Understanding What Delivery Is About
Wouldn’t us mamas do better with understanding the reality of something we are embarking on, like childbirth, versus the fantastical version of what might be in our heads? This is in no way intended to frighten you or make you fearful but to simply be aware of some of the things you may encounter as your pregnancy journey concludes and you bring your sweet baby into the world.
In the intersection of knowledge and experience comes empowerment, and it is our hope for you, as a new mama, that you grasp how strong, resilient and beautiful you really are throughout this entire process. Yes, you will be challenged and pushed to your limits: physically, mentally, and emotionally - and it does not end once your baby is born; in many ways, it is just beginning. The most important thing is that you can extend yourself grace, embrace flexibility, and surround yourself with loved ones who support you during this transformational time in your life.
Well, not exactly. However, the importance of flexibility as you go into your labor experience cannot be overstated. We all have an idea of what we want our birth experience to be like, and it is beneficial to think through the major decisions beforehand. Such as where you want to deliver your baby, who you want present with you while you are laboring/delivering, what your wishes are for bonding after baby is born, and so forth. But know that things will not always transcribe exactly per your wishes, and this is just part of the process! Babies often have their own ideas as how they want to come into the world, and the entire process may unfold completely different than how you imagined. Having some sense of flexibility with your expectations can make the birthing process less formidable.
You and your partner may consider putting together a birth plan, which is a document that informs your health care providers about your preferences for your labor and delivery experience. This can be as general or detailed as you would like it to be, including any specific requests before birth, how you would like to manage pain, vaginal versus cesarean birth preferences, and requests for newborn care. Keep in mind the importance of remaining flexible in the event that something comes up that requires your birth team to divert from your original birth plan.
**Monica - do you want me to send you a PDF basic birth plan template for including in this section?
So...about those birthing classes - knowledge can be power. Birthing classes are a great way to prepare for labor and delivery and can range from one-day intensive workshops to weekly sessions over the course of a few months. Birth classes commonly involve lectures, active exercises, and discussions under the guidance of a trained childbirth instructor.
As a first time mom, you might benefit from understanding what to expect as your baby passes through the birth canal or in the case that you might have your baby via cesarean delivery. Experiencing contractions for the first time during labor can be incredibly intense, and taking birthing classes can better prepare you, in terms of what to expect and how to effectively work through contractions to stay focused on the labor process. There are many options for birthing classes available, including everything from holistic general education about the birthing process to birth coaching techniques and more. Here are the most common types of birthing classes that are available:
Offers a general informative teaching experience, including an overview on how labor works, basic coping skills, etc. Information about natural childbirth, Cesarean births, epidurals, and other interventions is typically covered.
As one of the most widely used childbirth methods in the United States, this focuses on educating mothers about the birth process, including breathing exercises designed to help moms effectively cope through contractions.
Prepares a mother to deliver her baby without pain medications while educating the mother's partner in birth coaching techniques. This technique educates parents on various methods intended to support a mother through the intensity of labor and delivery, including relaxation, massage, and more.
Supports a mother in using self-hypnosis as a technique for natural pain management during labor. In order to effectively learn this technique, mothers typically participate in weekly classes and exercises.
Educates mothers on how to improve mobility and posture during childbirth to eliminate stress and optimize relaxation. Typically completed over the course of several weeks, it includes active exercise aids to help prepare a mother's body for the physical exertion of labor and delivery.
Once you have an idea about how you would like to manage your pain during your labor and delivery, you can then determine what type of birthing class may be most effective for you. Remember that there are many options available, in terms of pain management for childbirth, and you can opt for what best suits you. Don't be afraid to do more research to determine your ideal scenario for your labor and deliver.
Talk with your close mama friends who may have had a baby recently to get a realistic scoop of what to expect. Just remember - it took your body nine months (give or take) to grow this precious miracle, and it will take your body that length of time or more to recover, physically, emotionally, and mentally. So challenge the notion that you have to “bounce back” because sweet mama, this process is going to evolve and change you for the better. There is no going back, but then again, you won’t want to either.
