First of all, I would like to clarify that a lot of knowledge — the type that really matters when it comes down to it — about labor and childbirth comes from people who aren’t “doctors.” They are authors, they are doulas, they are midwives… They are moms!
And yes, some of them are doctors, too: obstetricians/ gynecologists, commonly referred to as OB/GYNs. They see women early on in pregnancy before they are “showing” and before anyone else (other than dear old Dad, perhaps) knows the big news. They check on the health of countless mothers and babies throughout pregnancy, and they are called in at the end of labor when it’s finally — FINALLY — time for a new baby to actually be born.
They know what will make labor go “well” and more smoothly, and they know what won’t.
As a mom of two, let me share what I’ve learned these last few years during countless prenatal appointments, two labors, two deliveries, lots of research, and a good amount of writing about the topic, too: 20 things women do in the delivery room that they’d probably be better off avoiding.
20 Staying Stationary
Lying down? No good. Staying still? Uh, nuh-uh. To help labor progress, it’s pretty standard stuff that a mom should be in an upright position and stay at least somewhat mobile. And, let me tell ya right here, right now, it will likely make it MUCH easier to cope with the pain, too.
19 Holding In Emotions
Hormones, man… they are such an important part of life and feelings and so many processes in the human body, a big one, to be sure, being labor. Many experienced childbirth experts touch on the notion that when women are clearly holding in or “bottling up” emotions, labor can be more difficult for them. Pro tip? If you feel like you want to cry, moan, or scream, DO IT!
18 Not Drinking Lots Of Water
You wouldn’t undertake any majorly athletic activity without being properly fueled and hydrated, right? Well, labor’s no different. When you speak to a doctor or doula or midwife about wanting to go for a “natural” birth, what’s the first thing they’ll tell you? Drink water throughout labor. It’s basic muscle stuff.
17 Going There Way Too Early
I did it: I went it when I wasn’t technically dilated enough, or “far enough along,” to be admitted to the hospital for the birth of my first baby. Man, that was a bummer. I really would have rather been coping with the worst of the contractions (and the stomach cramps… BTW) in the comfort of my own home. First-time moms tend to think they’ve reached the crucial time long before they have.
16 Refusing Pitocin After Giving Birth
The pretty old-school OB I saw during my pregnancies believed that every woman, every time, should receive Pitocin after delivering a baby. It’s that thing that they sometimes give to stimulate contractions if labor has slowed or stalled, which some women say makes contractions more painful and labor more difficult: but it’s also used to ensure the uterus contracts and momma stays safe after the baby’s born.
15 Letting In Lots Of People
If you think about this little point, it actually makes quite a bit of sense. You know how cats and dogs will crawl off to find a safe, quiet corner when they know it’s time to have their babies? They’re mammals, and humans are, too: Having a bunch of people around you while you’re laboring, or even just the wrong people, can make for a more uncomfortable (or even slowed or stalled) labor.
14 Not Practicing Pain Management Ahead Of Time
What’s the problem in the delivery room? Not being prepared. Especially if a natural labor and birth is the goal, a woman will have to be prepared. For some, this means mental preparation, and for many, it means physical preparation and practice. Otherwise, you’ll just be making things harder on yourself when it’ go-time.
13 Being Dead-Set On Their Birth Plans
It’s great to have a fairly clear idea of what your wishes are for labor and birth. That way, when you have to make decisions, you can make more informed ones, and feel more in control and empowered, therefore looking back on labor as a more positive experience. But you really can’t be completely set on any plan — because labor is an organic and therefore somewhat unpredictable process.
12 Not Using Warm Water Soaks During Labor
It’s all about water. First of all, there’s the need to hydrate, but what we’re talking about here is how soothing and helpful it can be to use warm water to help yourself cope with pain during contractions. The weightless feeling can also be soothing to women who take a soak during labor (just know that your healthcare pro may advise you to stay out of the water if YOUR water is broken).
11 Opting For An Epidural As Their Go-To
The fact that you’ve heard about a lot of people doing something is really just not a great reason to go ahead and do it yourself. If an epidural ends up being what works best for you, then, well, that’s what works for you. But let’s just say you don’t have to assume that right away. If you get one, you’ll be bed-bound, and, well, being upright and mobile tends to be the best way to help labor progress…
10 Forgetting to Massage The Area To Help It Stretch
The baby must pass through a rather mall area during those final pushes that will bring her out and into the world. Tears to this (and the surrounding) area are very, very common for first-time moms. Midwives and other birthing pros know that massaging the perineum can help it to naturally stretch and allow safe passage.
9 Not Using Warm Compresses Down There To Ease Passage
It’s not just massaging and stretching that can help the tissues to stretch and allow a baby to pass on through — warm compresses may help to do the trick, as well. Nurses may just go ahead and offer to help you with this, or maybe you’ll choose to ask or even include it in your birth plan. It won’t make tearing impossible, but it just might help to prevent it.
8 Registering There Instead Of Ahead Of Time
This one is technically right outside of the delivery room, I suppose, but basically, it can be stressful and chaotic enough to be admitted to the hospital or in triage as it is. If you still have to fill out paperwork and register there, oh boy… Preregister at the hospital where you will give birth, giving you one less thing to deal with and worry about, the better to focus on the big job at hand.
7 Letting Fear Take Over
There’s this thing childbirth experts like to talk about (or at least write about) a lot called the fear-tension-pain cycle. Basically, it is not a cycle you want to be in, and it has to do with being fearful actually worsening the sensation of pain. And so, really and truly, your attitude and the way you approach labor and childbirth play a very, very important role in how it goes.
6 Refusing Fetal Monitoring
It makes perfect sense if you don’t want to be strapped to a monitor that limits your movement during the worst of your contractions. The good news, though, is that nowadays, many wireless ones are available, so hopefully you won’t have to be bedbound when you should be up moving and grooving to get through the pain of labor. Hospital staff won’t want you skip monitoring, though, because it’s how they know the baby’s doing okay and make important decisions.
5 The Great VBAC Debate
The standard rule at many hospitals is… no VBACS. If you are a mom already, chances are you have heard the term and the rule and know someone who feels very strongly about it one way or the other. What we’re talking about here is “vaginal birth after C-section,” and hospitals often won’t allow it because the risk to the mother is too great.
4 Not Being Educated Ahead About Breastfeeding
It is very easy to focus only on the labor ahead, or hey, even only on getting through the pregnancy, for that matter! If you think beyond this, perhaps it’s mainly about supplies you’ll need and what you want the nursery to look like. But here’s something big healthcare professionals would recommend you educate yourself about: How you’re going to feed that little bundle for the first many months of life.
3 Skipping Skin-to-Skin
The health benefits to baby (lasting ones, at that!) of skin-to-skin contact are many! You (or dad) can place the baby on your bare chest and provide a comforting and special experience that really matters for the baby’s health and development — so cool! Another fun term for it is “kangaroo care”!
2 Never a Moment’s Rest
Natural childbirth experts recommend that, instead of being go-go-go and all about the coping, you actually go about your business, to some degree, in early labor, getting some rest at times you normally would, and then actively “coping” only when you really need to. Labor is, to put it simply, a very physical challenge, and you will need energy to get through it. The hardest part for many women is the fatigue.
1 Getting Carried Away “Coping” Before It’s Even Gotten That Real
So first-time moms can do this thing, childbirth experts have observed, where they’re so ready and pumped to use the coping techniques they’ve learned that they get themselves all tired out before it’s actually at the point that they really NEED those techniques to make it through the pain and challenge of labor. Why not watch a movie or do some baking or something mellow, then bust those moves you learned in childbirth class later?
Sources: Natural Hospital Birth