There maybe a lot about birth that we cannot control but there is still a lot we can. We can choose a care provider, we can learn about birth options and we can choose a location for birth, all of which impact our birth experience. Being an active participant in our birth planning allows us to often have positive experiences apart from just how labor unfolds.
1. Research your options. Read, ask friends and professionals questions and use self reflection to decide what your birth preferences might be.
2. Interview different providers until you find one you trust and one that respects your birth preferences. Remember that you are the consumer and it is okay to keep looking until you find the right one for you. If you choose a provider and later find you are not comfortable with them, it is never too late to keep searching for a provider you trust.
3. Read about positive births, options and more. Books that are based on factual information and books containing positive birth experiences can help you build your confidence in your ability to give birth. They can also help you learn more about your options.
4. Share your birth preferences with your partner, birth support team and healthcare provider. Making a birth preference list helps others know what you desire and what your expectations of them are. From your desire to have dim lights to your plans for immediate skin to skin, if others do not know what you want you might miss out on something that only required asking.
5. Choose your birth location. After learning more about your birth options, available providers in your area and your birth preferences, you can choose the location that feels safest for you. Depending on where you live you might have multiple hospitals to choose from, freestanding birth centers or providers that will attend a home birth. You may have to do your research, not all providers advertise a lot. The Philadelphia area has many birth options but many are not aware of all the wonderful options.
6. Learn about how labor progresses, comfort measures, options for birth and confidence building through a comprehensive childbirth class. Often independent childbirth classes are designed as a series to allow for learning more, meeting other new parents and focus on building your confidence in your ability to give birth.
7. Build your confidence. Use positive affirmations, knowledge about about birth and like-minded individuals to build up your confidence. Birth is an instinctual, normal body process that often unfolds best when we are able to let go and trust that process. Certainly there are exceptions but that is where the knowledge aspect comes into your confidence. You can be confident in your body’s ability to give birth as well as confident in your ability to make any decisions that might arise during unexpected circumstances.
8. Pick your birth team. Deciding who will be present during your birth can be a big decision. As you learn about the hormonal process of birth you learn that your birth environment has a big impact on how labor unfolds. Choosing wisely and choosing people that will not be offended if asked to leave can have a very positive impact on your labor experience. Many women also choose to have a doula as part of their birth team. Having professional labor support with you throughout the duration of labor can reduce interventions and create a positive experience.
9. B.R.A.I.N. used during labor can help you be an active participant in birth decisions. Using this acronym can help in making fully informed decisions about your care and baby’s care.
Benefit: What are the benefits to me, what are the benefits to baby?
Risks: What are the risks to me, what are the risks to baby?
Alternatives: What alternatives are available?
Intuition:What is my intuition saying?
Nothing: What might happen if we do nothing?
10. Baby! While we cannot control all of labor we can feel better about situations when we know we actively participated and we were heard and respected. This quote from Janet Balaskas sums this up very well, “By deciding to have an active birth you will be reclaiming your fundamental power as a birth-giver, a mother, and a woman. You will be giving your baby the best possible start in life and a safe transition from the womb to the world. Should any unusual difficulty or complication arise, you will be free to make use of the safety net of modern obstetric care, knowing that you have done your very best and also knowing that this is your choice and that intervention was really necessary. In this way, even the most difficult birth can be a positive experience.”