Helpful Tips for a Positive Birth Experience

I came up with these Tips for a Positive Birth Experience for prospective students when I first started teaching. Many expecting parents think that taking a childbirth class is just ‘learning how to breathe’. While breathing effectively is important to having a positive birth experience, there are many other factors that will contribute to how you feel after all is said and done.

Seems simple enough, but there’s more!

Tip #1: Become an Informed Healthcare Consumer

If you are anything like I was when we found out I was preggers, you assume that you need to find an OB/GYN who takes your insurance, and then you’re good to go. I didn’t know it at the time, but there are a number of care providers who can attend births, and OB/GYN’s are just one type.

Provider types who attend births

  • OB/GYN’s
  • Midwives (Certified Nurse Midwives, Certified Professional Midwives, Certified Midwives, Lay Midwives, Direct Entry Midwives, etc.)
  • Family Physicians

Learning the different models of care that these types of providers will give you could change your mind about who you want attending your birth.

AND THAT’S JUST FOR STARTERS

To increase your chances of a positive birth experience, you not only need a provider/model of care/birth place that aligns with your birth intentions, but you also need to be informed about common interventions. This means understanding the risks, benefits, and alternatives of each test, exam, or other thing they want to do to ‘intervene’ in your pregnancy, labor, birth or postpartum period. It especially means having a good grasp of the evidence supporting (or not supporting) the intervention. I know this seems like A LOT to consider, but it’s not as difficult to manage if you have a well trained, certified birth professional to help you. Knowing the evidence for interventions will significantly contribute to having a positive birth experience, especially if you end up needing one of those interventions.

What are Evidence Based Birth® Childbirth Classes?

Tip #2: Build a Supportive Birth Team

They key word here is “supportive”. Your birth team consists of anyone in the space where you plan to give birth. Yes, it’s your partner, a doula if you choose to have one, and any family or friends you may wish to invite. Your birth team also includes your care provider and the nursing staff.

Player 1: Your birth partner. If you have a significant other and they are your chosen birth partner, you chose them for a reason! All the lovely things you share together in your everyday life are going to come into your birth space and will help you both navigate this precious time. You may find that your partner wants to give you more support, but they are unsure how to do so. This is an excellent time to explore childbirth preparation options together. (virtual consultations, group classes, DIY, etc.)

(If you are planning to birth without a partner or support person, please message me. )

Additional Players: If you find that your family or friends are not 100% on board with your birth intentions, it may be best to limit their access to you during your birthing time. Their negativity can detrimentally affect your mindset, the energy in the room, the dynamics with the staff, or worse. Birthing time is a vulnerable time and you have to trust that everyone you are allowing in the room has your back and believes in you/your baby, so that you can focus on bringing your bundle earth-side. Active labor is not the time to manage relationships.

Tip #3: Be Your Own Birth Advocate

The trick with this tip is that you have to do the majority of the advocating before you ever set foot in the hospital. Interviewing care providers, asking questions during prenatal visits, developing your birth plan, getting your team prepared . . . it all sets you up for the big day. The goal is to enter the hospital with everyone understanding exactly where you stand on routine interventions. AND, you and your partner must walk in knowing your rights as a birthing person.

Tip #4: Consult a Certified Birth Professional

Why does certification matter? It matters if you want to cut to the chase. But if you have the time to vet someone who is not certified, that works, too! There is a baseline of information that birth professionals should know, and having certification helps you find those people easier. You want to make sure that the person you are talking to has received adequate training/experience to educate you AND they are staying up to date on the current practices and evidence. We expect our doctors and midwives to be informed, and so should the people we go to for childbirth education and birth support. Your friend or relative who has supported others through their births will be a wonderful person to have on your birth team, but will they be able to help you advocate for yourself when it comes to ensuring evidence based care is provided and making informed decisions about interventions? Certified doulas and childbirth educators have the knowledge and training you seek, and asking around in your community is another way to find knowledgeable and experienced birth pros who may not be certified but are just as qualified.

