pregnancy and labour
Labour and childbirth was an amazing, positive experience for me, both times. I am very fortunate, I know. But I do believe that if you prepare yourself through education (reading books, reading websites like this one, taking prenatal classes, etc) and taking good care of yourself while you are pregnant, you will have a far greater chance of a pleasant birth experience ....more
Athletic women come in all sizes and enjoy different sports or fitness programs. Athletic women enjoy being toned and fit. Through personal fitness, many women have developed determination, commitment to their task, and an ability to hit the wall and go beyond. Often they consider themselves tough and rigorous. Women who enjoy fitness as a way of Life rather than being ‘athletic’ also admire their shape, sense of being in ‘tone’, flexibility and strength. So why would an athletic woman (including women who just stay fit) need to know anything about childbirth? Isn’t the goal of preparing for childbirth about ‘getting in shape?’ ....more
So you want to get that wiggly bowling ball of a baby out already!! Its been 9 months of puking, peeing, bloating and not sleeping and it is time to put an end to the madness ....more
If you are planning your baby birth care, pregnancy can feel like it goes on for years rather than months. There you are with all your hopes and dreams of what parenting will be, and all you need to do is get through the labour ....more
The truth about labour and childbirth - by Suzanne Doyle-Ingram
Labour and childbirth was an amazing, positive experience for me, both times. I am very fortunate, I know. But I do believe that if you prepare yourself through education (reading books, reading websites like this one, taking prenatal classes, etc) and taking good care of yourself while you are pregnant, you will have a far greater chance of a pleasant birth experience.
There are many things you can do to increase your chances of an empowering childbirth experience. These are the things I did:
Pregnancy yoga classes
Regular Chiropractic care
Chose a Midwife instead of a doctor
Hired a doula to be with me through the labour and birth
Took high quality vitamins, folic acid and natural iron supplements (made by Flora, derived from natural sources, not metal)
Took a 18 hour prenatal class from a former midwife (NOT at a hospital)
Lastly, I believed, truly believed that my body knew what it was doing. I was not scared at all. I knew in my heart of hearts that pregnancy is a healthy state of being, and that my body would know exactly what to do when the time came. And it did!
So many people seem to enjoy telling stories of excruciating pain during childbirth. Others will tell you their labour was 87 hours long! I do not know why women do this to each other. Yes, I will grant you, labour is painful. But it is also powerful and incredible what your body can achieve!
One important note: I am Canadian, and our medical system is much different than the United States. BUt I am aware that most visitors to my website are American, so that is why I often try to include American statistics and information. One major difference between our two countries is that midwives in most parts of Canada have hospital privleges, i.e. they are allowed to deliver babies in hospitals. They perform essentially the same procedures as doctors, except they do not perform surgery. Whereas doctors view childbirth in terms of what can go wrong, midwives see childbirth as a natural process and medical intervention is only necessary in the event of an emergency.
I had many questions before I gave birth the first time, and the following onformation is what I leaned about labour and child birth. I am not a doctor, and I have no medical training whatsoever, so please ask your own doctor for clarification or more information.
Am I going to be pregnant forever? In terms of when the average woman gives birth, a woman's due date is determined to be 40 weeks after her last menstrual period, which is about 280 days. Most women deliver very near their due date, but anywhere from 38 weeks to 42 weeks is normal. You know you are in labour when you have strong (generally more painful than period cramps) contractions, five minutes apart, which last for a full minute. The first stage of labour is the longest and that is when your cervix dilates from 0 to 10 centimetres and becomes thinned out (or "effaced"). The second stage of labour is the pushing stage, which begins after you are fully dilated. The third stage of labour is after your baby is born and you deliver the placenta.
I was worried that my water would break in the supermarket and I would be mortified. However, the bag of water, (the membrane that surrounds the fetus and protects it during your whole pregnancy), contains amniotic fluid and it only breaks at the beginning of labour (mine did) 10% of the time. It does not hurt. You may not even know it has happened, but you may feel warm water on your legs. You feel a tiny "Pop!" and then a little fluid trickles out. It's not a huge gush - I think this is because the baby's head is acting like a cork. Most commonly, about 90% of the time, your water breaks when your cervix is fully dilated. Sometimes your midwife or doctor may break it. When that happens, prostaglandins are released, and contractions become stronger and more regular, and the progress of labour speeds up.
