Practical advice for new parents
Pregnancy is nearly complete - time for baby to make that grand entrance into the world. And as my OB reminded me when I was many, many days over due - all babies come out eventually. Indeed. Some through the door (vaginally) and others through the window (c-section). Rarely are c-sections scheduled electively for first time mothers if it has been an uncomplicated, healthy pregnancy. However, about 29% of all labors are via c-section for whatever reason. For the purposes of this posting, we'll stick with discussing preparation for vaginal delivery and trying to avoid c-sections.
Let's start by some ways to avoid a c-section.
- Avoid induction unless medically necessary as induction does lead to a higher rate of c-section. Scheduling out of convenience might seem important at the time (believe me I understand this as I had Bebe Sister at the beginning of a school semester), but if you can go into labor spontaneously then you stand a better chance of vaginal birth.
- Labor at home as much as possible (ideally until 3 cm).
- Choose your health care provider and hospital carefully (if this is possible). Check their c-section rates and go with the one with the lowest. Or plan a home birth. Our OB was VERY much opposed to elective c-sections and he worked with us to really avoid having one (remember, I'm really petite but I still pushed out an eight and a half pound baby but had a nice episiotomy to show for it).
- Consider the use of a doula or birth assistant that can be your advocate while you are in labor.
- An excellent child birth preparation course can do wonders. Learning relaxation techniques, breathing techniques, and knowing when c-sections are appropriate.
As far as child birth, you have a couple of choices with regard to pain management - with or without the use of pain relieving medications. However, do not think that just because you're planning on getting that epidural you'll be without pain. You still have to go through early labor without the use of pain relievers and this can last for days. And epidurals do not always provide complete relief and often women do feel the pushing stage. Additionally, speaking from experience, actually getting the epidural itself is not without discomfort, especially if you're in uncomfortable labor. And the needle does not always find its place the first or second time.
And in case you did not know, you do also have some choices when it comes to birth location. There is the typical hospital setting, but there are also birthing facilities that offer a more natural atmosphere, and home births are also making a strong come back. You just need to ensure that your health care provider will delivery at your preferred location. If you would like to read an amazing all natural at home birth, visit my friend Emily's blog and read her birth story. It's a beautiful one. In contrast to this, you can read my hospital birth with baby number 2 here. It is important to note that both of these birth stories are not first time deliveries, which tend to last quite a bit longer. For example, with T Rex I was in labor for a total of 56 hours, 3 of which was pushing, and only 18 of which was with an epidural. With Bebe Sister I was in labor less than 24 hours, less than 3 hours with an epidural, and pushed for 5 minutes.
Every birth is different. And just realize that stuff can happen fast or not so fast. Always expect the unexpected and if you find you get exactly what you expect, than better to not be surprised than to be in shock.
Ensure that you take some kind of child birth preparation class. Some are better than others but taking one and learning, at minimum, some breathing techniques will help you significantly.
Make a birth plan. It can be as detailed or not as you want. My most recent birth plan had some interesting details to it. For example, I wanted the baby cleaned off before she was handed to me. I know that sounds odd but I was a little paranoid about dropping her if she wasn't clean. The nurse working with us said she had never seen that in a birth plan before but she complied and intervened when my physician attempted to hand her to me not cleaned.
Next I want to talk about what to pack in your hospital bag if you are not planning a home birth. Pack your bag early and keep it in the vehicle you will be traveling to the hospital in along with the car seat.
- Clothes - Consider what you want to labor in and pack it unless the hospital gown is your preferred choice. You might also want some other breastfeeding friendly clothes for wearing at the hospital. Also include some socks and underwear you won't feel too horrible about tossing due to stains. Nursing bra for sure. Plus some stretchy clothes for coming home (you'll still have quite an abdomen on you even after delivery.)
- Camera - toss in a disposable camera in case you happen to forget or not have your regular camera with you.
- Pads - I was amazing by the amount of blood loss following delivery. Shocked actually. I never used such giant pads. Pack some of your favorite kinds whether you like disposable or cloth, just pack them.
- Breastfeeding pads. Some women might actually be in the hospital long enough to need to use them so just pack some in case.
- Regular hygiene products and make-up you might want to use while there.
- Journal (record your birth story as soon as you can)
- Soothing music
- Begin breastfeeding as soon as possible.
If you end up needing or getting a c-section, that's alright. As I said earlier, 29% do so chances are someone reading this will end up going that route. It's just a bummer because recovery is so much longer as is the hospital stay. And it IS major surgery.