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Saturday
Jan282012

Increase Birth Satisfaction: 10 Tips to Ensure a Joyful Birth Experience

by Ana Paula Markel

It is known that women remember their birth experiences for the rest of their lives.  (Simkin,P. 1991). 

Through national studies and surveys, we know that women who feel good about their birth experiences are not necessarily the ones who have give birth naturally. Women who feel good about their experience feel they are part of the decision making process. Women remember their birth with satisfaction when they feel they were heard, respected and validated. Now my question is, shouldn’t this be a basic human right? Why are not all women being treated with kindness and compassion?

There is a lot about labor and birth that we cannot predict. There are also a lot of options increasing the chances for a joyful birth experience. So, what is the recipe? How can a first time mother who has a mind full of to-do’s and who is busy growing a human prepare for a joyful birth? 

As experienced mothers know, there is nothing rigid about parenting. We, as mothers, are constantly being humbled by circumstances, surprises and the astronomical will our babies have. There are no guarantees that you can have a perfect labor. There are some very important steps, though, that a couple preparing for their first baby can take to ensure a healthy outcome as well as a healthy memory of the life-changing experience of birth.

1)  CARE PROVIDER - The most important decision a woman will make is who her care provider will be. The choices are obstetricians, certified nurse midwives that practice in hospitals or midwives with homebirth practices. It is imperative that the mother-to-be feels safe with her care provider. The visits should give the mother time to ask questions and, mostly, improve her confidence in her abilities to birth and mother her soon-to-be-born child. During labor and birth, this care provider is the person that will make all final decisions about both mother’s and baby’s health as well as the course of labor. 

2)  PLACE OF BIRTH - The location of the birth will highly impact how a woman feels in labor. The options are at a hospital, a birth center or at home. Hospitals vary a lot in policies and protocols. When choosing a hospital it is important to tour the facilities; ask the staff questions about their policies on doulas, monitoring, women’s ability to move in labor, who goes in the O.R.; and any other factor that is important to the mother and her cultural, religious, and personal needs. For a birth center it is also important to tour the facility, meet the staff and also ask people about the center. As for homebirths, there are specific questions that are important when interviewing midwives, such as how many clients they take a month, who is the back up doctor and how it is handled if two people are in labor at the same time. Women birth better where they feel safest!!! One option is not better than the other. They are simply different. 

3)  ASK QUESTIONS: A woman and her partner should not be afraid to ask questions. It is absolutely normal for a first time mother and partner to have an extensive list. Being open to communication creates a great opportunity for parents-to-be to learn where care providers stand on important topics such as natural birth, epidurals and breastfeeding. 

4)  CHILDBIRTH EDUCATION AND PREPARATION: There is an old belief that childbirth education is overrated, outdated and boring. Some even think that by doing internet research, reading books and hiring doulas couples do not need to take a childbirth class. However, there are amazing, contemporary professionals that make childbirth preparation fun, interactive and a very positive experience for parents-to-be. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn about birthing options and to reflect and discuss with partners. Couples learn a lot about themselves and each other during a childbirth class. It is also a wonderful chance to meet other couples that have the same questions, worries and joys! 

5)  SELECTIVE HEARING: People love to share tips and advice with a pregnant woman. Although some information may be useful, pregnant mothers need to stay away from bad stories. Each birth experience is unique, each relationship is unique, each child is unique. There is no need to expect that one’s experience will be just like a friend’s, sister’s or mother’s, because it won’t. Each experience is a brand new one -- fresh and neutral. 

6)  NOURISHMENT AND EXERCISE: Eating well will ensure healthy growth for the baby and well-being of the mother. Also, did you know that one effective way to prevent vaginal tearing is to eat a healthy diet? A skin that is nourished with vitamins and healthy oils will be hydrated, lubricated and stretch beautifully during the baby’s passage. Nourishment is important not only physically but also spiritually and emotionally. Pregnant women need to enjoy this time in their lives. Taking walks, getting massages and pedicures, and gathering with people that are inspiring are wonderful ways to get nourishment. A woman that can exercise will always feel better during pregnancy and more prepared for labor, birth and postpartum recovery. 

7)  FALL IN LOVE: Pregnancy, as well as labor and postpartum, brings a wonderful and beneficial hormone cocktail. Both mother and baby produce and release an array of hormones that induces loving, caring, protective behavior and facilitates bonding. The hormone oxytocin assists the mother and baby to fall in love with each other. It is also contagious, so partners don’t miss on the love fest. It feels wonderful, as it promotes a delightful sense of connection and belonging. 

8)  DOULAS: Studies have shown that by hiring a doula a mother will decrease chances of unnecessary interventions, thereby improving birth satisfaction. Doulas work directly with the mother-to-be and her family while preparing for the birth, during the birth and after the baby is born. When a couple arrives at a hospital with a doula they send a message of being informed and educated. 

9)  SAFETY:  As mammals we birth better where we feel safest. Each mother can explore for herself what makes her feel safe. Who makes her feel safe? It may be helpful to the mother to think of childhood memories and what she remembers as safe; the sounds, smells and overall atmosphere. The tools we use for coping in life are going to come in handy for labor and the skills we have already developed from childhood will also assist the mother in coping and thriving during labor, birth and postpartum. 

10)  TRUST: Birth is all about trust. Visits with care providers, time spent sharing dreams and wishes, meeting with doulas, doctors and midwives -- all are part of the journey into parenthood. Couples have the opportunity to reevaluate their own lives, childhood and dreams. This is an opportunity to learn and grow. There is no way to prevent and plan how long labor will last and if you will give birth squatting or in water. There are a lot of things we can plan and a lot that we can’t. This is probably the most beautiful thing about birth: the surrender of embracing the unknown with confidence, nourishment, support and safety.

 

Ana Paula Markel is the mother of four children. Having experienced two cesarean births, a medicated vaginal birth and a natural birth (in that order), Ana Paula discovered a passionate interest in the childbirth process. In 2008 Ana found BINI Birth, a center in Los Angeles dedicated to the childbirth education field, doula training and green pregnancy retail.

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