Many women also wonder when they should go to the hospital. Your doctor or midwife will educate you about what they want you to do. Some may want you to phone the hospital as soon as anything happens. A midwife usually comes to your house, so you don't have to plan so much as you would with a doctor. When you get to the hospital, you will need to register at the Maternity Department. Usually you can do this a few months prior - call the hospital where you will deliver and find out. Depending, again, on whether you have a doctor or midwife, a lot of different scenarios can take place. Also what kind of doctor you have: is he or she someone who believes that your body knows what to do? Or will he or she insist that you are given an IV and hooked up to a monitor constantly? You do NOT have to labour this way, but you need to decide before you choose a doctor what is important to you and how you want your experience to be. (A birth plan would be a good option. If you present your birth plan to your doctor and he or she laughs at you - reconsider using that doctor!)
How long does it take?
Every labour is so different, but generally speaking, first labours take about 12 to 24 hours. My first labour was about 10 hours but my midwife said that I was only in "active" labour for 5 hours, which I disagree with because the first 7 hours were not spent sitting around comfortably!
What about the pain? Is it really that bad?
I am not going to lie about it, it is painful, but your body is an amazing machine. I did not take anything for the pain during my labours, but I was very fortunate to have a wonderful doula and husband who supported me throughout. Studies have shown that continuous support during labour decreases the need for pain relief by 60%. See my article entitled "What would I do without my Doula?" here http://www.pregnancy-leads-to-new-babies.com/doula.html.
What's wrong with having an epidural? Why go through the pain if you don't have to?
This is simply my opinion - I am not a doctor, but I have done the research. For me, I was not trying to be a martyr. I just wanted my baby to have the very best chance of being healthy. Generally, it is true to say that epidurals are a safe and effective method of relieving pain in labour, but safe does not mean risk free. There are risks; I would be lying to say there are none. See Thorp, J.A. & Breedlove, G (1996) Epidural Analgesia in Labour: An evaluation of Risks and Benefits 23(2) 63-83.
In terms of risks for your baby, epidurals can cause maternal fever and this can potentially harm your baby. Newborns sometimes also exhibit poor nursing behavior for up to one month. Many newborns exposed to epidural anaesthesia in labour are very sleepy and they would rather sleep than nurse, which can be problematic because the more you nurse at the beginning, the faster your milk will come in and the better your experience will be. It's shocking to me that most women take such exceptional care of their babies while they are pregnant, i.e. no alcohol, no Tylenol, etc., but they willingly expose their babies to drugs during childbirth without fully educating themselves of the risks.
Here's something you want not want to know: Hospital-employed childbirth educators WANT you to have an epidural. Hospitals make a lot of money from epidurals. The nurse often comes into your room and says, “Are you ready for your epidural now?” In the U.S.A, an epidural costs from $500 to $2500, depending on the hospital. The United States spends more money on birth ($50 Billion a year!) than any other nation in the world, without necessarily getting the best results. The average hospital birth costs $8,000 - $10,000 and that doubles for caesareans, providing very nice profits for obstetricians, anaesthesiologists and drug companies. Hospital policies are routinely set based on financial goals. This is a fact, and if you don’t believe it, you are being duped.
Just hear me out on this one: It makes sense, doesn't it? Since midwifery care and doula care reduces the rates of intervention, they also reduce the profit for doctors and hospitals. Of course, they will try to convince you that midwives are dangerous. They want your money!!! That is why, in Canada, where we have arguably the best government-run medical insurance system in the world, governments realised that by allowing midwives to deliver in hospitlas, they are saving millions of dollars.
Back to epidurals (which I am not completely against, by the way! I do believe they are warranted in some cases)If you have an epidural, you must also have a urinary catheter inserted to empty your bladder. Epidurals can cause your blood pressure to decrease, so a nurse will check your blood pressure very often. The nurse or doctor will also periodically rub your abdomen to make sure there is enough paralysis but not so much that your breathing becomes impaired.
