Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond: My advice to new moms PART 1

Pregnancy and birth is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  Having children has profoundly changed me in so many ways.  I have also learned so much (the hard way) since I've become a mother.  I could elaborate all day but most people aren't going to read it so instead, here's a short list I've compiled of things I wish I had known so maybe you can avoid some common pitfalls.  The first three are general rules of thumb to set the framework for a healthy experience and the remaining are more specific.

*Disclaimer - I have had a hospital birth with an OB that included induction and epidural and a natural birth at home with a midwife.  I do not advocate that my way is the only right way.  I want women to make informed decisions and give birth where and with whom they feel safe. The views below are my own with resources are below.*

1. Consider the source - When someone gives you advice they are usually well meaning but not always qualified to dispense the advice. Trust the experts but not blindly.  Do the research and consider your instincts and your child. 

2. Pick your care provider carefully - Find a Dr or midwife you can connect with and trust.  Really research the statistics of safety and interventions for that care provider.  A midwife (in TX) is required to provide those statistics up front.  If your instincts are telling you your provider is not a good fit, do both of you a favor and switch.

3.  Accept responsibility - As tempting as it may be to relinquish your care into the hands of "the experts" you need to be responsible for your own health.  You can get opinions from others but ultimately you must decide what to do.  Its easier to live with the choices you make than the choices you let others make for you especially if things don't go well.  Put on your big girl panties and get the information you need to make the right decisions for you and your baby.

3. Do the research - Experts are people too and can and do make mistakes.  Do not assume any procedure done on you is in your best interest.  Do not assume that your Dr knows what you want without first discussing it. For example, two common procedures that cause more harm than good are immediate cord clamping and episiotomy (1).  Both of these are still routinely done on women and infants without scientific evidence and without consent. These are not the only procedures in this category nor are they the most dangerous or damaging.  A good place to start your research is Henci Goer's book, The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth

4. What you eat matters - What you eat when pregnant really matters and has far reaching health consequences for you and your baby.  Many pregnancy complications can be prevented by careful attention to diet yet most women under OB care are never counseled or referred to a nutritionist.  My personal pregnancy experiences and birth were vastly different when I became aware of this.  A good place to start is, Dr. Brewer's Pregnancy Diet

5. Exercise -  Labor is usually physically exhausting, but it will be smoother if you train for it.  Do as much physical activity as you can during pregnancy.  You will feel better and you won't swell as much.  Do specific exercises like pelvic rocks, squats and tailor sitting to prepare your body for labor and proactively move the baby into optimal position for late pregnancy.
6. Nap - Sleep as much as you can when you can and don't feel guilty for it.  Manufacturing a human is hard work!

7. Know your baby - Take the time to ask your care provider how to tell what position your baby is in.  You should be able to tell what your baby is doing with a little practice.  Once you have this mastered you can do exercises to ensure your baby will stay in a position that will make labor easier. (6)  Talk daily and connect with your baby.  You will be working as a team when the big day gets here.

8.  Natural childbirth - You may be under the impression that women who chose to have a baby naturally are macho masochists.  I know I thought that at one time.  What is the big deal?  What so wrong with an epidural?  Once again I found out the hard way.  It turns out the epidural has side effects that nobody told me about! (2)  After having a baby naturally I would never again chose an epidural.  Most women who have had both kinds of birth also prefer natural.  Does that surprise you?

9. Be prepared - If you do chose to go natural, don't assume it will just happen.  The hospital system is not set up to support a natural birth.  You must be determined and prepared.  I would recommend a Bradley Class(3) or Hypnobabies(4) class.  If you are planning on an epidural, remember that they do not always work or you may have a precipitous labor and not be able to have one.  I would prepare for a natural birth/unassisted childbirth in either case.

10.  Consider a Doula - A doula?  Seriously?  That is what my husband is for!  Ok, well that is what the Dr and nurses are for then.  What came a a shock to me was that my Dr was NOT there until the last 20 minutes of the birth and the nurses were busy and also NOT there for me.  It was just me and my husband all alone without knowing what to do.  Turns out expecting a husband to know when/how to support you is asking too much of someone who is probably just as inexperienced as you are.  A doula will take the pressure off of your husband and will bring knowledge that will make your birth go better.  Studies have shown that having a doula as a member of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin by 40% and requests for an epidural by 60% (5).  Don't leave it to chance that you will have a good nurse who will support and spend time with you.  The nurses work for the hospital, not you. 

