting labor begin on its own.
All of our contributors went into labor at home, on their own, and were supported in the hospital/birth center to labor without artificial induction or augmentation by Pitocin.
After beginning to dilate at an early 32 weeks and being put on modified bedrest, Jenny of Conscientious Confusion knew she was really in labor when she felt a small gush of water at 2:00 am, three days after her due date. Her son was born later that morning.
Sheridan of Enjoy Birth provided for our birth blog carnival an excellent resource for moms on induction (complete with videos!), including risks and rewards and how to know when an induction is medically necessary. Sheridan says, “It amazes me to hear that moms often get induced without even knowing why. … I would love it if moms would inform themselves on this choice early in their pregnancy.”
Walking, moving around and changing positions throughout labor.
All of our birth story writers shared wonderful details about moving around in labor, from walking to squatting to soaking in a tub.
With the guidance of her doula, Sheryl of Little Snowflakes found an effective laboring position:
“My doula suggested raising the hospital bed so that I would have something to lean against during the contractions. That turned out to be my favorite position to manage the contractions! When a contraction would come, I would stand up, bend over, bury my face in a pillow on top of the bed, and hold [my husband's] hands.”
In contrast, Sheryl commented, “It felt HORRIBLE to experience a contraction lying down. I could barely handle it!”
“I tried a few different positions, however I did not feel like walking around or standing up like I had anticipated. I spent a good bit of time in the jetted bathtub, which really helped with the pain.”
Bringing a loved one, friend or doula for continuous support.
The old adage of “it takes a village to raise a child” also holds true for birth. Genuine and loving support can have a huge influence on the duration, pain management and enjoyment of birth.
Jenny of Conscientious Confusion looked to her husband for support:
“He was always encouraging me and reminding me to breathe calmly and relax. Every time I did that, it helped so much. … When I was pushing, he was right behind me, pushing right along with me. It was so helpful to see him concentrating just as hard as I was, and he was always there with a cool washcloth.”
Marianne at Two Bee Birth Services said of her third birth:
“…this has definitely been the quickest, easiest recovery. Although it was a very hard delivery, with the help of my husband and [my doulas] Kate and Claire, I had a successful, unmedicated VBAC.”
Avoiding interventions that are not medically necessary.
Did you know that many of the routine hospital procedures during birth aren’t always medically necessary? Get to know these procedures and learn when they are and are not needed.
Armed with intervention research, Marianne at Two Bee Birth Services commented:
“The hospital staff was wonderful and they honored my request to have no IV and limited monitoring.”
Tricia of The Planet Pink spent her labor with a hep lock, a device (usually inserted on the back of your hand) that provides access to hook up an IV line if it is needed. This allows you to labor without being tethered to an IV.
Avoiding giving birth on your back and following your body’s urges to push.
The standard image of birth in a U.S. hospital is of a woman giving birth on her back, legs pulled back and someone coaching, “Now, bear down and push! 1, 2, 3, 4….” Not surprisingly, the purple-faced, flat-back pushing is not effective.
Patty Reis, a mother who e-mailed her birth story for the carnival, writes about pushing:
“[The nurse] announced that I was complete and could push whenever I felt like it. Well, all I understood at that point — and you have to remember, there’s no blood circulation to the educated brain at this point; it’s all in the uterus, where it should be – was that something was wrong with me because I didn’t have any feeling to push. So I announced it. The nurse quieted me and told me the baby would come out whether I pushed or not. Well, I was sure relieved about that!”
Keeping mother and baby together after birth.
There are so many documented benefits to keeping mother and baby together, skin-to-skin, immediately after birth, and yet, so many hospitals separate the pair shortly after birth. As long as mother and baby are healthy, exams, weight and measurement, and bathing can be put off until later.
Jenny of Conscientious Confusion, who was at a birthing center, had a similar experience:
“After the birth, they did not remove Little Sir from my chest for a hour or more — all the checks and tests were done there on my chest and I was able to breastfeed as soon as Little Sir was able to figure it out, with [my husband] right there the whole time.”
Sheryl of Little Snowflakes describes her post-birth scenario:
“Benjamin stayed on my chest for the first hour of his life. He latched on like a pro within minutes and I fed him on and off for that first hour. It was so incredible that he just knew what to do. My midwives knew that it was really important to me to have that first hour of skin-to-skin and waited to do the newborn exams.”
And for some parting advice? Kristine writes at Mother’s Advocate:
“Bring goodwill with you. Believe that everyone helping you in the hospital, from the front desk to the checkout desk, is there because they genuinely, honestly want to help people — you included. The labor and delivery wing of a hospital is almost always the happiest part of the whole place, and for a good reason! Know that even if the technician who straps on your name band is grumpy at the moment, he or she entered the profession to help you. And be flexible! No one can predict the course of their labor before it happens. No one. If you find your labor going down a path you didn’t anticipate, breathe and discuss everything you want to with your provider.”
Thank you to all who participated in our first birth blog carnival of 2011! Your healthy birth stories will help inspire, inform and demonstrate to women that positive, safe and healthy birth experiences are possible.
Be sure to visit Science & Sensibility for other posts in this birth blog carnival!