Whether you’re about to have your first baby or your tenth baby, the prospect of giving birth is daunting, to say the least. Until the time comes, there is no way of knowing what sort of birthing experience you will have, and while some women experience textbook labors, others find themselves dealing with a few surprises along the way. Although you may not be completely in control of the type of birth you have, you are in charge of the overall birthing experience. Here are 10 things many Moms-to-be don’t do which contributes to less than perfect birthing experiences.
How to Have a Terrible Birthing Experience (and Not…)
1. Don’t Do Your Research
Some women shun birthing classes and throw away the books because they want to be open minded about the birth, which is understandable (it’s even encouraged – see below!), but in not doing their research, they’re missing out on vital information. During your labor and birth you may be asked a number of questions such as ‘do you want pethidine?’, ‘do you want an oxytocin shot?’ and ‘should we give your baby Vitamin K?’.
The last thing you want is to be making important decisions in the spare of the moment that you know absolutely nothing about. There are many books and classes to help you learn about giving birth. You’ll find my recommendations on high-quality learning material at the bottom of this post.
2. Don’t Be Open Minded
Having a birth plan is a great idea; it means you’ve done your research and thought about the type of birth you want to have. Where many women go wrong is that once the birth plan is in place, they want to stick to the plan like it’s written in stone. it’s not! Having your heart set on a particular type of birth can lead to added stress, anxiety and even feelings of failure if it doesn’t all go to plan. Aim for the birth you want, but expect the unexpected.
3. Don’t Do What’s Best For You
When the time comes, you may be instructed to lie down flat on your back, and many laboring Moms-to-be go along with this because they think that’s the optimal birthing position. It’s not. The truth is, this is the optimal position for Doctors. If you’re happy to lie down, great, but being in this position just because you’ve been told to can lead to a terrible birthing experience if it’s not what you want.
It’s a very western concept that’s been developed for convenience. In fact, about 81% of non-European societies birth in a kneeling or squatting position as the norm. Read about birth positions to reduce labor time and pain here.
4. Don’t Eat Or Drink
Unless you’re booked in for a caesarean section, or are high risk, you really should eat something and stay hydrated. Many laboring Moms either don’t eat at all, or stick to ice chips which they think will suffice, but they’re wrong and it’s a very dated concept. All births are different, but you can be sure that you’re going to need a lot of energy to get through it! Not having enough energy is going to make you feel tired much quicker, which could lead to an unwanted assisted birth.
5. Don’t Relax
Labor and birth can be stressful, but the mistake a lot of women make is viewing the process as an adrenaline-fueled extreme sport rather than a natural phenomenon. High levels of stress can make labor last longer due to tensed muscles, and research has also found a link between anxiety during birth and reduced milk supply and breastfeeding difficulties. Studies have also found that relaxation techniques such as massage are a good method of pain relief.
6. Don’t Forget Your Makeup
Spending hours showering, blow drying and straightening your hair, doing your makeup, squeezing your swollen feet into your favorite pair of heels during the early stages of labor may sound ridiculous, but you’d be surprised how many women turn up to the hospital looking more like they’re ready for a night on the town than to give birth. Worrying about how you look should be the last thing on your mind. Put your energy into delivering that little bundle of joy, not worrying about breaking a perfectly manicured nail.
7. Don’t Take Time To Prepare
Working right up until your due date may be necessary for financial reasons, but is it doing you any good? Preparing for the birth, both physically and mentally, is vitally important. Women who don’t prepare for labor often find themselves thrown in the deep end and may have longer labors than those who have prepared their bodies. Spending some time on a birthing ball prior to the birth can get your body used to comfortable birthing positions, and can help tone muscle, making the delivery easier. It’s much better for you than being sat at a desk all day long.
If you are truly pressed for time, the least you should do is to enroll in an online birthing class, to learn and prepare mentally. My number one recommendation for online birthing classes is childbirth educator Catherine Beier’s class “Giving Birth Naturally”. (Link to her website, where you can check it out).
8. Don’t Be A Whimp
Let’s get one thing straight; contrary to popular belief, there is no medal for having a natural birth! Many women feel forced into having a natural birth because they want to be able to say ‘I did it!’. But guess what, once your little one is here, no one cares how you did it. Declining pain relief if you really need it is a silly idea. You won’t be turned away from playgroups, you won’t be looked at in disgust and you won’t be a failure! If you need it, take it!
9. Don’t Be Bold
No one knows your body better than you do, but many women put their entire bodies into the hands of Doctors or Midwives during labor and birth and don’t speak up for themselves, even if they sense something isn’t right. No matter how qualified the person, no one else can feel what you’re feeling; no one!
Not speaking up if you feel something is wrong can be dangerous for you and your baby. Doctors are great, but they’re not mind readers. If you think something’s wrong, say so!
10. Don’t Ask For Support
Planning to give birth alone is nerve-wracking, but there’s no need to put on a show for people. Some women who are going solo put up a tough exterior, even though they could really do with some support. Birthing partners can help with relaxation, they can grab you snacks, they can hold a cool compress to your face and can even take very photos of you during a bad contraction!
If you don’t have a partner or family member you can ask for help, consider a doula. There’s no shame in admitting you’d like a bit of company.
That was all! Now I hope this gave you the inspiration and kick in the butt needed to start preparing! I wish you the best birthing experience possible!
Recommended Learning Resources
- This website! :-) You’ll find plenty of material for free in our childbirth section.
- The online birth class Giving Birth Naturally. Catherine has been running this course for years, and it is a wonderful way to learn everything you need to feel empowered and prepared for your childbirth.
- Another good online class, focusing on couples taking the class together is midwife Hilary’s birthing class.
- If you are more the book-reading type, here are three books to check out (links to Amazon):
- Kneeling delivery in America 2000 years ago, British Medical Journal
- Labor pain is reduced by massage therapy, University of Miami School of Medicine
- Stress during labor and delivery and early lactation performance, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition