Birth is one of those things that you can’t really control and it is a bit different for everyone. However, there are a few simple things you can do to help tip the odds in your favor of having a healthy and happy birth.
1. Pick a great care provider. I put this as NUMBER ONE for a reason. The biggest predictor of whether a woman will have a cesarean section or a vaginal delivery depends very little on her risk or even her preferences, but rather which care provider she chooses. Is that surprising? You might have thought it was based on how your pregnancy goes or your age but those factors are much less important than who your provider is. How can you pick a great provider? Check out cesarean rates from organizations like Consumer Reports, ask your potential care providers under what circumstances they perform cesareans, or how often they suggest procedures that increase the risk of surgical delivery. Ask your friends about their deliveries…not how they like the food at their hospital…but how the birth went. Call a local doula, childbirth educator, or labor and delivery nurse. They know. Finally, if you are in the DFW area, just make an appointment with Dr. Weinstein and rest assured he is very capable of performing surgery when it is the best interested of you or your baby, but otherwise will do everything possible to help you have a healthy vaginal delivery and respect your wishes during labor.
2. Get educated on your options. The phrase ‘you don’t have many options if you don’t know what they are’ has never been truer than when dealing with pregnancy and birth. Walking into a Labor and Delivery room without educating yourself on your options is like going to a restaurant with no idea what is on the menu. Educating yourself can come in the form of taking a great childbirth class, reading books about birth, hiring a doula or talking with others who have been there done that. Do you want constant or intermittent monitoring…or maybe even telemetry monitoring? Do you want an epidural, IV meds and if so when do you want them in labor? Maybe you want to have a natural birth and need to know how to do best accomplish that goal. Will you be asking for a saline lock or IV fluids? Do you need to bring your own birth ball or does the hospital have one available for your use? You have lots of options, find out what they are.
3. Wait for Labor (especially if this is your first baby). Sometimes a baby is healthier in mom’s arms than her belly, but if you and baby are doing great it is best to let the baby decide when the time is right for his arrival. When you do this, you are ensuring that your body is ready for labor and that your baby is ready for life on the outside. If you do decide that induction is the right choice for you, consider waiting until your body is showing some signs of readiness. Talk to your care provider about your Bishop’s score and the readiness of your cervix for labor. If you have had a prior vaginal birth, you will probably do great with an induction, however when women who have not given birth previously are induced it can increase their chances of needing a cesarean delivery and it may make for a very long labor day.
4. Hire a Doula. Yes, I am a doula so of course, I am going to say that, but the research backs up my opinion. Women who use doulas have more satisfaction with their birth experience, higher breastfeeding rates, their babies have lower rates of admission to the NICU and they have a reduced risk of having a cesarean section (read the research here). Doulas do all this while making you and your partner feel supported and confident in your choices (whatever they may be) and while giving you an awesome massage. Get one!
Follow these four tips and you will be on your way to having a great birth, no matter what actually happens during your birth. Women that feel empowered and supported during their birth gain long term health benefits and improved relationship with their new infant. The effects of a positive birth can last a lifetime!
Maria Pokluda has been a doula serving expecting families in Dallas and Ft. Worth since 2008 and has helped hundreds of families have happy birthdays. Maria was voted “Best Doula” by DFW Child the past three years and has a special passion for helping couples achieve VBACs. In 2011, Maria co-created the Birth Boot Camp DOULA certification program. You can find information about Maria’s services or read her blog at greatexpectationsbirth.com.