There is also a domino effect that plays into it as well - once you have one intervention, you are more at risk for more and more. For example, a woman who has an epidural is FOUR times as likely to have to have a caesarean section. Sometimes it relaxes the pelvis so much that you cannot push out your baby, so the use of Vacuum and forceps are significantly increased. This means you also have to have an episiotomy (where they cut your skin from your vagina to your rectum) in order to get the forceps into your vagina. Sometimes there are complications from episiotomies, as you can well imagine, such as bowel incontinence and urinary incontinence. Note: According to Childbirth practices researcher Katherine Hartmann, MD, PhD, close to 1 million unnecessary episiotomies are performed in the U.S. each year. She says episiotomies are probably medically warranted in fewer than 10% of cases. Currently 1 in 3 American women get episiotomies. Hartmann is director of the Center for Women's Health Research at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
The biggest risk of epidural is death - if the anaesthesiologist injects the wrong dose, or makes a mistake, you're in trouble. You can also be paralysed (in very rare cases, permanently) due to nerve damage. Let me repeat, MOST epidurals are safe, but these are some of the risks you need to be aware of. The evidence of epidural risks is well documented, but it is not readily available.
Don't you think it is easier for the doctor to be able to "control" their patient if they are lying still and quiet in the bed, paralysed and unable to move around? Ask your doctor what percentage of their patients receive an epidural. Can you go one step further and ask them how much money they make if they give an epidural? Or of it makes their job easier if their patient has an epidural? I think that would be very interesting! If he or she has an alarming rate of epidurals, I would seriously consider changing doctors.
If you are still thinking, "I don't care what anybody says, there is no way I am going to go through that pain like some freaky natural childbirth nut", I am here to say that I thought exactly the same way when I was pregnant - at first. But once I did some reading, I thought, wait a second, maybe I could at least try to do it naturally. In my birth plan I wrote that I wanted to try to do it naturally, but if I ask for an epidural, give me one. (Where we live, Midwives can order epidurals.) I also want to say that I do believe that in some cases, epidurals are a really good idea. For example, if you have been labouring a very long time and you need to rest a few hours so that you can gather your energy to push the baby out. I was present at my friend's birth as her support person, and she was not making any progress after about 10 hours. We tried all sorts of positions and everything, but finally her doctor suggested an epidural and I agreed. She was able to rest, and calm down, and then it wore off and she was able to push out her baby without any problems. It was beautiful. (Note: she did not experience any of the above complications.)
Please educate yourself by reading some of the books I recommend on my website. You will feel much better about yourself knowing that you did your research and made the right decision for you. Finally, please take a GOOD prenatal class (not one offered at a hospital) and read as much as you can so that you are prepared and educated. It's your body and your baby!
Childbirth and the athletic woman - by Winter Green
Athletic women come in all sizes and enjoy different sports or fitness programs. Athletic women enjoy being toned and fit. Through personal fitness, many women have developed determination, commitment to their task, and an ability to hit the wall and go beyond. Often they consider themselves tough and rigorous. Women who enjoy fitness as a way of Life rather than being ‘athletic’ also admire their shape, sense of being in ‘tone’, flexibility and strength. So why would an athletic woman (including women who just stay fit) need to know anything about childbirth? Isn’t the goal of preparing for childbirth about ‘getting in shape?’
One famous woman athlete made a public comment that if she had gone through labour before her competitive event she would have done better in the competitions. Obviously, childbirth gave her insights that would have improved her performance. Many athletic women may not know that you are more likely to have a caesarean than most women. We’ve all heard stories that dancers and horsewomen are more likely to have a caesarean; however, it’s true for many athletic women. Yet, somehow this seems paradoxical. How can being in shape lead to more medically assisted births?
Childbirth at it’s simplest is an exercise in plumbing.
An object (baby) has to come out of a container (woman). In order to do that the object must come through a tube (pelvis), open a diaphragm (cervix) and aperture (vagina). The container has a Mind and if the process of the object coming through is perceived of as painful, then the Mind can respond to those sensations by tensing up the body. Tension in the body can interfere with the need of the container to relax and open in order for the object to come out. Being ‘toned’ is a form of tension. This means that there is entirely different preparation for giving birth than staying in shape or being in training. One husband of an athletic woman said after her caesarean: ‘I thought childbirth was about muscles pushing a baby out. Now I understand it’s about creating space so the baby can move through her body.’
Each sport or fitness program uses different muscles, yet it is not just the muscles that can produce tension. Connective tissue or fascia can hold tension as well. In our plumbing analogy, the tube (pelvis) is surrounded by connective tissue which is part of our body’s soft tissue. Soft tissue is anything other than bone. For example, tension in the connections between the bones in the pelvic girdle (tube) can prevent the bones from being mobile. Our baby’s bones in their head are designed to mold and over lap; however, we can create more space inside this tube when we know how to keep our pelvis mobile. In childbirth, the sacrum is the bone that needs the most mobility. It’s also the bone that is used to stabilize our bodies as we weight bear and tends to being immobile. We can also reduce ‘back labour’ by learning how to create sacral mobility. One ice skater said after 3 caesareans: ‘Once I learned to mobilize my sacrum in labour, I had no trouble giving birth to my fourth child naturally. No one told me I had to do that. No one told me I had to do the Internal Work (birth canal or aperture) either.
