Creating a Happy Birth Day
Sep 01, 2011 11:43PM
By Louise Rachel
Learning and preplanning for labor and delivery makes expecting parents more likely to achieve the aim of every pregnancy: a really happy birth day. A healthy pregnancy, with excellent nutrition, exercise and rest, enables mom and baby to be strong and ready for labor. Books and classes explain what happens in labor and how the mother can prepare her body, and classes at a hospital can increase her familiarity and comfort with that setting, but usually they teach only what that hospital prefers or expects for mothers-to-be, which may or may not suit their needs and wishes. Independent classes can introduce additional options for birthing practices.
It is important to realize that there are two approaches to labor care that differ philosophically. One posits that technology and medication provide the best way for babies to be born safely. The alternative approach points out that more than 90 percent of births require only checking that mother and baby are okay—and that medical intervention before trouble develops may cause more problems than it solves. According to authors J. Robert Willson and Elsie Read Carrington in Obstetrics and Gynecology, “The ‘perfect’ agent [i.e., labor drug] must provide relief from pain, while it neither interferes with the progress of labor nor adds to maternal or fetal risk. Such an agent has not yet been discovered.”
Drugs can interfere with the hormones of normal labor, including endorphins and oxytocin produced inside the brain that enhance feelings of love and well-being, thereby creating a birthing experience that is ecstatic, even though painful. While labor drugs, forceps or vacuum delivery and Cesarean sections may be necessary once a problem has developed, there are reasons to question using them otherwise.
Besides staying well and learning how to give birth with no or minimal medication, parents-to-be should find out what services are provided by their birth attendant and compare them with their personal needs and preferences, then begin the process of discussing birth protocols with their doctor or midwife.
A natural birth allows labor to start on its own with freedom of movement, not tethered to an IV pole or fetal monitor, as well as the opportunity to use a hot tub or shower for pain relief. That involves training for partners to know how to help the mother, and may involve hiring a labor doula.
Most labors end with a healthy mom and baby, no matter the process. However, different approaches yield very different experiences, and the way a woman gives birth will resonate with her forever afterward. It pays to learn, prepare and preplan, so that a woman’s care is congruent with her identity and helps her grow into the mother she wants to be.
Louise Rachel, an affiliated Bradley Method childbirth educator since 1986 and a labor doula since 2004, lives in Shorewood, WI, with her husband, cats, and organic garden. She has one grown daughter. She can be reached at 414-962-2703 or [email protected].