The Green Doula’s 10 Childbirth Preparation Tips

by , 02/13/09

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Congratulations if you have just found out that you are pregnant! You’re excited, curious, and at the same time you may even be fearful of the process of childbirth. For the majority of Americans, this process is only briefly explored in high school during a sex education week. After that, the dialogue takes a hiatus and seems to abruptly resurface as soon as you realize you are pregnant. Regardless of whether you are a single mother, have a loving & supporting partner or a scared-silly partner, there are always support and resources available to you. It’s never too early to start preparing for childbirth, and in this case, the sooner the better. Here are my top 10 tips to help you prepare for childbirth.

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1. Choose Your Doctor or Midwife Early On in Your Pregnancy

Take your time and interview yours and your baby’s primary care practitioner. Do not feel obligated to select a practitioner because they were recommended to you by your insurance provider or a colleague. You need to feel comfortable with your practitioner, and they need to answer all of your questions and respect your wishes. Be aware that should it be necessary, it is possible to switch doctors or Midwife during your pregnancy. Click here to see a great list of questions you should ask while interviewing practitioners.

It is important to have your pregnancy monitored, especially in the early stages, to obtain an accurate medical assessment of your pregnancy’s progress. It’s important to make sure that your placenta is healthy, and your blood pressure is normal. Should there be any abnormalities, early detection allows for more time to address concerns.

2. Educate Yourselves: Read Relevant Books and Sign up for Classes

Refresh your knowledge of childbirth and begin to connect to your body and growing baby. Visit your local library, borrow books from friends, or purchase such books as Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin or The Complete Book of Pregnancy & Childbirth by Shelia Kitzinger. Research local available childbirth education classes, Lamaze and Bradley Method courses and sign up for whichever approach and course works best for you.

Explore the various laboring options such as birthing at home, in a hospital or at a birthing center. Begin to ask questions and take the appropriate measures to solidify your labor environment.

3. Create a Pregnancy Journal

Whether you prefer to write or type, it is very helpful to journal or blog what’s going through your head during pregnancy. By clearing your thoughts or addressing your concerns before labor begins, you will be helping yourself and your baby. In childbirth, unsettled thoughts and emotions can rise to the surface and form mental blocks. Such blocks can hinder the process of labor and induce complications with heart rates and tension. These complications can lead to interventions such as C-sections. So if you had a fight with your partner, are upset because your mother can’t be with you during childbirth, whatever it is, write it out. This is especially important for victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Taking the time to write about your pregnancy allows you to connect with your baby, your inner strength and personal joy. It can be a wonderful collection of words to revisit in the future.

4. Maintain a Healthy Diet

A good diet is extremely important for both you and your baby throughout pregnancy. Sustaining a healthy diet, sustains a healthy pregnancy which enables a mother to perform at her highest level during labor. Marathon runners do not load up on cheeseburgers, fries, and shakes before a big race, right? A pregnant woman only needs an extra 100 to 300 calories per day for her growing baby. A good balance of protein, calcium, fats, carbs, vitamins, folic acid and iron is essential for your body to operate at its peak performance.

5. Exercise

Exercise is EXTREMELY important throughout pregnancy. Strengthening your core, building endurance and stretching out your achy joints throughout your pregnancy will help you out tremendously during pregnancy, labor and postpartum. Women who exercise during pregnancy get back to their pre-pregnancy weight and activity levels more quickly than those who do not.

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6. Get Enough Rest

Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, and if needed, a nap during the day is key. Your body needs to restore itself daily for it is being required to work harder than normal. One does not have to be pregnant to know that being tired causes us to be cranky, achy and weaker than usual. You want to be as rested as possible to endure your labor. Labor can be a 4 hour event, a 12 hour event, or even a 30+ hour event.

7. Establish a Good Hydration Routine

Drinking at least 9 glasses of water per day is essential for you and your baby’s health. Water helps to build new tissue & carry nutrients to your baby, it keeps your baby floating in its cushion of amniotic fluid, and prevents the uterus from contracting before its time. Dehydration may cause preterm labor, so carry your eco-friendly water bottle around with you.

8. Connect & Talk with Your Partner, Friends, Family and Community

If you are able to do so, have a conversation with your own mother and ask her to tell you her birth story. You can become inspired and learn about potential hereditary tendencies that may occur in your own birth. Often a mother’s mother has a similar birthing style and patterns.

