Preparing for Birth? Why do we need to do it? Women have been giving birth since time immemorial! However, life is changing, back in the old days, even only as far back as the 40s, 50s, 60s, we didn't have the knowledge or the social media presence to allow a good and bad story to travel around the world so quickly.
We now have drugs, birth is more medicalised, this has saved hundreds and millions of mums and babies. But on the flip side we have litigation, we are getting more and more like America with Maternity claims representing the highest value and second highest number of clinical negligence claims reported to the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA). Understandably Obstetric Doctors and Midwives and consultants have to air on the side of caution, and sometimes that can come at a price.
So, how do we prepare Mums & Dads for birth?
Mums & Dads need to understand the process of birth, they need to understand why decisions may need to be made, and be involved in those decisions. They need to understand that when a decision is made, it will have benefits, but it will also have risks, and they need to know both of these.
They then need to learn strategies and mechanisms to cope, they may be relaxation techniques, breathing techniques or partner techniques. Things that they can do to help themselves, regardless of what is going on around them. Whatever birth you are planning, hormones are VITAL, if we can create an environment within ourselves, where specific hormones are released, regardless of the external situation, we will give ourselves a far better chance of our birth progressing as it should and us feeling the benefits of those hormones.
Have a birth preference rather than a plan. Plans rarely go to plan, so you need to have an idea of what you want to happen, but be flexible with it. Most birth trauma tends to come out of a situation whereby mum feels she has been led on a journey that she wasn't hoping for. She felt out of control and/or disempowered.
As we need to be flexible, we also need to manage our own expectations of birth and parenthood. We are so readily able to read stories (good and bad) about birth and parenting, it can create images as to how our birth or parenthood journey will play out. It is different for everyone. This is YOUR birth, YOU own it, but be flexible about it. Birth can be long, exhausting and difficult, but it can also be quick, empowering and beautiful.
Mum doesn't necessarily need to be fit for the actual labour. I have read a couple of things recently from Antenatal Providers about gearing mums body up for labour. One talking about "building strength" and "toning muscles". Now getting fit in preparation for motherhood is a great idea (ideally needs to be started before you actually get pregnant). But you do not need to tone any muscles for the actual birth. Birth is powered by the one of the largest muscles in your body at that time, the uterus...and unless you know something I don't, that has had practise contracting every month of your menstrual life, and you cannot make it contract and work harder! It is an involuntary contraction, one that happens due to the release of hormones (oxytocin). So we absolutely need to prepare physically, but not by toning and strengthening, by learning to relax and open.
Things like Yoga & Pilates are so beneficial to enable mum to connect with her core, pelvic floor and to allow better and quicker healing post birth, however for actual birth, we need to learn how to relax & open, hence an explosion in hypnobirthing and a focus on relaxation classes for labour.
Birth is the most wonderful process, but It is not just about birthing a baby, it is about creating mums and dads, and it does need preparation. It is a journey but it is your journey. Prepare for it, own it & understand it. It is the beginning of the biggest roller coaster ride you will ever go on!
Find out more about Mummas and Beans birth prep classes here.