Giving Birth

The thought of giving birth can be very daunting for many women. If it is your first pregnancy, the thought of giving birth can be quite overwhelming. If your first or subsequent births did not go to plan, you may also be feeling anxious.

Our perceptions of labour and birth are often shaped by the media, where the event is often represented as dramatic, traumatic and stressful. But more often than not, this is not the case.

We are also influenced by our peers and family and every mother has a birth story, which they often want to share. You will probably be no different, as the experience of giving birth is often profound and will shape the person that you are long after the event. While occasionally births are traumatic and stressful, it is more often a positive and empowering experience for both the mother and the father.

Birth Education

Being informed and aware of the stages of pregnancy and labour will enhance the experience for you. It is only when things happen that you do not expect that it can become frightening. Once you are fully informed and aware of the different scenarios that most frequently unfold during labour and birth, you will be better placed to have a positive birth experience.

During your pregnancy, you should try to:

  • Read as many books and websites on pregnancy and birth as you can. Ask your care-giver to recommend the best options.
  • Watch some videos of women giving birth, or a documentary such as “One Born Every Minute”. Youtube is a good resource but be discerning about what you watch. Again, your care-give may be able to recommend something suitable.
  • Take childbirth education classes through the hospital where you will give birth, or midwife who is looking after you.
  • Speak to close friends and discuss the options that they found worked for them.  (This should be a positive discussion, rather than a laundry list of everything that was no good for them!)

You need to consider all possible options, for example if a natural birth resonates with you, investigate natural forms of pain relief and breathing techniques to help you manage the intensity of labour and contractions. You should also research a water birth or a home birth.

If you are filled with fear at the prospect of the possible pain that awaits you, explore all possible avenues to have your pain completely managed so when you go in to labour you can be confident that your pain will be brought under control.

The important thing is that you investigate all possible options, and understand also that sometimes a birth will unfold in its own way, and there is no guarantee that your ideal birth scenario is what you will experience.

Before giving birth, it is also important to understand what labour actually entails. You should read about the stages of labour, and the signs of impending labour, leading up to it so that you will be fully prepared when it happens. That way you will be far more emotionally and physically prepared.

Other Tools in Birth Planning

It is worth drawing up a comprehensive birth plan. This is essentially a list of instructions for the hospital you have chosen to go to or to the midwife looking after you. It explains your approach (natural or managed), the methods of pain relief that you want, whether you prefer to give birth alone or be accompanied by your husband, friend, or doula, and any other specific requirements that you may have.

Some things you may want to outline in your birth plan are:

  • that you want a water birth or access to a shower or beanbags
  • to have music playing softly in the background
  • that you want access to certain pain relief
  • or you definitely do not want to take pain relief
  • that you want to avoid a c-section
  • you are hoping for a VBAC
  • that you only want your partner in the room, or your mother or best friend.

The birth plan is where you express things that are specific to the experience that you want to have. It is not a contract between your doctor / midwife and you, and ultimately the safety of you and your baby is what will guide the people looking after you. But it can be a useful tool in managing the type of labour and birth you would like to have.

If you have a very strong and real fear of childbirth that is preventing you from feeling relaxed, you may find it useful to see a counsellor or therapist. There is nothing wrong with getting professional guidance in this situation, and it will only help you. Not dealing with these feeling could impact your labour and birth in a negative way so it is important to manage these feelings.

It is worth reminding yourself that labour and birth can be one of the most positive experiences of your life. Giving life to another human being is a profound and empowering experience. If you embrace this perspective, regardless of what unfolds on the day you give birth, you will be better placed for a positive birth experience.

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