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Advice About Childbirth

Some ideas to help prepare for childbirth...

1. Relax and realize that your body was designed to give birth. Women have been giving birth since the beginning. Birth is a normal process, not a medical procedure.

2. Learn about labor and childbirth by reading books and birthstories, joining e-mail lists, talking with other moms, and taking a childbirth class with your birth partner--my husband especially learned a lot at our childbirth classes.

3. Explore your options and then choose to give birth in the environment where you will feel most comfortable (a hospital, birth center, or home) and with the care provider you feel most comfortable (a doctor, certified nurse midwife, lay midwife, your husband, alone, etcetera).

4. Find out what helps you relax. Much of the pain associated with childbirth comes from being tense and afraid. I admit, with my first child, I was surprised at how much it hurt, but it felt much better when I relaxed and let my body go limp. When you relax, your body releases natural painkillers that can help you through labor.

Things like keeping your breathing under control and using different breathing techniques can help. Patterend breathing works well for some women (I was told by a childbirth educator that it works for about 20-30% of women). Natural deep breathing works well for others. Find out what you feel most comfortable with and what helps you relax the most.

Focusing on an object or just staring into space at nothing or closing your eyes are different things to try. Some women find it best if they ignore the pain as much as possible and concentrate on, for instance, patterned breathing. On the other hand, some women find it helpful to think about and be in tune with what their body is doing. Some find it helpful if they tell themselves it is pleasure rather than pain that they feel, and, believe it or not, some women actually *do* feel great pleasure in childbirth.

You may find that the intensity of labor takes you by surprise. Give relaxing techniques a chance. With my first child, I almost gave up my goal of having a natural childbirth and asked for an epidural at about 3 cm. I feel that my nurse gave me the best advice in the world when she suggested that I wait until I was farther along. Apparently, having an epidural too soon can slow down your labor. I went in the hot tub instead and had my baby in about three hours--without painkillers! I strongly encourage mothers to try laboring in water if at all possible. Since being in the water helped me to be able to relax during labor with my first child (for that reason and others), I decided to have a waterbirth with my second child.

5. Have supportive people around you during labor. Have people there who will help you and give you encouragement. Also, let those at the birth know what you like and don't like. Be honest... but be polite if possible. Consider hiring a doula, especially if you plan on having a hospital birth.

6. Listen to your instincts during labor. If you feel that you need to move into a certain position or make a certain noise or breathe a certain way, go ahead and do it. Here is a link to a wonderful article... The Instinct of Birth.

7. Give your baby the most gentle birth possible. His experience during birth and afterwards *does* matter. Babies greatly benefit from a peaceful entrance into this world. I love the book Birth Without Violence by Frederick Leboyer. It explains, among other things, the importance of waiting until the cord stops pulsating to cut the cord and having low lighting when baby is born.

8. If possible, ask to have your baby immediately placed on your tummy. This can help ease your baby's transition into this world, and it can be a very important and special time of bonding. This time was precious to me. I looked at Ellen and memorized her sweet little face. The complete joy I felt in holding my children immediately after their births--unswaddled, fresh from my womb--was amazing. Consider not wearing a shirt or a least pulling it up so your baby can have skin-to-skin contact with you and have free access to your breast.

9. Breastfeed as soon as possible after birth. The American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on breastfeeding explains that "Breastfeeding should begin as soon as possible after birth, usually within the first hour." Not only does breastfeeding help in the bonding process and help baby adjust to life outside the womb, but, according to Dr. Sears,

Colostrum provides unmatched immunity against bacteria and viruses, thus protecting vulnerable newborns from a host of diseases to which they are exposed. In addition, colostrum acts as a natural laxative to clear the meconium (first stool) from the baby's intestine, thus decreasing the chance of jaundice. Colostrum also contains the natural sugar lactose, which helps stabilize the newborn's blood sugar level, preventing hypoglycemia.
Breastfeeding will help your uterus to contract, thus helping it to return more quickly to its normal size. Breastfeeding also causes the blood vessels to constrict, which slows your bleeding and speeds the delivery of the placenta. For more about the advantages of breastfeeding, visit my breastfeeding page. For info on breastfeeding after a c-section, here is a Breastfeeding After C-Section FAQ. In it you can read other women's experiences and advice.

10. Keep your baby with you as much as you can. Have your baby stay in your room with you. Hold and nurse your baby often and consider having baby sleep in your bed.

Advice for Possibly Avoiding an Episiotomy

My husband and I practiced perineal massage on the advice of our midwife starting about 6 weeks before the due date. Get some vitamin E capsules and break them open. Lie on your back and relax and have your husband rub the oil into the perineum by inserting 2 fingers into the vagina and working in a "U" motion, using a slight stretch but nothing painful. While this is happening, concentrate on relaxing your perineal muscles and really feel the sensation of the stretch. Each night stretch a little farther. Make sure you are relaxing these muscles. We did this whenever we had the time before bed and on alternate nights I did Kegel exercises (the tightening off these muscles). The better shape the muscle is in, the better chance you have of not tearing. It by no means guarantees you will not tear or need an episiotomy, but we did this for about 6 weeks, usually 3-4 times a week, about 15 minutes a session, and I gave birth to both children (significantly, the 1st one) without an episiotomy or tearing.
~ Heather

Consider laboring and even giving birth in water.
~ Jeri

Jamie's Thoughts About Childbirth

I strongly believe in red raspberry leaf tea and the benefits of it. I also believe that most labor complications are caused because the mother walked in the hospital. I realize that home birth is not for everyone. But the study and research I have done have proven to me that the hospital is a place for sick and dying patients, not healthy mothers delivering healthy babies. Too often a complicated delivery happens because a mother is restricted in her movement due to an IV or fetal monitor, etc., her dietary intake is resticted which causes her energy to drop, and a number of other things that happen to complicate the delivery. ~ excerpted from The Birth Stories of Uriel and Mykael

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