The soft tissue in our birth canal may also be quite tight. Many women are told to do ‘pelvic floor’ exercises. These certainly are good to strengthen our insides; however, they are not appropriate birth preparation exercises. Instead pregnant women need to learn how to relax inside the pelvis and the muscles of the birth canal.
For many athletic, relaxing is not in alignment with their personal self perception.
One competitive cyclist said: ‘I considered myself very, very tough and I was. I had developed skills and management skills for my chosen event; however, without a whole new set of skills for the event of giving birth I didn’t have a clue and ended up with a caesarean and sense of personal failure. When I discovered The Pink Kit Method for birthing better™ I learned the necessary birthing skills and my husband learned how to coach me.’
The Pelvic Clock exercise from The Pink Kit is one of the many you can teach yourself at home to prepare for childbirth. When used in labour, the Pelvic Clock technique helps you to focus on relaxing where your cervix attaches inside the pelvis. This assists in dilating the cervix. You can use the same concept to mentally relax around the cervix directly which also assists cervical dilation. NOTE: If you are pregnant now, you can do the Pelvic Clock exercise below, but only do the cervical relaxation the last two weeks of your pregnancy as specific preparation for birth and then feel free to do it throughout labour.
Do this exercise in a number of positions: standing, sitting, lying down or partially kneeling. As you know, different postures engage different muscles and aspects of the connective tissue.
1) Draw a line around your body, starting midway down your pubic bone, around to the top of where your legs meet your hips and then to your sacrum. This will be about 1 ½ inches above where the little bumps are, at the beginning of your bottom crack. You have drawn a circle around your pelvis. Inside this circle, inside the pelvis is approximately where the top of your vagina (the soft tissue around the cervix) meets the inside of your pelvis. In labour the contractions draw this tissue into the pelvis, opening the cervix which is in the middle of the tissue. Where the tissue meets the pelvis is like the rim of a clock face and the cervix is like the area where the hands of the clock join. Uterine contractions open the cervix so that there is no longer a clock face, rather a large opening for your baby to come down and into your birth canal. The tugging open of the cervix is what is ‘painful’ in labour.
2) Give your clock face names. Name the pubic bone 12:00, one hip 3:00, the sacrum 6:00 and the other hip 9:00. Now go around the clock and soften (inside) at each o’clock (you can always include 1:30 etc). It’s helpful to say to yourself while you lightly touch that place: ‘Soften inside my pubic bone.’ Pause before you go on to the next place in order to let your mind find that place in your body and for your body to respond. This is yoking your mind to your body.
3) After you have gone around the outside of the Pelvic Clock and if you are two weeks away from your due date, then you can do the same softening around the cervix which is in closed and in the center. The cervix is made up of 50% muscle cells and the rest connective tissue, so it does respond to intentional relaxation.
4) Doing both of these things in labour between contractions and even during contractions has been one of the great focus tools that women who have prepared with The Pink Kit have used. It’s an ideal tool for husbands/partners to know. They can feel it in their own bodies and can remind us to ‘relax at 6:00’ if we have back labour, for example.
Notice this difference, just tense up inside, hold the tension while you go around the clock again. You can feel the difference.
Over the past 30 years, The Pink Kit Method for birthing better™ has helped many women athletes to have a positive birth. The information originated in the United States in the 1970s and came to New Zealand with the founder of the Trust, Common Knowledge, in 1995. Since then the multi-media kit The Pink Kit: Essential Preparations for your birthing body through the website.
A number of New Zealand athletic women have used The Pink Kit and found it incredibly helpful. They have been body builders, aerobic competitors, rowers, horsewomen, dancers etc. Each has a different experience and different story of their birth. Some found that their sport had prepared them for the challenge of labour while others were surprised at how challenged they were by labour.
Often athletic women have athletic partners.
When both expectant parents have prepared for birth using The Pink Kit, having a skilled partner as birth coach has been wonderful for the woman. Men do have the same bodies and can feel inner tension in the same manner than women can. When these women found labour challenging, they relied on their partners to help them work through each contractions with the common knowledge skills they had taught themselves. One woman athlete said: ‘when labour got intense, my husband reminded me that I had put in the effort to my sport and that I could do this. He inspired me to keep going instead of using pain relief and he was there every contraction, doing the work with me.’
