Birth advice from my doula

2 Feb

I asked my ‘doula’ who has been wonderful in helping get my mind right for birth and establishing my breast feeding to write a piece on her thoughts on birth. Its always great to hear views from a person with medical knowledge, after all they are always working with pregnant women and seeing firsthand the different ways women deal with labour. Hope her tips and thoughts help.

‘I feel it is so important for women to gain as much knowledge as possible during their pregnancy. Choose some good books such as those Heather has recommended. Be careful about who you talk to in detail about labour and delivery – other women love to repeat their ‘horror stories’ and whilst every woman deserves to be able to ‘tell their story’ it will only instil fear into you if this is your first experience of birth. It certainly seems that women are beginning to realise that they can choose the birth they would like to have and have input into their labour and birth experience. Tailor your birth experience to your own specific needs and don’t be confined by others. Obviously everyone, professional or otherwise wants a safe delivery for both mother and baby but sometimes it is easy to go along with what others think you should do rather than what you feel you want and need, which is why it is so important to be able to make informed choices.

Remember that the midwifery service is there to help and assist you bringing new life into the world but you are the one ultimately in control of your birth experience. Think about all aspects, think about what things you need to have in place to make you feel as safe and relaxed as possible. Labour and birth can be a really positive and beautiful experience but many women look upon it as just something to endure which is going to be extremely painful.

The key is to listen to your own body and I would advise putting your books away for the last month of pregnancy to enable you to do that. Learn some relaxation techniques, go to classes if you can find some good ones near you. If you watch programmes like ‘One Born Every Minute’ notice which women have a less easy time, it is usually those who are very fearful or have had a previously negative experience in labour and birth or those who don’t move around much. You don’t have to be super human to be able to cope with the pain of labour. They key is being calm and relaxed enough to allow more of your body’s natural ‘pain-relieving hormones’ to build up and then there will be less adrenalin. Adrenalin prevents the natural build up of the endorphins (relaxing hormone) and oxytocin (the contracting hormone). You will then cope with the contractions more easily. Over stimulation of our brains also inhibits those ‘good’ hormones which is why the environment you labour in is important. Keep lights low, have as few people observing you as possible and ask that questions are directed at your birth partner rather than you when in established labour. Keeping upright and moving around as much as possible and is practicable also helps, as does getting into water. We all love a nice deep bath to help us to relax when we have had a stressful day and it is no different in labour.

Skin-to-skin contact with your baby immediately after birth is also extremely important as your baby’s adrenalin levels are also their highest at the point of birth and this helps to reduce that as well as encourages that first feed. Skin-to-skin needs to be for a minimum of 30 mins though, more if possible. Let your new baby have lots of skin-to-skin with Mum & Dad in the first few days and this will help to build up that special bond. These are really precious days’.

Joanne Dunbar

Thanks Jo for writing this, you are an amazing woman and the work you do for others goes far beyond you realize.

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