Giving Birth

You’ll have nine long months in which to anticipate giving birth, a thought which may fill you with a mixture of excitement and fear — that’s perfectly normal. Whether you choose to have your baby in a hospital, birthing center, or at home, preparing in a practical and affirming way both physically and mentally can help to reduce any feelings of anxiety you may have surrounding your birth experience. Remember, you have choices to make and options to consider, and it’s never too soon to start researching them.

Preparing for Birth

As you consider and begin to formulate your birth plan, there are a few resources which may be helpful to you and which you may choose to incorporate in your preparation.

  • Birthing videos: There are many positive and inspirational birth videos that can be watched for free online. Witnessing someone else’s positive experience, even the bad parts, can help normalize the birth experience and make you feel more confident. You may even see something you wish to incorporate in your own birth plan.
  • Birthing affirmations: If you’re someone who looks to meditation to ease your anxieties in day-to-day life, birthing affirmations are likely to resonate with you. They are positive, affirming statements which can be repeated before or during labor, in a relaxed state, to help you feel more confident and less anxious about birth; an example could be “I am going to stay calm and happy, I am joyful that my baby is arriving”. Look to statements that are meaningful to you personally, and to your specific anxieties — you can even write these yourself, if you’re so inclined.
  • Studying your labor options: There’s more than one way to give birth to your baby. From environmental changes like water birth which encourage a more natural birthing position to less drastic meditative techniques like hypnobirth which aim to reduce pain and fear through self-hypnosis, birth can be a dynamic experience. Working with a doula is one way to educate yourself on the possibilities and access the knowledge of an informed and experienced professional when making your decision.

Doulas: An Invaluable Resource

From our perspective, the benefits of using a doula should be shouted from the rooftops. If you’re not familiar with the term, a doula is a non-medical pregnancy and birth specialist who supports and advocates for parents during pregnancy and labor. This is quite helpful on its own, but there are also legitimate, science-backed benefits to using doula support during your pregnancy and birth. Here are just some of the many reasons doulas are fantastic:

  • Support from a doula can lead to better birth outcomes, with one study indicating that mothers may be four times less likely to have a baby with low birth weight, and two times less likely to have complications during labor and delivery
  • When relying on a doula for support, mothers are more likely to rate their overall birth experience and ability to cope during labor as positive
  • In one 1999 study, it was demonstrated that mothers rated the pain relief offered by doula support to be equivalent to the level of relief experienced by laboring mothers who used an epidural instead
  • Psychological and social support from doulas has been shown to correlate with higher exclusive breastfeeding rates at four weeks after birth, and may make for a smoother start to breastfeeding

A Little Bit Overdue

If you’re feeling about ten months pregnant, you’re surely not alone. Plenty of moms watch their due date sail by, wondering just when their little one will make his or her appearance. The best course of action at this point is to listen to your OB-GYN, who will let you know if it’s actually necessary to induce.

While a few extra days isn’t generally harmful, baby can start having complications in they’re legitimately overdue for more than two weeks, and their growing size has the potential to complicate vaginal delivery. At that point, medical inductions are typically advised.

There are a few over-the-counter “folk remedies” that traditional wisdom have labeled as natural induction methods or labor triggers. While some can have a little bit of efficacy, most have little effect, and some are outright dangerous. Here’s a quick rundown:

Natural Induction Methods: What Works, What’s Toxic

May be effective

  • Castor oil: It’s not so fun going down, and castor oil is a powerful laxative that can also make you nauseous. It’s also one of very few things that may be effective at natural induction; one study of 223 pregnant women demonstrated that approximately 58% of women labored within 24 hours of taking castor oil. There are few additional studies to corroborate those results, however.
  • Breast stimulation: It’s natural and free, and as many as 37% of women have been shown to be able to increase their cervical ripening score through breast and nipple stimulation. There’s a catch, though: excessive stimulation can lead to uterine hyperstimulation, which can dangerously spike baby’s heart rate.
  • Eating dates: These sweet and relatively inexpensive fruits don’t directly trigger labor, but they have been shown to improve cervical ripeness scores and may minimize the need for labor-augmenting drugs like Pitocin.

Danger: DO NOT USE

  • Blue cohosh or black cohosh: These extremely potent plants can trigger labor, but it absolutely shouldn’t be used. It can be toxic to both mothers and babies, and has been shown to cause issues as severe as infant heart failure and stroke.
  • Evening primrose oil: Popular in the alternative medicine community, this oil has many legitimate uses. Though it’s linked to improved cervical ripeness, it’s still quite dangerous as a labor induction method. Its use has been linked to arrest of descent, the need for drugs to augment labor, and increased rates of vacuum delivery.

Life Postpartum

After you deliver your baby, your body needs some time to heal. Pregnancy and birth are major undertakings that change your body a lot, and it’s likely that your lifestyle and abilities were both significantly impacted. You may have many questions about when you can resume normal activity. Since no two pregnancies and births are the same, your doctor is the best person to look to for a go-ahead.

The products you’ll need now aren’t just for baby, as there are a couple of key items that play an essential role in birth recovery. You’ll likely rely on both of these in the weeks after your baby is born.

  • Postpartum pads: After you give birth, you will experience vaginal bleeding for up to six weeks in a way that’s similar to your period. The heaviest of this bleeding happens in the first ten days, and tends to be heavier than typical menstrual flow. This means that tampons and regular menstrual pads aren’t likely to be effective, and larger postpartum pads that offer more coverage and better leak protection will be needed.
  • Girdle: The stretching that happens during pregnancy leaves stomach muscles weak after delivery, and in some cases, a perforated stomach muscle(called diastasis recti) can occur. A postpartum girdle can help these muscles to strengthen and fuse back together; they’re almost always recommended for c-section moms, and may be available right at the hospital.

Working Out Your Workout

One of the biggest questions that comes up surrounds working out, as lots of moms are eager to get back to their routine and tone up a bit. Traditional guidelines suggest that you wait about six weeks after a vaginal delivery or eight weeks after a c-section to resume working out, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

Take it slow at first, focusing on regaining your strength and balance — this isn’t the time for endurance training, mama! Babywearing workouts are one way to stay close to your little one while staying fit, and there are many great videos online to offer ideas and inspiration.

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