Birth is one of, if not the biggest day in your life – so why wouldn’t we prepare? We prepare for our wedding, an overseas trip, or buying a house – birth is no different! Of course, in these scenarios everything doesn’t always go to plan, perhaps it rains or your flight is delayed, but you still have a plan right? I find that my clients who go into their birth really well informed; knowing their options, having tools to help them work with contractions and excellent birth partner support often have a much more positive experience of birth.
In this article, I share my top tips for preparing for your birth so that you too can have a positive experience.
Choose your care provider wisely
This is one of the most important decisions you will make in your pregnancy. In Australia, you can choose to see a midwife or doctor for your care. It’s important when choosing your provider to choose the person most aligned with your views of birth, as they are most likely to support you with the type of birth you want. Research shows that continuity of care from a known midwife can have many benefits for women including:
- More likely to have a vaginal birth
- More likely to have a positive experience of labour and birth
- Less likely to need an epidural or other forms of pain relief
- Less likely to have an instrumental (forceps or vacuum) birth
- Higher chance of successfully breastfeeding their baby
There are many ways to access midwifery continuity of care – through a midwifery group practice or caseload program through your local public hospital, a private midwife, or perhaps a birth centre where midwives work in a team.
Knowledge is Power
Knowledge absolutely is power when it comes to birth! I always say that it is really hard to stay calm in labour without knowing what to expect what your body is doing, or what you can do to work with your contractions. Learn as much as you can before your baby arrives. Read books, attend your hospital antenatal classes and chat to your care provider about any questions you may have. I highly recommend attending independent childbirth education classes (like the Hypnobirthing Australia Positive Birth Program) as these are a great way to prepare for your birth. If your birth partner can attend too this is ideal as they have a huge role to play, and classes can really help them to prepare too.
Write your Birth Plan
As a midwife, I absolutely love birth plans because they allow me to know exactly what a mum wants, which means I can best support her to achieve a positive birth experience. A birth plan is essentially a communication tool between you, your birth partner, and your care provider. They can help ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to supporting you during your birth. Birth plans also allow you to get all your wishes out of your head and written down on paper. It is important to remember that a birth plan is not a rigid plan of exactly how your birth is going to go – we know that birth is not something that we can 100% control, and sometimes we need to work with the turns that our birth takes. Birth plans are a great opportunity to really consider what you would like for your birth, and to ensure your birth partner knows these wishes too.
Prepare your Partner
While each birth is different, there is one thing that I believe can make a huge difference to every woman’s birth – partner support. Your birth partner doesn’t necessarily have to be your romantic partner, it could be your mum, sister, friend, or a doula. As a birth partner, you can prepare by understanding the process of labour and the different stages, as well as some of the common interventions that may be offered during labour and birth. Discuss with your partner, your hopes and wishes for your birth, and create a birth plan together to help guide you on the big day. It is also great for them to learn some techniques like massage and acupressure points that can help you during labour.
While it is impossible to plan every aspect of your birth, it is important to be prepared. Often women say they want to ‘go with the flow’, but often this is a slippery slope into feeling overwhelmed in labour because you may not have the tools to help manage the intensity of labour, or the knowledge to make informed decisions when options are presented to you. Prepare for your birth and you will reap the benefits!
Article written by PBC Expo Midwife Hannah