The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Lots of women commit during pregnancy to get through labor without drugs or an epidural. They come into labor and delivery with plans and promises, skills and techniques to see them through, feeling certain they can achieve their goal of a 100 percent natural birth because they’re prepared, they’re tough and, c’mon, seriously, how bad can it be?
Finding the right person to care for you and your baby during pregnancy, labor and birth is one of the most important decisions you will make, and it can help you feel confident to push for the safest, healthiest birth.
As you review doctors and midwives in your area, the following questions can help you find someone who will provide the care you are looking for. Asking questions and providing information builds trust, and it’s the best way to make sure everyone is working toward the same goal – the safest, healthiest birth possible for you and your baby.
Her job description is pretty clear-cut: She’s a registered nurse who cares for the mother and baby throughout labor, birth and recovery. But besides monitoring the mom’s contractions and the baby’s heart rate, she cleans up all manner of messes; adjusts for quirks, temperaments and family dramas; coaches dads and pampers siblings; translates medical-speak; and serves as cheerleader, drill sergeant and best friend du jour. Your labor nurse has heard and seen everything and knows a lot; here’s what she wants you to know.
Movement and positioning in labor work magic. Movement enhances comfort by stimulating the receptors in the brain that decrease pain perception. The result is that you are able to tolerate increasingly strong contractions. When contractions become very strong, endorphins are released and pain perception decreases even more. Ultimately, your movement in response to your contractions decreases pain and facilitates labor – a win-win. Movement also helps the baby move through the pelvis, and some positions enlarge pelvic diameters.
Babies born in a hurry have made headlines this week. A New Jersey baby was born on a commuter train and a Washington baby arrived in the hospital elevator (so close). A woman in Oregon gave birth in her bedroom this week, not because she was planning a home birth, but because she didn’t realize she was pregnant until the baby started coming
If your car stalled at the bottom of a hill, you certainly wouldn’t try to push it uphill. So why does it make sense to fight gravity by lying down during labor? This is just one reason why the standard hospital labor position—semi- or fully reclining—is not ideal. For one thing, when you’re lying on your back, your uterus compresses major blood vessels, potentially depriving the baby of oxygen and making you feel dizzy or queasy.
Raise your comfort level with these tips to cope with pain and labor. First, decide who and what will be with you. Then learn about what you can do with your body and mind during contractions. You’ll be amazed at your ability to discover and stay in your comfort zone.
When Pamela Berens was a medical student in Minnesota, she learned that lying on your back with your feet in stirrups was not the only way to have a baby. “We saw a lot of Hmong women [from Southeast Asia], and many of them gave birth squatting in a corner of the hospital room,” recalls Berens, who’s now an OB-GYN at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston.
If I had a dime for every time somebody told me they didn't want to have their baby in a hospital (or work as a labor nurse instead of say, a homebirth assistant) because they didn't want to do the whole "strapped on her back on a cold table thing," I'd be a very rich woman. Who does that? Nobody. I've never—not once in 18 years—ever seen anybody strapped on her back on a cold table for a vaginal birth. Gawd, that's like something out of a Texas Chainsaw, Friday the 13th delivery room where all the nurses are axe-wielding monsters.
Labor is shorter and less painful when the baby is facing the mother's spine. Some claim that getting down on all fours late in pregnancy or during labor can shift the baby into this ideal position, but researchers found that while assuming this posture for 10 minutes twice daily near the end of pregnancy, or for 30 minutes during labor, did not rotate the baby, it did reduce back pain.
A compulsive, list-making, double-checking planner, I rarely make last-minute decisions. But eight months into my second pregnancy, I decided I wanted to deliver my daughter from a squatting position instead of the traditional one.
A decade ago, it was practically a given that most—if not all—pregnant women would take a labor-preparation class midway through pregnancy. "Not anymore," says Susan Cooter, R.N., a certified childbirth educator and labor doula in Hatboro, Pa., and director of Prepared Childbirth Educators, an organization that trains registered nurses to teach childbirth education courses. "I work with so many women who think that watching Birth Stories on TV will prepare them for labor.