Speaking with other mothers and partners about their birth experiences can be such a valuable educational tool as well. It can help you and your partner create your birth plan. You will hear stories that will touch and inspire you, while others may horrify you. Learn from them all.

9. Interview and Find a Labor Doula

A doula provides continuous labor support for a mother during her labor. A doula is like that of a coach/cheerleader/advocate. You two are the players who will be on the court. Any questions and concerns about the process of labor, the orders the medical staff may call out, etc. – your doula is there to help guide you and give you the emotional and physical support you need during labor. To learn more about doulas, click here.

10. Create Your Birth Plan

After you have researched, taken classes, and talked with others, you and your partner are now able to create or finish your birth plan. A birth plan is not a checklist of everything that you want to happen, or has to happen. It is more so a very necessary exercise which will prepare you for your labor experience. Here is an interactive birth plan tool to get you started.

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7 Responses to “The Green Doula’s 10 Childbirth Preparation Tips”

  1. What a great list! My husband and I are trying to get pregnant and it’s so helpful to read things like this, so thank you!

  2. great list. I would add watch the documentary “the business of being born” make informed decisions about your health care

  3. Michele de Jesus says:

    Great post! No matter where you intend to give birth see THE BUSINESS OF BEING BORN! It may challenge your preconceived notions about childbirth and help you know the different options and choices you have in your prenatal care and birthplan whether at home, a birth center, or a hospital. Certain choices can help you avoid a cascade of unnecessary interventions and a c-section. At 27 weeks I changed my birthplan and I couldn’t be happier with my safe, healthy, and empowering home birth and pre- and post- natal midwifery care.

    FILM SYNOPSIS:

    “Birth is a miracle, a rite of passage, a natural part of life. But birth is also big business. … The film interlaces intimate birth stories with surprising historical, political and scientific insights and shocking statistics about the current maternity care system. … Should most births be viewed as a natural life process, or should every delivery be treated as a potentially catastrophic medical emergency?“

    FROM THE DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT:

    “…I was afraid to even witness a woman giving birth, let alone film one. I had never pronounced the word ‘midwifery’ and I thought Ricki [Lake] insane, as she planned the birth of her second child, for passing up an epidural in a hospital delivery. But as I did the research, I discovered that the business of being born is another infuriating way medical traditions and institutions – hospitals and insurance companies – actually discourage choice and even infringe on parents’ intimate rites, ultimately obstructing the powerful natural connection between mother and newborn child. …nowhere does the tension between technology and nature play out more dramatically than birth…”

    Also read WHAT EVERY PREGNANT WOMAN NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT CESAREAN SECTION. Download the free booklet at:
    http://www.childbirthconnection.org/pdfs/cesareanbooklet.pdf

  4. I also recommend watching the documentary Orgasmic Birth. The title can through off some and yes about 3 out of the 11 births featured in the film are on the “orgasmic” side (So it can definitely make some feel a bit uncomfortable while watching it). It is a great documentary shining light on beautiful home births and what can happen to a women who is given the freedom and sacred space to labor in her own comfortable environment. No strangers, bright lights nor physical limitations just a sacred space filled with love and support.

    http://www.orgasmicbirth.com/

    Homebirths make up 1% of the population of the births in the US, though it is more popular in the UK and Scandinavian countries. Scandinavian countries definitely incorporate more of a midwifery model both at home and in their hospitals as compared to the US. Most independent health organizations around the world recognize that the Midwifery model is better than the medical model, but for reasons in which the Business of Being Born explains, America’s dominant medical model definitely has a lot of cons verses pros. I think though as more and more documentaries and sharing of stories are shared in the US things will turn around and that 1% statistic will increase. As well women & partners will become more empowered and knowledgeable and be able to continue to create more positive hospital birth experiences.

    http://www.globalmidwives.org/About/About/midwifery.html

    I totally get and understand that the idea of a homebirth is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I do think that watching both the Business of Being Born and then Orgasmic Birth ( I think that should be the order in which you would watch both) will open your awareness to the expansive natural and original world of childbirth. The way it was before the industrial revolution and then back to the beginning of our time.