11. Eat - If you have a long labor you will probably get hungry.  You can eat if you need to and you don't need permission.

12.  Let go - There are many things in labor you cannot control. If you've done your homework, taken care of yourself and prepared as diligently as you can then it is time to surrender to the process and ride it out.  Labor is not the place for fear and anxiety - this is why I'm stressing mental and physical preparation before D-day.  Birth is as safe as life is. Women were made to give birth and you can do it.  Pray for peace and guidance from God and he will be there to help you out.  Enjoy your birth!

Stay tuned for PART 2 - Breastfeeding

1. http://pregnancy.cochrane.org/
2. http://www.natural-pregnancy-mentor.com/epidural-side-effects.html
3. http://www.bradleybirth.com/
4. www.hypnobabies.com
5. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/labornbirth/havingadoula.html
6. http://www.spinningbabies.com/


  1. Great post, April! I hope some newly pregnant moms read this and get inspired.

    1. Thanks Rachel! You inspired me first (babies, books and blogging)! You are a wonderful Bradley teacher and I'm sure your Doula skills are just as impressive.

  2. All of these things roll around in my brain constantly. I love reading about pregnancy and birth and am so thankful I was encouraged to educate myself by my midwife. Not everyone is open to considering other options, but I love talking about this with people who are. I do believe every woman has a choice- interventions, cesarean or natural- and I'm thankful for the doctors, hospitals and interventions available when necessary. But "necessary" is definitely debatable! My midwife told me yesterday sometimes she turns clients away because she can tell they are too scared to have a home or birth center birth, and that fear sets them up for failure. I literally prayed that God will help me clear my mind before labor and that He would not allow fearful thoughts to enter my mind- and they didn't! As intense and challenging as my birth experience was, it was beautiful!
    I read Ehren's birth story several times when I was pregnant- it was so empowering! I thought daily of two things you told me in a facebook message when I was pregnant:
    1. When I need a snack, eat peanut butter.
    2. when I'm sleepy, sleep.
    I definitely did both of those often!! Thank you for your encouragement!!


    1. Awww! Julia I just love you! I know what you mean. There are a lot of people that would just rather not know. I was so glad you wanted to know my experiences and I could help you! I think your midwife is very wise to turn down the people who aren't really committed. Mine does something similar and requires a Bradley class and I think the clients who won't take it show their level of commitment. Now, about the peanut butter... maybe we overdid it because we both had giant babies LOL!

    2. Haha! That's one thing I loved about your birth story. I knew Canaan would be big- I was born 8 lb 14 oz and Trevor was 9 lb 5 oz. It was so comforting to know even giant babies can be born naturally!
      My midwife invited Canaan and me to speak to some high school classes yesterday about natural birth. My midwife has been doing that for 12 years just to expose them to an alternative to hospital birth. Out of 3 full classes, none of the kids had ever heard of not going to the hospital. It was so fun!
      Also, I asked her to give my email address to any of her clients who may want to have a bible study about God's plan for mothers, and she instead invited me to give a bible study to a group at the birth center in a couple of weeks! I'm really excited about it!
      Canaan's birth continues to bless my life over and over!

    3. I'm so happy for you Julia! That is so wonderful to be able to lead a bible study with other moms. Keep me updated on how it goes. You should blog about your adventures.

  3. Reading this really makes me wonder about Lily's birth story and what you thought went wrong with it.

    I had Capri in the hospital and I had an epidural. I never really considered any other option or researched anything because I see myself as weak and having a very low tolerance for pain. I actually had a lot of complications with my episiotomy after going home from the hospital which I think added to my post pardom depression. (Not a great birth story at all).

    Now we are trying to get pregnant again (going on 8 months) and I'm really scared to go through labor again. I am definitely going to do more research this time and check out the links you posted.