There are lots of things that you might think of coming together to form your ideal birth scenario. When it comes to birth it doesn’t often look like the plan but there are lots of ways to help your birth progress in the best way possible.
Although a positive or good birth doesn’t need to be anything particular, it needs to be one where you felt respected, heard and able to make your own choices. But for lots of people in pregnancy the picture of birth is one of little intervention. As your pregnancy progresses it might be that things happen to make this less likely and those pictures of your birth might need some changes.
If your pregnancy has been labelled low risk you may be preparing to have your baby at home or in a midwife led unit. You could be picturing a water birth or somewhere with fairy lights, affirmations and relaxing music playing while you close your eyes and move and breathe.
What happens when the suggestion is made that you would be best birthing your baby on the labour ward or that an induction is recommended, or a caesarean section birth?
Firstly, ask the questions! Find out as much as you can so you can make a decision that you feel is right for you and your baby. Understand more about what has changed, how does it affect your birth and why are these recommendations being made. If risks and numbers are being thrown around make sure you understand and you are getting the actual numbers. Being told your risk/chance ‘doubles’ isn’t really very helpful. I would probably make a different decision if that doubling was from 10% to 20% or from 0.2% to 0.4%. Hearing that a risk is doubled is pretty scary language but ultimately it’s only you who can decide how you feel about that and you can only do it with the right information.
So don’t be afraid and don’t forget to use your BRAIN for the questions.
Once that decision is made the next thing it to work out what you can adapt and what you want to hold on to.
One thing where you can still make some choices is in the environment. Yes you might not be at home or in the home-from-home of the midwife led unit but what was it about that that you were looking forward to?
One of the most important hormones for birth is oxytocin. Oxytocin is also known as the Love Hormone because its levels are highest in your body when you feel loved. When you have all those warm and fuzzy feelings and you know you are safe and cosy. It is oxytocin that makes contractions happen and keeps your labour moving along. That is reason people opt for a home birth or a midwife led birth – you are in an environment where you can feel relaxed and comfortable.
Although you might know and believe that the hospital is the best place for you to be it doesn’t mean you are relaxed when you are there. The bright lights, the smells, the equipment, the busyness, the strangers, examinations, questions and so on and so on. They are more likely to lead to a rise in adrenaline rather than a rise in oxytocin.
And guess what? Oxytocin doesn’t respond well to adrenaline! If you are in a situation where adrenaline is high that means (in simple terms) your body is preparing to fight or flight – you are feeling unsafe or threatened or anxious. It isn’t a place your subconscious wants to birth a baby which means your labour can slow down or even stall.
It doesn’t really matter where you are having your baby you can still make the environment work for you. Lots of hospitals will have lights that can be dimmed in their birth rooms. Close the blinds and turn the lights down or off. You could bring some lighting of your own – fairy lights or battery candles – to give you that cosy feel. Or maybe you would feel better if you just shut everything out with an eye mask and your headphones.
For lots of people music can be hugely helpful. Whether you feel like you need something lively to get you moving or something to help you relax and switch off, the music can really help you find your focus and if it’s something you love listening to it will get you in your zone. Setting up a playlist and listening to it in pregnancy will help it feel familiar and you can even practice your breathing and relaxation techniques so that when the time comes you hear the music and fall into your breathing rhythm – basically what we do every week in a Birthing class!
What would make you feel relaxed at home?
Do you love a scented candle or a room spray? Bring some oil or spray you can have on a tissue (not always a good idea to spray your room in case you don’t love it quite so much in labour!).
Always sleep so much better with your own pillow? Bring it!
Visual person who needs something to focus on? Bring your affirmations or your scan photo, whatever will keep you going. If you want to use affirmations you can spend some time in pregnancy making your own, getting creative with words that work for you, or you can buy affirmations to colour yourself which can be a lovely way to prepare to meet your baby.
If your birth is going to look more medicalised than you were thinking, don’t panic. You can still bring so much with you that will make it how you pictured. Speak to your birth partner – you will want them to get the room set up for you in a way that will help you and you may need them to be your advocate and questioner.
One of the big differences between being at home or in the midwife led unit compared to the labour ward is the equipment. Labour ward will have beds in the rooms, there will be more to monitor you and baby, the equipment to help baby after birth will be more visible and it will probably just have a more medical feel to it. Depending on the reason you are there, you might want to move some of these things around. If you would prefer not to be on a bed, move it to the side and use the floor space. You can ask for a ball or mats or whatever you prefer. Talk to your midwife about monitoring and be clear if continuous monitoring will be right for you or if there are other options you can choose.
Whether you have your baby in theatre, labour ward, midwife led unit or home you will find there are things that you can still do and that can be included in your birth preferences (or plan).
Whether questions are directed to you or your partner
What positions or coping techniques you are using
What pain relief you would like
Monitoring of the baby as needed
Skin to skin after birth
Delayed cord clamping and who cuts the cord
Checking the gender of your baby
How you will feed your baby
Music and the environment you would like
And many more! If you had to change your birth plans, what did you do to adapt?
If you want to feel more prepared for birth don't forget to book your antenatal classes https://www.bethowen.uk/antenatal-classes-workshops