Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Have Yourself a Good Birth

So, my intended birth post. I was fortunate enough to have a satsfying birth experience with Cave Baby. If a woman has a straightforward birth we tend to think she was lucky. But if a woman who ate unhealthily, took no exercise, knew nothing about childbirth and never did pelvic floor exercises had a bad experience of birth, would anyone be that surprised? Preparing well for birth has to have some bearing on the outcome, even it is only 5% compared to 95% good genes and good luck.

Some women are obviously blessed with bodies that are great at birthing babies, and some babies are great at getting themselves in the perfect position for birth. But no matter what cards you are dealt, you must be able to slightly increase your chances of having a straightforward birth. Consider the philosophy of the British Cycling team who won so many gold medals at the 2008 Olympics: they do everything possible, within the rules, to improve their performance. They do nutrition right, they do training right, they take food supplements, they do rest right. They hope that if a competitor neglects to take just one of the measures that British Cycling take, then they will have a tiny advantage over that competitor. What I am trying to say is that by taking lots of small preparatory measures you may be able to make a small difference to your experience on the big day - but that small difference could mean a normal vaginal birth instead of a ventouse delivery, for example.

So here are some ideas that I used last time around, and will use again if I have another baby:

  • Eat a healthy balanced diet throughout pregnancy. This is pretty obvious advice but there is a trend for women who eat really fatty diets to have overly large babies so it is definitely worth being careful about what you eat (I am not talking about dieting).

  • Take moderate exercise throughout pregnancy, without pushing yourself too hard. A certain amount of endurance is definitely advantageous during labour so gentle exercise like walking and swimming has to be a good idea during pregnancy. If in doubt, refer to the "what would a cavewoman do?" test. I doubt cavewomen spent 9 months sitting around their cave - food gathering and housework (or should that be cavework) would certainly still need to be done.

  • Plan a birth that you feel happy about. If you want a home birth, press for one. If you want a hospital birth, visit the hospital to check it out. Research your options for pain relief. Find out about positions for labour and birth. Write a birth plan and make sure your birth partner understands it. It may not (actually, probably will not) turn out as you had planned but you need to feel confident about the upcoming birth and to pass on those good vibes to your baby.

  • In the third trimester, be aware of the position of your baby. Read about belly mapping and use the knowledge to keep a mental note of where you think baby is lying in your tummy. There are things you can do to help your baby to get into, and stay in, the ideal position (this is called Optimal Foetal Positioning). Sit up, crawl on your hands and knees or swim front crawl to get baby to face your back. There are even things you can do to help a breech baby to turn upside-down (doing surface dives in the swimming pool is my personal favourite suggestion). There is loads of information on the Spinning Babies website.

  • Drink raspberry leaf tea. Nobody really knows if it genuinely does tone up your uterus, but it can't do you any harm when taken in the third trimester. It is nice with a bit of sugar in it, or chilled with sugar and lemon as an iced tea. Start with one cup a day and build up to three or four.

  • Surround yourself with supportive people who help you to feel confident that you can do it. Read some nice birth stories. If anybody close to you has a bad attitude towards natural birth then make that topic off-limits for a while.

  • Some people swear by perineal massage. This is not somethiing I fancy but you never know, it might help to reduce tearing when the baby is born.

  • Practice some kind of relaxation for use during birth - but don't get obsessed with it. Some people go the whole hog and learn self-hypnosis whilst others manage perfectly well with a bit of self-taught deep breathing. Personally I think it's mainly instinctive and you will manage best by feeling calm and confident inside, not by the use of any particular technique. But that is just my perspective.

Once again, I know that birth is unpredictable. But when I was expecting Cave Baby, I couldn't help wanting to do whatever was in my power to help myself to have my version of a "good birth", and this list was the result of my reading. If you are preparing for childbirth I hope there might be something in here that helps you. And if you have any ideas that have worked for you please tell me!

1 comment:

Liz said...

I found 'pelvic mapping' useful with my youngest, which really helped me to get the idea of the shape of my own particular pelvis and learn positions that opened it up as much as possible.

However, I have to say that I also think preparing and planning too much can be counter-productive because it leads you to think you can control things which you can't and can lead you to feel you've 'failed' if things don't go the way you'd planned.

Other things which helped me were going deep inside myself - I couldn't bear anyone to touch me or talk to me in labour as it broke the spell and then I found it hard to cope. Deep, yoga-style breathing helped me too - as you said, this was nothing I had learnt for the birth specifically (although I had done yoga for 6 or 7 years in a general way), but it came instinctively to me at the time and really helped.