  5. Just want to weigh in here with my own opinion: I think it is important for all pregnant women to watch as many birth videos as possible to understand the wide variety of possibilities and potential for the birthing experience. The birthing experience is so different for each woman, and birthing really can be an exciting and fun experience rather than one that is scary and over medicalized. That said, philosophies like ‘Orgasmic Birth’ make me a little concerned about giving women a false impression about the ease/pleasantness of childbirth. Childbirth is not like having a cup of tea! I remember a Bradley course that I took gave the impression that childbirth could be relatively pain-free with the right breathing and relaxation exercises. WRONG. I think this type of thing can set a dangerous false impression and may make women unprepared for the physical intensity of labor. I think for most women (certainly for me) childbirth is painful and INTENSE. Why beat around the bush? It was the most painful thing I have ever gone through. I puked all over everyone in my delivery room, and screamed so much that all the nurses were afraid of me ;) That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t go through it all over again for another baby – but I think pregnant women really need to be prepared for the physical intensity of giving birth. I mean, I know every woman has a completely different experience, and I’m sure for some the baby pops out easily or even orgasmically, but I don’t think this is the norm for most women. For most women childbirth is painful. However, just because labor can be painful doesn’t mean that one should be afraid of the pain and seek anesthesia as quickly as possible. Its easier to get the baby out if you can FEEL what you are doing during the progress of labor. Taking childbirth classes and really understanding the birth process goes a long way towards understanding the pains of labor, understanding what is going on with your body and allaying any fears. Best wishes to all pregnant women out there: may you have a rewarding and uncomplicated delivery!

    -Jill

  6. I definitely agree. Childbirth is Painful and can be the most ultimate test of intensity & endurance in a women’s life. I do wish that the documetary itself had a different title for 8 out of the 11 births aren’t “orgasmic”.

    The film has a lot of informative interviews with alot of key figures in the world of childbirth such as Ina May Gaskin, Penny Simkin and Marsden Wagner. It explores the full range of the oxytocin which is released during labor naturally. There is a strong empahsis on the idea of granting women a protective comfortable environment surrounded by love and unconditional care to birth within and the value of the partner’s prescence. Its only in such cases that some women can even experience childbirth in an “orgasmic way” (Not necessarily Pain-Free)I would definitely say that this film is pro-homebirth & mid-wifery/model, but you do see a majority of the women coping with their pain in the film ( one I believe was in labor for 60hrs). Some of the women do use their vocals to breathe/get through their pain and those sounds can make some viewers uncomfortable. But yes there is a pink elephant in the room with this one particular woman in the film who I am sure will shock the pants off of everyone.You do see her giving birth and well, in that moment she’s not in pain.

    Overall, the documentary picks up where the Business of Being Born left off in the sense that it emphasizes a variety of home births/Water births (they show only one hospital birth), the value of partner support and raises the topic of childbirth for victims of sexual violence. This is a film with the stance of fully surrendering to such an experience. The title doesn’t work to this films benefit.

  7. Michele de Jesus says:

    The intensity of childbirth is definitely different for everyone.

    For me it wasn’t about pain since I was either extremely lucky or I managed my pain extremely well. The worst pain was a bit more than strong menstrual cramps, with intense pressure and stretching at crowning, a bit more than perineal massage. Totally manageable. No screaming, no foul language. Some vocalizations.

    Pain and difficulty are so overemphasized and negatively represented in our mass media that many women fear pain more than anything, expect a traumatic crisis, and assume they’ll need to be saved with conventional pain management and hospital technology. Some even schedule a cesarian to avoid the experience altogether … perhaps not realizing the recovery involved. According to the fear-tension-pain-cycle increased fear increases tension which increases pain.

    I had psyched up with Calm Birth techniques: positive visualizations of the birth process, deep “womb breathing”, and full body relaxation i.e. release of tension. Prenatal yoga had also prepared me to label and endure pain and discomfort as purposeful “intense sensation”. My stellar support team (2 midwives, doula, husband) kept me positive, calm, comforted, and changing positions when the baby wouldn’t descend for hours. They used their bag of midwifery tips, & tricks and they provided coaching when needed.

    What was intense for me was the emotional rollercoaster of it all. It was humbling surrendering to this surreal and unpredictable unfolding on its own path and time. And intense was accepting the weight of the sacred responsibly for this life at the threshold which i somehow needed to figure out how to effectively push out of my body with all my might in spite of my self doubt, sleep deprivation, and near complete exhaustion. For me this was the first test of motherhood.

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