With the new skills, you can find in The Pink Kit, athletic women and their partners can meet the challenge, achieving a positive birth experience in all situations. Learning new skills become fascinating rather than conflictive. In fact, you’ll get back into shape sooner after birth when you have learned to relax to give birth. There will be less trauma for you and your baby.
4 Natural Ways to Induce Labour - by Nicole Burgess
So you want to get that wiggly bowling ball of a baby out already!! Its been 9 months of puking, peeing, bloating and not sleeping and it is time to put an end to the madness. The bassinet is ready, your bags are packed and the nursary has a fresh coat of paint. Well aside from booking a planned c-section there are no guarantees as too when your little munchkin will make an appearance, however there are a few things you could try to give nature a nudge. These are the 4 methods I explored with my last two pregnancies to get the ball rolling.
1) Essential Oil-Clary Sage-This was a personal favorite of mine that I used to go into labour with both of my little monkeys. I am convinced without the assistance of Clary Sage that I would have gone overdue with both pregnancies, however both occurred right at my due date! I simply rubbed the oil on my wrists and ankles and added a few drops to my bath water. It also comes in handy during labour where the scent helped to provide calm and comfort, and actually assist in the effective dialation of the uterus. They do warn however, not to use until you are far enough along in your pregnancy to go into labour.
2) Stripping or Sweeping Membranes- This was not a favorite of mine which I did do twice in the doctors office with my last pregnancy (at 38 & 39 weeks). Basically the doctor inserts his finger into the vagina and attempts to separate your bag of water from the lower part of the uterus. This is suppose to cause a release of hormones called prostaglandins which should help to get contractions going and may help to further ripen the cervix. I have one word for this procedure...OUCH!! It hurt so very bad, but more so the first time. I did experience some spotting and cramping after having this procedure done, which I was told by my doctor is completely normal. Although it was a painful procedure and it didn't work to put me right into labour as I was hoping, if given the choice, I would do it again.
3) Sex-I know what your thinking. Isn't this what got me in this mess to begin with? Well sometimes how it starts is how it ends. So although you may feel as big as a house and it feels that you got kicked hard in the crotch it may be worth it to hop on board so to speak. Apparently semen contains prostaglandins that can stimulate contractions.
4)Nipple Stimulation-Well I must say that this one is much easier than the sex option and with enough massaging I remember even feeling light contractions of the uterus. The science behind nipple stimulation is that it helps your body release oxytocin (natural form of pitocin), which causes contractions and can even help to bring on labour. Some doctors do advise against this method because it can lead to long, hard contractions which can stress the baby and the fetal heart rate.
Ultimately, it is that little tike that will decide when he or she is ready to come out, however it never hurts to try to give nature a nudge. It is however, incredibly important that you speak with your doctor or health care provider before attempting any approach to induce labour (natural or otherwise).
Baby Birth Care: Pregnancy Leads To Labour - by Olga Sysoef
If you are planning your baby birth care, pregnancy can feel like it goes on for years rather than months. There you are with all your hopes and dreams of what parenting will be, and all you need to do is get through the labour.
Fear of labour is a common problem not just for first time moments but also for mothers who perhaps had a difficult first labour and are unsure of how they will face the next one. And for some reason every second mother seems to bring up their blow by bow account of the horrors of their labour with some sort of gleeful plan to make your time as terrible as their's was.
While there is no doubt that some women do have draining and long labours, the vast majority of women have no problems. Focus on a positive baby birth care. Pregnancy does not need to end with a negative experience.
There are many things you can do to help your labour be a positive experience. Relaxation techniques practised before you go into labour help you learn how to breathe and relax under stress. Many midwives suggest seeing each contraction AS A wave. Sure it is going to increase with intensity but ti is also decrease once it reaches its peak. Focussing on the wave and breathing through it helps you work though the contraction.
Many women find it useful to remember that what they are doing has been done before. Millions of women have survived their baby birth care. Pregnancy is a natural and normal thing, and women get through it.
Though you can have the best birth plan in the world, things can sometimes happen that are a little unexpected. If you go into your labour with an attitude that you will go with the flow in relation to your baby birth care, pregnancy will end in a positive manner.
Pregnancy and Labour