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