Prepare for Labor and Delivery
As a first-time expectant mom, it’s especially important to feel positive and empowered as you prepare to give birth. Understanding the wide array of birthing settings, methods and tools available can help provide peace of mind on delivery day. Your choices should ideally match your personal preferences, and enable you to have a unique birthing experience.
Obstetrician, Nurse and Hospital
Many expectant moms choose to give birth in a hospital setting with the care of their obstetrician. Medically trained to deal with emergency situations and high-risk pregnancies, an obstetrician is trained in intervention, meaning that they understand birth as a medical condition that requires monitoring and prevention of complications.
The advantages of being in a hospital setting, include fast access to pain relief options such as epidurals, pitocin (a synthetic hormone used for inducement of labor), IV hydration, external and internal fetal monitoring, and cesarean section surgery facilities if and when necessary. Some hospitals have recently started providing birthing rooms with nurses that offer birthing chairs, balls and other equipment.
Doulas serve as advocates for the mother during the birthing process by providing emotional and physical support and information. They attend different birthing settings, including hospitals and homebirths. Doulas can teach pain management techniques, discuss pros and cons of different medical and natural birthing procedures, birthing positions, help to keep your birth plan on track during labor and delivery, and act as a labor coach. Many new moms who have used doulas describe the experience as wonderful and empowering.
The Birthing Center and Midwife Model
Birthing centers are designed to provide a comfortable, less-restrictive and home-like setting for labor and delivery. A birthing center is a medical facility, sometimes associated with a hospital. Many employ certified nurse-midwives. A certified nurse-midwife is a nurse with specialized education and training in midwifery versus a certified professional midwife who is trained has met the standards for certification set by the North American Registry of Midwives, but does not have a nursing degree.
All midwives work by the Midwife Model that recognizes pregnancy and birth as natural processes, and support moms-to-be in minimal technological interventions during labor and delivery. Midwives, however, are open to using medical intervention when and if necessary, and are trained with formal medical education to deal with a host of complications.
While a majority of midwives work in hospitals, some work at birthing centers. In many states, midwives form birthing centers where a group works together.
In addition to choosing the birthing setting that matches your preferences, moms-to-be should also consider birthing methods. Two of the most popular birthing methods are Lamaze and Bradley. Couples usually begin taking these classes during the third trimester – about 7 months into the pregnancy – with classes lasting between four and six weeks, depending on the method and schedule chosen.
Lamaze was developed in the 1940s as an alternative to the use of medical intervention during childbirth. Beyond its original breathing technique, guiding principles of Lamaze include: Let labor begin on its own; walk, move around and change positions throughout labor; have a loved one, friend or doula for continuous support; avoid interventions that are not medically necessary; avoid giving birth while lying on your back; follow the body’s urges to push; and keep mother and baby together after delivery.
The Bradley Method supports the idea that with the right preparation, most women can avoid pain medication and routine interventions during labor and birth. The training program lasts three months and addresses nutrition, exercise, breathing and relaxation techniques, and training your partner to be an effective labor coach. Supporters of this method claim that over 86 percent of Bradley trained couples have “spontaneous, unmedicated vaginal births.”
Water and Hynobirthing
In recent years, methods such as water birthing and hypnobirthing have become popular. In the case of Water Births, the mother is able to labor and deliver in a tub of warm water that acts as both an analgesic and relaxant. After the birth, the baby is given a warm bath that is heated to body temperature as an attempt to comfort the newborn a setting similar to the womb. Talk to your doctor, midwife or doula about the availability of water births in the hospital or birthing center.
Hypnobirthing teaches expectant moms how the birthing muscles work, and how to achieve relaxation and meditation that allows self-management of pain through abdominal breathing in a self-hypnosis state.
No matter which method you attempt, be patient with yourself, and remember that sometimes things may not go as you planned and that is OK as long as you and your baby are healthy and safe.
Ivanna Campbell is a Charlotte mom of four children ages 4, 2 1/2, 18 months and 3 months. She is the founder of a national advocacy site for moms www.empoweredmommies.com.