Your Support Team
It is often said that raising a child takes a village, and this truly begins in pregnancy. Bringing your baby into the world should be a collaborative effort with your health care providers, partner, family and friends who love you and want the best for you and your baby. Surrounding yourself with your support team throughout your pregnancy and postpartum journey will bring needed encouragement and strength, especially during moments of vulnerability.
Beginning with your prenatal care, it is important to establish care with a health care provider with whom you feel connected. It may help to do some research ahead of time, in terms of the type of birth experience you are hoping for. Do you prefer to have a traditional birth at a hospital? Would you like to deliver at a birth center or even in your own home? Understanding this ahead of time will help you determine what type of prenatal health care provider might be most appropriate for you.
Depending on where you live, you may have many options accessible to you, including birthing units in hospitals, separate birthing centers, etc. Determining what might be covered by your health insurance may also be a place to start when you are navigating the choices available for your prenatal care.
Here are some of the key support members available for your prenatal care and during the labor and delivery process:
An obstetrician/gynecologist is a physician who specializes in pregnancy, childbirth, and disorders of the reproductive system. If you have an OB-GYN that you've established care with prior to pregnancy, you may be able to continue care with this provider for your childbirth experience. Your OB-GYN will provide care during your pregnancy, the delivery of your baby, and care just after the baby is born. OB-GYNs typically deliver in a hospital setting.
A midwife is a trained health care professional who specializes in maternity care, supporting a woman to maintain a healthy pregnancy and birth experience. The Midwives Model of Care is a fundamentally different approach than contemporary obstetrics in that a midwife seeks to eliminate or minimize any unnecessary interventions during labor and delivery. A midwife typically delivers in a birthing center or in a woman's home, though many midwives can also deliver in a hospital setting.
A doula is a trained professional that provides continuous physical and emotional support to a mother before, during and after childbirth. The term doula refers to a labor support companion, and while doulas do not provide any type of medical care, they often act as an advocate for the mother in helping her fulfill her birth plan goals.
Family & friends
Remember that your family and friends play an important role in your prenatal and postpartum care! Be sure to coordinate any necessary details with loved ones who can help support you with various details leading up to your childbirth, during labor and delivery, and after the birth of your baby. Delegating tasks, such as caring for older children or pets, grocery shopping, preparing meals, keeping your household running with laundry, etc. are all helpful to plan ahead if and when possible. Babies often arrive at the most unexpected moments, so work out a plan with close family and friends ahead of time as needed!
The physical aftermath from childbirth is not always discussed, yet having some idea of what to expect can be helpful in mentally preparing for what is to come. The process of bringing a child into the world, whether vaginally or through Cesarean section, takes a tremendous toll on a woman's body. In addition to learning how to breastfeed and sleep deprivation, here are a few other things to expect:
Many women will experience intense soreness throughout their entire body, particularly lower back, abdomen and vaginal area for weeks following childbirth.
In instances of tearing during childbirth, stitches may be necessary to help repair injured tissue, which can sometimes make it difficult to sit down, urinate, take a shower, or walk around.
Now that your baby is out of the womb, women will cope with menstrual-like bleeding and cramping as the uterus attempts to contract and return back to its regular state.
There are many pain management techniques that can be utilized to help a woman cope with the after-effects of childbirth, including medication, ice, gentle stretching and movement, herbal tinctures and ointments, and more. Discuss your options with your healthcare provider ahead of time to help you effectively heal your body in the aftermath of childbirth.
The importance of rest and nutrition can not be overstated as well. It is crucial for your body's healing to rest when you are able, to nourish your body adequately and hydrate appropriately. Knowing this ahead of time can help you plan accordingly. You may consider minimizing visitors, especially in the first few days following childbirth, as well as communicate your needs with your partner. If your partner and close family have a better idea of what to expect in the aftermath of childbirth, they will be better prepared to support you and help you through your recovery.