Having a baby can tell a woman a lot about herself that she previously did not know. Like the strength of her endurance, the magnificence of her body, and yes, the fact that there exists an occasion where she will not give a hoot who sees her in the most private of body positions. I strongly encourage pregnant women to embrace this truly magical time, a time when their own soul allows the entrance of another into this world. The following is a list of the five things I advise every expectant couple to know.
1. Understand what is happening.
Pregnancy is a time when you should be educating herself on the many wondrous changes your body and that of your unborn baby undergoes. You and your partner should learn about the course of childbirth, what birthing choices are available to you, and what to expect in both a normal delivery and one that requires medical intervention. Know what can be expected for your particular prenatal health status and draw up a birthing plan based on your educated wishes. But please remember, a birth plan is a list of wishes for your birthing experience. Changes in your, or your baby's, health status may necessitate having an entirely different birth than what you initially wanted, and being prepared will put you in a position to better cope. Sign up for childbirth preparation courses and tour the birthing facility before the big day approaches.
2. Learn various options available for pain management.
Epidurals, though very common, are not without risks. Low blood pressure, slowing of your baby's heart rate, back pain, severe headache, and seizures are all associated with administration of epidural anesthesia. The inability to recognize the natural urge to push your baby out is also a side effect of it. Water birthing is a marvelous birthing option which has been shown to be as effective as an epidural for pain control. Acupuncture, Reiki, and even hypnosis can also assist in obtaining effective pain management. Research these wonderful options, you owe it to yourself and your baby.
3. Avoid becoming submissive.
I strongly urge expectant parents to take an active role in their birth experience while discouraging submissiveness. So many times I have seen couples surrender their experience to the authority of their well-meaning, but very occupied, physician. What you need to know is that you must work to make the birthing experience your own.
No matter how caring the physician is she has a ton of other responsibilities she must be mindful of while attending to your birth. Many of the procedures she orders are routine and quite possibly can be negotiated in terms of your vision for your individual birthing experience. Say for example, you prefer to not have intravenous fluids during birth because you desire to walk about unencumbered by an I.V. pole.
Intravenous fluids are often routinely ordered, not so much because the birthing woman is at risk for dehydration, but to ensure easy access for medication administration via I.V. route should the need arise. Your physician may agree to only having intravenous access by the use of a saline-lock, an I.V. catheter inserted and taped to your arm but not hooked up to the tubing and bags. If the course of the pregnancy has been uncomplicated there is no reason why laboring couples cannot experience the birth of their child without medical intrusion.
4. Consider a Midwife.
Certified midwives are skilled and competent clinicians who advocate non-intervention in the normal processes of pregnancy and childbirth. These caring practitioners encourage active participation of their patients and their families as well as providing education, emotional, and social support throughout the childbearing experience. Always working with a physician as a back up measure in the event of an obstetrical emergency, the certified midwife is a safe, highly satisfying alternative to an M.D. for normal pregnancies.
5. Consider expert support during labor.
Doulas and labor support specialists, like myself, are also a very nice option for the birthing woman. We are certified professionals who work to improve the normal progress of your labor. We provide emotional support and use various comfort measures such as positioning, massage, and effective relaxation techniques during this momentous time. Having this type of assistance for pregnant women has been proven to reduce the need of medical intervention. Ask anyone who's had a doula during their birthing experience and more than likely you'll hear raves.