Sure, as a postpartum doula, my usual area of interest is what happens AFTER baby is born. My job is a lot easier, however, if best practices are followed BEFORE the birth.These practices were originally put together back in 2004 and they’re still true for many births today; maybe even more than ever.
The bottom line with all of the practices suggested is that birth is a very natural process. Avoiding unnecessary medical intervention should be a priority. What a person or doctor considers to be ‘necessary’ will vary—for example, do you consider an epidural to be essential? Many women would say yes!
These best practices are also a guideline and by no means hard and fast ‘rules’. What you do or how you choose to proceed with your birth plan is entirely a matter between you and your physician / midwife. Ultimately, you want to be as comfortable and free of fear as you can be: it’s better for you and it’s better for the baby.
Let labor begin naturally
If you can begin labor naturally, without medical assistance, that’s ideal. Induction, unless medically necessary to preserve the health of mom or baby, creates a harder labor and in fact tends to bring with it even more medical intervention, as the labor progresses.
Sure, you’re excited to see your new arrival, and you’re probably pretty uncomfortably physically, if you’ve passed your due date. But remember that due dates are only an estimation and shouldn’t be taken too literally.
Don’t sit still during labor
There are two reasons for this: it helps the baby to position itself in the birth canal and it goes some way to alleviating the pain of contractions. There is evidence to suggest that changing positions and walking around can shorten labor, help with some of the pain during contractions and is all around effective at decreasing complications, like tears and excessive bleeding.
Have support during your labor
Whether your spouse or a family member, your best friend or a labor doula, having someone with you to encourage and support you is essential. Having someone by your side makes it easier to deal with any eventualities. You aren’t alone and you’re not having to process medical information by yourself at a time when thinking clearly might not be top of your mind!
Having a labor and delivery doula with you has one distinct advantage of your ‘prone to fainting’ spouse: experience. She will have a wealth of knowledge about labor and births, which can be very reassuring particularly if you are having your baby in hospital, surrounded by the medical infrastructure.
Try and avoid unnecessary medical interventions
This is a tough one: the doctor says you need something and, since you don’t have a medical degree, how do you disagree with him or her? Having a birth plan will certainly help, so that the entire medical team is aware of your wishes.
Do your research on the benefits and risks of epidurals and other interventions and decide for yourself what you feel comfortable with. A natural birth is a lovely notion but it’s not for everyone. You should NEVER feel guilty for wanting an intervention that will make the birth process more comfortable and reduce your stress and fear.
Lying down during delivery
This is, by all accounts, done for the benefit of the medical team attending you. It’s not, however, an ideal position for birth. Squatting, sitting or lying on your side are more natural positions that will better place the baby into the birth canal, stretch the pelvic area more naturally and can help avoid excess tearing and procedures like episiotomies. It has also been proven to shorten this phase of the delivery, something that we can all agree is a good thing!
Skin to skin right away
Heart rate, respiration and other vital signs are more stable in babies that are kept with their mothers immediately following the birth. It’s actually good for you too! Unless there is a definite medical reason to remove the baby, the best thing is to keep mom and baby close together, as much as possible, in those hours following the birth. Blood tests and other routine medical work can be done all while keeping baby skin-to-skin, so it’s worth insisting on it.
Like I said a the beginning, all of these best practices are just that. They’re not hard and fast rules and you should not feel guilty if your birth plan goes off script and ends up differently. You will be fine and your baby will be fine. Have the care you need before, during and after the birth to ensure that it’s a positive experience for everyone!