My Expert Midwife is the midwife-led brand that can help you manage the physical side effects of pregnancy, childbirth and being a new mother. Their midwife-developed, award-winning products will help you feel like you again. Today, their in-house midwife Malena Monteverde gives her advice on how and why you should plan for your birth.
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“Going with the flow” may be great during many situations in life and, although maintaining an element of fluidity will certainly help you during your birth, it is important to remember that knowledge is power and that the more prepared you feel for your birth, the more empowered you will be.
1. Don’t just wish for a great birth, prepare for one with antenatal classes!
During your maternity care you will need to make many decisions concerning yourself and your baby. If you are well informed about your options, you will feel more confident about making the right choices for yourself and your baby. This will in turn mean that you feel more empowered and able to start family life with your new baby feeling more confident. A woman who is empowered and engaged with her choices during this pivotal time in her life is one who will recover better and adjust to family life more easily.
A good quality antenatal class will not only discuss relevant topics but should also be up to date with the latest evidence-based research to help you decide what things are right for your labour, birth and maternity care. Antenatal classes are an essential source of information in the preparation for your birth and new arrival. They should also be interesting and fun and help to provide you with the opportunity to connect with others in your locality, even when done online.
2. Having a birth plan is important
Although it is true that birth may be unpredictable, a birth plan provides a unique view into what is important to you and having one can help you to plan what you want for your labour and birth.
Even if things don’t go quite as you imagined, most of the choices on your birth plan can still be honoured. Your desire for dim lights, delayed cord clamping or for you and your partner to discover your baby’s sex, for example, can be incorporated into your birth experience, even if your labour ends up being induced or you need a Caesarean section.
Having a birth plan will inform the midwives and other health care professionals caring for you about your choices, enabling them to incorporate these throughout, however your birth journey happens. So, make sure they read it!
3. You can adapt your hospital room
It may not be common knowledge, but you are well within your rights to move things about and bring stuff in from home to make your hospital room feel more homely.
The levels of hormones such as oxytocin (the ‘love hormone’ you need to labour and bond with your baby) and endorphins (naturally occurring painkillers) are affected by your environment and are known to increase when you feel safe, warm, relaxed and are free to move. Therefore, keeping a relaxing and calming environment around you can help your labour to progress more naturally and effectively.
Easy adjustments to your hospital room include moving the bed against the wall (or even out of the room!) and placing a birth mat on the floor, turning the overhead lights off and using battery operated tealights or fairy lights from home, covering wall clocks, bringing cushions, a throw and a birthing board (with photos of loved ones or places that bring you joy and birth affirmations) from home and requesting a birthing ball, rope and/or stool from your midwife.
4. Your birth partner is essential, and they also need looking after
When choosing your birth partner(s), be honest with yourself: will they be able to encourage and empower you? Not everyone is cut out for this role. You need someone who won’t be overcome by the rollercoaster of emotions in labour and who will be able to give you the reassurance that you need.
Make sure your birth partner knows what to expect. Making a birth plan and involving your birth partner(s) when writing it will give them a good overview of your wishes for your labour and birth. Also, have them attend your antenatal education classes with you, so that they fully understand the journey you will be on.
Until Covid restrictions ease some more, you may still only be able to have one birth partner with you in hospital. It may therefore be wise to allow the person who’ll accompany you in hospital to rest as much as possible whilst you’re at home being supported by someone else. Remember that your birth partners won’t have the cocktail of hormones that will help keep you up and going for hours and hours!
You will not have the emotional time to worry about how they are coping, so they will have to look after themselves. As well as some rest before taking you to hospital or joining you there, your partner will need their own hospital bag with a change of clothes, basic toiletries, some warm layers and plenty of food and energy drinks to keep them going, along with any medication they may be on.