Nowadays hospitals are practicing defensive medicine – which basically means they feel they have to use all their tools and interventions to prove that they’ve done everything they can to produce the best outcome. But their idea of the best outcome starts and ends with a healthy baby. Sometimes the Mother gets lost along the way. Mother friendly hospitals acknowledge that the mother’s experience is also important –a traumatic birth experience can result in poor bonding between Mother and Baby which can effect breast feeding success and cause postpartum depression. There are ways to optimize your birth experience even in the most intervention – happy hospitals.
Here are a few tips to help you negotiate these common road blocks on the way to your best birth:
Childbirth is not an area where ignorance is bliss. You wouldn’t leave on a road trip without checking a map, don’t go blindly into labour. Go to prenatal classes, read books, decide what kind of birth you want and write a birth plan. For tips on how to do that, check here.
Transfer to hospital can slow down or even stop your labour. If you show up too early the hospital may feel the need to ‘do something’ to speed you up. Stay at home as long as possible.
Well meaning nurses undermine your determination to have a natural birth by offering drugs every 2 seconds. Get the nurses on your side. Hit the drive through on the way to the hospital and pick up a dozen donuts. Print out a sign that says “We are trying to have a natural birth! Please don’t talk about epidurals! I’ll ask for one if I want one.” Stick it on the donut box. Print another and stick it to the door.
Unfamiliar places make relaxing into labour difficult. Treat the hospital room like a hotel room. Don’t be afraid to open all the cupboards and check the place out. Use all the blankets and pillows, don’t be shy. You are paying for this room, make it yours. Find the light switches and turn them off! Bring your bedside lamp from home or some battery powered candles and dim the lights.
You need to eat and drink to keep your strength up – but do not expect the hospital to provide you with decent food. Bring a picnic and choose your snacks wisely. Nothing too smelly! Some old school nurses still believe you should restrict food and drink in labour, even though the research doesn’t support this and even the American Society of Anesthesiologists has stated that it’s okay.
The bed looks really inviting but it’s best to stay upright as much as possible. If you must be monitored insist on sitting upright preferably on a birthing ball to keep your hips open and flexible. Play music to calm and soothe you, or get you up and dancing. Moving your hips is a great way to get baby to move down and out. Dance and sway and walk around the floor.
When you are beginning to think you can’t do this anymore -use the facilities! Seriously, if there’s a tub you want to get in it. And here’s a little secret – those pillows can totally go in the water. They’re designed to clean up after all kinds of bodily fluids, so if you need a bath pillow just grab one off the bed and use it. Hydro therapy can be very effective and if you are feeling like you might want an epidural, try the shower first.
Bring a supportive pit crew. Your partner, a doula, a RMT, your best friend. The more support the better. How nice it can be when one person is rubbing your feet and another your back while a third is bringing you a drink of ice cold water. Your birthing suite should be like a 5 star resort with a spa, and you should be treated accordingly. Unfortunately this isn’t usually the case, so you must bring your servants with you. If you find you prefer solitude when labouring, park your people at the door to keep it closed.
Don’t let anyone tell you what to do. I’m not saying ignore doctor’s advice, but if you feel like you’re being bullied, you are. You can tell your doctor to change his attitude or get out. You can tell your nurse to shut the f up. You are in labour, dammit, and you can get away with anything! And have your pit crew back you up. A chorus of “she said no” is helpful to remind the staff that consent is actually required before they do anything.
Try to enjoy the journey. Your labour may seem endless while you are in it but soon it will be over and your baby will be in your arms. And then the real trip begins!
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