Find Out Tips To Make Labor And Delivery As Stress-Free As Possible.

You know what it takes to get pregnant, and that at some point you’ll be caring for a newborn.  But, it’s the step in between—GIVING BIRTH—that can include shocking, scary, or simply funny experiences that moms-to-be don’t always know they’ve signed up for. Here’s what you need to know about birthing your baby into this world from experts who have seen it all.
By Amy Levine

Let a doula help you to manage your birth
We hire help for everything these days from taking care of our pets to running our household.  So, why not have someone advocate on your behalf and provide support when you're in labor? Whether you're having a hospital or home birth, doulas enable you to be present in your birthing process and not get bogged down by details around you. 

"We're there to calmly coach you through it, help you relax so you can focus on your breathing and stay with your rhythm in birth, provide the right listening and counterpressure, and hopefully predict your needs before you have to vocalize them," says Shana Teitelbaum a New York City based birth doula. In cases where a more medicalized route needs to happen, Shana says "the doula is there to further inform the parents-to-be of the situation and the options so that they can ask the right questions of the medical staff.  It's important they feel like they have all the information and are making the best decisions for themselves, rather than feel like they're at the mercy of the system.  Of course, in case of an emergency situation the medical staff steps in, healthy mother and healthy baby first and foremost." 

Some couples track down a doula after the first trimester, and others later in their pregnancy—possibly even last minute. Find someone you're comfortable with and who takes an interest in your pregnancy, someone who is familiar with the birth process, reassures you and guides you.  Another payoff: The doula is also there to alleviate your partner—the other half that will need to get some rest.

Find an acupuncturist before your due date
Some babies are upside down in the womb, known as breech presentation.  If this happens to you, chances are your baby will turn on her own before you go into labor.  If not, she will likely need to be turned around beforehand.  As these days, docs usually intervene with a C-section. If you want to help turn your baby so you can deliver vaginally, acupuncture is a great option.

"Usually, the acupuncturist gently inserts a thin needle on the outside of both pinky toes. While the needle is present, or once it's removed, the site is warmed up with a technique called Moxibustion.  Essentially, it's a small amount of mugwort lit by an incense stick.  The skin will get quite warm, but if done properly won’t blister or damage the skin.  The treatment takes about 15 minutes and can be done once or twice a day until there is enough fetal movement that the baby properly repositions herself and stays there.  The process is usually done between the 34th and 36th week and can take about a week."  says Stephen Cohen, MS, LAc, a licensed acupuncturist and founder of AXIOM Acupuncture.

Acupuncture can also be used to induce labor.  Induction can be needed for a variety of reasons including a mom's medical condition, concerns about the baby, or being seven or more days past your due date. "There might be a few acupuncture treatments needed to coerce the delivery, but it can be very effective.  There are several acupuncture points on the hands, shoulders, legs and feet that have been used for millennia to help induce labor.  The needles are gently inserted and sometimes manipulated until there is an achy feeling where the needle enters the skin.  Then the needles stay in that position for about 15 to 20 minutes.  Moms-to-be should ask their acupuncturist if the procedure should take place in their office, during a home visit or the hospital, as states have different requirements," says Stephen. 

In either scenario, Stephen wants you to know it's important to talk with your health care provider before you see an acupuncturist in either scenario so that everyone is on the same page.  There have been countless research studies and case histories supporting the use of acupuncture for pregnancy related conditions.  In fact, even the World Health Organization has reported that clinical studies support the use of acupuncture for turning the fetus. 

To find a credible acupuncturist, ask your health care provider for a referral or contact the closest acupuncture college in your area.  Then confirm their license on your State's licensing website.  Call and meet the acupuncturist before you choose a practitioner to be sure you mesh.  Of course, you also want to be sure they are experienced, carry malpractice insurance, able to articulate the treatment plan, and discuss risks and benefits to you and your baby.

Episiotomies aren't as necessary as you might think
"Many women's perinea remain intact during birth.  This is especially true when the woman is well nourished, has a provider with patience and when she pushes when she has the urge to do so, rather than the sole reason being that her cervix is fully dilated," says Susanrachel Condon, a licensed Midwife and Certified Childbirth Educator. Massaging the perineum from the beginning of the ninth month throughout your pregnancy has also been clinically shown to reduce spontaneous trauma to the perineum. Susanrachel says that practicing several times a week for five to ten minutes each session has its perks. It allows your lover or birthing partner to contribute in a meaningful way, enhances communication and builds trust. Of course, you can also massage yourself so long as you can reach.
Here's how Susanrachel recommends massaging the perineum:

First, be sure the hands are washed well to prevent bacteria from entering the vagina.  Resting in a comfortable reclining position, gently insert the index and middle finger at the base of the vaginal opening up to about the first knuckle. Using a small amount of olive oil can help, because it works best to grasp and stretch the tissue and nourish it at the same time. Then, press straight down toward the rectum and hold it there until the tissue becomes a little numb from the stretch. Looking at the vaginal opening as if it were the face of a clock, apply and release pressure from 6 o'clock to 4 o'clock, back to 6 o'clock, over to 8 o'clock, back to 6 o'clock. Continuing this pattern by pressing and holding the area until the tissue softens for up to a minute at each spot.  This mimics the time of a typical contraction in real time as the baby is being born. If there are taut areas, gently roll them between the thumb, index and middle finger until they soften. Words of encouragement are a good idea, as this experience isn't necessarily pleasant, although it can potentially prevent an episiotomy.

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