I think it was some alien inspired A-lister who first brought to our attention the idea of giving birth in silence. “What an interesting idea” mooted friend’s moronic husband. “The baby is born into a peaceful, tranquil environment and we all get to enjoy some silence.” She simply pointed out that if baby was born in this scenario it would also be born into a one-parent family and only allowed occasional visits from its testicularly challenged father. He got the hint.
It sometimes feels that women are being overloaded with suggestions for the optimal birth. Hypno birthing, acupuncture, hold and cold massage, munching your own placenta as it comes out. These are in addition to the more mundane options of home or hospital, push or Cesarean, pain relief or pain.
Whatever happens, expect the unexpected and listen to the medical experts. At the end of the day if you and your baby are safe then nothing else matters. And you can always have placenta for breakfast.
Labour is different for every woman, but a common denominator is pain and, ultimately, a baby. There are of course the odd genetic anomalies. Supermodel Gisele Bundchen, was quoted as saying that childbirth “ didn’t hurt in the slightest.” I imagine she managed to distract herself during contractions by looking in the mirror. However this is not a technique that works for everyone.
Many expectant mothers may find it helpful to create a birth plan. These can help women feel more in control of their childbirth experience and help you to think about what options are right for you. Topics covered can include: where you give birth, who you want with you, pain relief, your views on forcep and ventouse deliveries etc. (See box. Also see NHS website for printable birth plan)
The only caveat I would have with a birth plan is that until you are in the throes of labour it is hard to tell how you will feel. As long as everyone knows it is your right to tear the plan up and stuff it up the orifice of anyone still suggesting you ‘Om’ your way through perineum tearing, then go ahead and make one.
For me drugs were a no-brainer. Given the option I still prefer to approach summer’s first leg wax with a couple of paracetamol and gin and tonics inside me. Given this is the proverbial ‘melon through a slot machine’ moment all opiates are welcome in my corner of the labour-suite: Gas and air, surprisingly effective, Co codamol, pethidine and finally an epidural. I found all of these helpful at various points of childbirth.
Some people do not react well to certain drugs, and if they make you dizzy or queasy you can always pull the plug/canula/ drip on them. Whatever happens, don’t feel bullied into not having pain relief or think that you are a lesser person/mother if you do. There are people who enter competitions to pull 10 tonne trucks using an elastic band hooked to their willies, but I don’t see the point.
If however you are a lady that laughs in the face of pain, or just prefers a more natural route, there are a multitude of choices available to you, many offered by the NHS.
I know a couple who swear by hypno birthing and still use the breathing techniques in domestic arguments. The gist seems to be that some feel labour-related pain stems from fear and tension, which can be treated effectively with deep breathing and relaxation techniques. As with most things it probably pays to be open-minded. I know of people who were skeptical of acupuncture for pain relief, but found it invaluable.
Fear of hospitals can make home birth appealing. If you fall into an at-risk category you will almost certainly not be given this option. Those whose birth prospects seem more straightforward, may prefer to have the baby at home, in familiar surroundings. This seems to involve buying or renting a birthing pool. Advice I have garnered is to start filling it much earlier than you think, and to keep a sieve handy! Don’t rush to throw it out. I discovered my neighbours’ fish pond is the pool into which their eldest child first put in an appearance.
Whether giving birth in a fish pond, birth pool or hospital bed the one thing you need is good support. Whether you choose a doula – a sort of non-medical labour coach – your partner, the postman or your own parent, make sure you are clear about their role. Along the lines of I would like you to mop my fevered brow. I would not like you to attempt pubic hair jokes with the midwives. I leave you with a final hint for birth partners. Don’t complain that it is taking longer than expected and you are going to miss an important crucial football match. Should you make that mistake, groveling, a truckload of flowers and lavish jewellery purchase may begin to ease post-labour relations.
Where do you want to give birth?
A midwifery unit
Who do you want with you?
Partner, Doula, friend or parent.
Do you want them there if you have a forceps ventouse or caesarean delivery?
Pain relief options
Breathing and relaxation techniques
Being in water during labour and birth
Massage or acupuncture
A TENS machine
Gas and air
Options for labouring positions
Sitting in bed with your back propped up by pillows
Kneeling, or kneeling on all fours
Lying on your side
Baby lifted straight onto your tummy before the umbilical cord is cut, so that you have immediate skin-on-skin contact
Baby cleaned before he or she is handed over to you.