Preparing for a baby takes time, and is a wonderful experience. When the time for the baby to be born comes, things start to go much faster, with an increase in stress and adrenaline.
This is why it’s important to have a birth plan ahead of time, laying out the mother’s preferences for labor. Does she want an at-home birth, or to go to the hospital? If it’s at home, does she want help in the form of a midwife or a doula? What are her preferences as far as pain relief is concerned?
These aren’t decisions that should be made in the heat of the moment, but looked at ahead of time, the pros and cons of each measured and compared. In order to do that, it’s important to know what each option is, and what it entails.
A lot of people are most familiar with the idea of hospital births. Just because you’re going with a hospital birth doesn’t mean there aren’t things you need to consider for your birth plan. In fact, you need to be even firmer in your decisions, because the hospital will have their own protocols and default ways of doing things.
- How do the parents feel about various forms of medical intervention—pain management, c-sections, induction, “helping” the labor along?
- How much monitoring of mother and baby is accepted, and when?
- What is your stance on each vaccine for mother and baby?
- If the baby is a boy, what is your stance on circumcision?
- How soon do you want skin-to-skin contact? Do you?
- How soon do you want the baby bathed?
- How soon do you want the cord cut?
Also be aware that most hospitals—especially after COVID-19—will have limits on who can visit and when. Some midwives may have hospital privileges, but most hospital births are done with have an obstetrician. When the baby is born, they will immediately have their own doctor.
An at-home birth is pretty self-explanatory. The mother gives birth in the comfort of her own home as women have been doing since women started having babies.
There are many benefits to at-home births, including the fact that you are much more in control of your surroundings and when and how things happen. Giving birth at home means you don’t have to deal with the stress and panic that naturally comes from a hospital affecting your hormones and, consequently, the birth process.
Mayo Clinic says that most mothers consider an at-home birth for several reasons:
A desire to give birth without medical intervention, such as pain medication, labor augmentation, labor induction, or fetal heart rate monitoring
A desire to give birth in a comfortable, familiar place surrounded by family
Dissatisfaction with hospital care
A desire for freedom and control in the birthing process
Cultural or religious concerns
A lack of access to transportation
Mayo Clinic suggests a few ways to help stay more comfortable during labor that are much easier at home than in a hospital, such as the following.
During early labor:
Go for a walk
Take a shower or bath
Listen to relaxing music
Try breathing or relaxation techniques taught in childbirth class
During active labor:
Roll on a large rubber ball (birthing ball)
Take a warm shower or bath
Take a walk, stopping to breathe through contractions
Have a gentle massage between contractions
Being at home also allows more concentrated focus from the people the mother wants around her at this time, rather than changing medical shifts dictating who is helping her.
What is a doula?
WebMD defines a doula as:
… a person who provides emotional and physical support to you during your pregnancy and childbirth. Doulas are not medical professionals. They don’t deliver babies or provide medical care. A certified doula has taken a training program and passed an exam in how to help pregnant women and their families during this exciting but challenging experience. … Doulas can perform different roles, depending on your needs.
Labor or birth doulas provide continuous care during labor.
Antepartum doulas support women who are put on bed rest to prevent preterm labor. They help with household tasks and childcare.
Postpartum doulas support the new mom during the first few weeks after birth. They help with care and feeding of the baby and household tasks.
A doula is not, then, a doctor or midwife trained in helping in the actual birthing process. A doula helps shoulder the stress, giving the mother and father of the coming baby more space to breathe and relax.
Some women choose a trusted friend or family member to serve as a doula. If this is the plan, it is important to consider whether this person is a good choice. How are they under pressure? Will they be able to focus on the future parents—are they able to take their eyes off themselves to do what they’re there to do? Will they really give comfort and take the stress off the parents? Will they be okay with taking a serving role and being on the clock for several hours?
Benefits of a Doula
Mayo Clinic says that:
Often … a doula’s most important role is to provide continuous support during labor and delivery. Although research is limited, some studies have shown that continuous support from doulas during childbirth might be associated with:
A decreased use of pain relief medication during labor
A decreased incidence of C-sections
A decrease in the length of labor
A decrease in negative childbirth experiences
This makes sense when we look at the effects physical, mental, and emotional stress can have. Giving birth produces immense physical stress in the mother, and mental and emotional stress in both the mother and father. Having someone around whose job is to release that stress by keeping a level head and giving support, then, is bound to ease the negative effects stress causes.
The NIH did a study that found that:
Doula-assisted mothers were four times less likely to have a low birth weight (LBW) baby, two times less likely to experience a birth complication involving themselves or their baby, and significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding. Communication with and encouragement from a doula throughout the pregnancy may have increased the mother’s self-efficacy regarding her ability to impact her own pregnancy outcomes.
What is a midwife?
WebMD defines a midwife as:
A midwife is a trained health professional who helps healthy women during labor, delivery, and after the birth of their babies. Midwives may deliver babies at birthing centers or at home, but most can also deliver babies at a hospital. … Your midwife can provide care before, during, or after your pregnancy. Your midwife will:
Provide family planning and preconception care
Do prenatal exams and order tests
Watch your physical and psychological health
Help you make your birth plans
Advise you about diet, exercise, meds, and staying healthy
Educate and counsel you about pregnancy, childbirth, and newborn care
Give you emotional and practical support during labor
Admit and discharge you from the hospital
Deliver your babies
Make referrals to doctors when needed.
WebMD also says that:
Women who choose midwives usually want very little medical intervention and have had no complications during their pregnancy.
A midwife, then, is the woman helping to actually deliver the babies.
Benefits of a midwife
Having a midwife is more personal and intimate than going to the hospital and having whoever is there help you give birth. A midwife’s duties, like those of a doula, start before labor does, and the mother will know them both very well by the time the baby’s birth day arrives.
It is very easy for hormones to fall out of homeostasis, and hormones are a very large factor of pregnancy and birth. Stress can have numerous and drastic effects on hormones, and the last thing anyone wants is a complication in a pregnancy.
Premier Health states:
The ACNM [American College of Nurse-Midwives] states that studies have shown that midwifery care produces the following outcomes:
Higher rates of breastfeeding
Lower rates of cesarean birth
Lower rates of induced labor
Lower use of regional anesthesia
Significant reduction in the incidence of third- and fourth-degree perineal tears
Can the midwife and doula be the same person?
The midwife can act as a doula, but her purpose in the birthing room is to help bring the baby into the world. This is a very important part of the birthing process and will occupy a rather large part of the midwife’s mind. Having both a midwife and a doula allows both jobs to be completed well, rather than having the midwife try to multitask at such a pivotal moment.
Preparing and Supporting the Mother’s Body
The American Pregnancy Association says:
Potential benefits of chiropractic care during pregnancy include:
Maintaining a healthier pregnancy
Reducing the time of labor and delivery
Relieving back, neck, or joint pain
Preventing a potential cesarean delivery
If the mother’s body isn’t in alignment and prepared to handle the stress that comes with giving birth, doing so is going to become infinitely harder. Making sure a woman’s body is ready to handle birth is an ongoing endeavor, and once labor starts, there’s no going back to fix it. It is important to be prepared ahead of time for how to handle that moment. To make sure your body is in alignment, supported, and ready to give birth, contact a Wellness Way practitioner.