Get a group of women together at a baby shower and without a doubt the conversation will lead to sharing their own birthing experiences. Some will tell the horror stories of hours or even days of painful labor. Some will even recount how they ultimately were persuaded to have a cesarean, allegedly “in the best interest of the baby.” What you may not realize is that majority of birth experiences are much more joyful than scary and that those who are prepared both mentally and physically are more likely to have the most wonderful experience of their lifetime.
With a little education you can look forward to this special time with excited anticipation. Studies have shown that a doula can help achieve your goals for a natural and stress-free birthing experience with their continuous physical, emotional and informational support during labor and delivery. Here are some simple tips to follow:
Tip #1: Choose a supportive practitioner. Make sure you spend some time interviewing your doctor. The clearer you are about what kind of birthing experience you’d like, the more you can choose someone who will support your vision. Midwives usually are more supportive of a natural birth. Ask for recommendations. Most doulas have a list of supportive doctors and midwives.
Tip #2: Don’t listen to or read about what goes wrong. Make it a priority to hear about other families’ joyful experiences. I encourage my clients to call all of my references and hear the stories of their experiences and the difference it makes to be well prepared.
Tip #3: Write a birth plan. Remember when you get to the hospital your doctor will only be there once you are ready to push. Make sure the nurses know what your wishes are and what you have discussed with your care provider. Write a birth plan that is clear, concise and gentle. A doula can help you with content and tone. Too strict of a birth plan can risk angering the hospital staff.
Tip #4: Choose pain-management techniques that work for you. What helps you relax? Is it hypnosis, massage, music? Before you ride the labor waves, be prepared practice with your partner or doula different positions, breathing techniques, and rituals you will be doing during each contraction. Knowing what you can do during a contraction will help you manage it.
Tip # 5: Stay on your feet. The baby has to make his way down your uterus through the birth canal and out your vagina, keep walking because sick, weak people are the ones who need to be in bed. Try to think of yourself as a client, using a service, not a patient. Keep upright and keep walking, so you feel freedom to move and not confinement.
Tip #6: Don’t go to the hospital too early. Wait until labor is intense and closer than five minutes apart. Arriving at the hospital too early may make the doctors want to speed up or induce labor. A doula will often meet you at home. Her encouragement and support during the beginning labor process as well as delivery will make you more comfortable at home for a longer period of time.
Tip #7: Be free to move about during labor. Unless there is a medical emergency, request a heplock (which is an IV site with a cap on it) instead of the complete IV. Keep yourself free to move as you feel necessary during labor. An IV in a hospital will limit the natural movements that make labor easier to work through.
Tip #8: Change positions. No one can manage the pressure of labor lying down. That is probably why many women today choose an epidural once they get to the hospital. Remember a labor wave on average lasts but one minute, and that is all you have to manage at one time. Do what you need to do to ride it: walk, squat, slow dance. Have your partner or a doula help you. A birth coach can help you with breathing and provides support during the entire labor, making the process go smoothly while you feel more comfortable.
Tip #9: Let gravity work for you. Lying down during labor and delivery is unnatural and goes against the laws of gravity. Practice before birth the many positions that are suited for pushing the baby out. A doula can show you appropriate breathing and pushing techniques, so you can find some that are the most comfortable for you.
Tip #10: Let your voice be heard. Making guttural noises right from the core of your gut helps with relaxation and allows you to express yourself freely during this emotionally exhilarating experience.