A positive birth experience is most likely to occur when you feel safe, supported and loved. Feeling safe means you have communicated your birth intentions and can comfortably put all your trust in your birth team, leaving you to focus on the important job of giving birth.

Jenn D’Jamoos is a CAPPA Certified Childbirth Educator, Certified Health Coach and Evidence Based Birth ® Instructor. She offers childbirth classes and workshops in Southeast/Central Michigan, as well as virtual birth planning consultations online. You can learn more about her here.

Book your virtual consultation with Jenn to plan your Dream Birth now.

CH-CH-CH Changes . . .

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

Hello Friends!

Today I updated my website to reflect that I will no longer be teaching private childbirth preparation classes. However, you can still catch me for limited group childbirth classes or a virtual consultation!

I am making this change to focus on some other business pursuits as well as to free up some time to spend with family. I couldn’t totally let go of teaching in a private format though, because I truly LOVE it so much! So, I have made virtual consultations available. These consultations will be ultra-customized to my clients needs. We won’t need to spend any of our consultation time catching up on basic info like due date, prior birth experiences, etc. because you and your partner will fill out a pre-call questionnaire that I will review in advance of our consultation and then plan out our call based on your answers.

NEW Virtual Consultations

My virtual consultations will be right up your alley if you are:

  • Pre-pregnant and want hands on help with planning your ultimate birth experience (which involves healthful choices during early pregnancy)
  • Newly pregnant and exploring your birth options (OB or midwife? Hospital or Home?)
  • Pregnant again and want a better experience than last time (VBAC, unnecessary interventions, etc.)
  • Coming up quickly on your due date and don’t have time for a full childbirth class (you had every intention but time just got away from you!)
  • Need a thorough discussion about your options as you are working on your birth plan (What is necessary to include, what’s not. How to get staff to take it seriously, Which things can be decided on later, etc.)
  • Want to have a solid toolbox of comfort measures/coping techniques as you are heading into your birth experience (tried and true techniques used by birth pros)
  • Have a partner who needs instruction on how to advocate for you (building bridges with hospital staff)
  • Would like a better understanding of any aspect of labor, birth and postpartum (from basic birth fundamentals to “things they don’t tell you”)

On the other hand, my virtual consultations are NOT for you if you and/or your partner:

  • Need in-person instruction of comfort measures
  • Need to touch/feel educational tools for optimal learning
  • Do not have a reliable internet or cellular connection
  • do not plan to utilize the information provided in the call
  • are not willing to make changes to your current plan (if needed) in order to increase chances of a better birth experience

How do I make an appointment?

Good question! You will need to purchase the consultation through my store (linked below – choose the 90+30 virtual consultation) and then I will follow up with you via email to have you complete the pre-call questionnaire. Within the questionnaire I will ask you for your ideal days/times for our call and then we will firm up our appointment via email.

That’s it! Please do not hesitate to message me if you have any questions about my consultations. I’m happy to answer them!

Welcome to the Earth Mama Birth, LLC store! You can pay for your classes, consultations and in-person workshops through this store. I will follow up with an email after your purchase to get any necessary details before our meeting/class/workshop. Thanks so much for supporting this woman-owned small business!

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What to Do if Your Care Provider Pushes Back

Pretty much the last thing we need during labor, right?

Say you are in labor and your care provider (obstetrician or midwife) says they are going to use an intervention.  You do not wish for this intervention to be performed, but they push back and tell you that it’s hospital policy, or *only* tell you the risks of not doing the intervention; or worse, they don’t say anything and start making threats.  What can you do?

First let me say, as a laboring person you should not have to worry about getting non-evidence based care.  Planning ahead and choosing a birth setting, care provider and model of care that aligns with your birth wishes can go a long way in preventing this situation from transpiring, but unfortunately it can *still* happen even with all the advance planning in the world.

That being said,  here are some steps you can take:

  1. Ask for the provider to walk you through the informed consent process.  Your provider has a legal and ethical obligation to provide you with this process for any/all interventions.  They must discuss with you the benefits, risks and alternatives to the intervention.  This must include the benefits/risks of the alternatives, as well.  They must also disclose what would happen if you did nothing.  They must answer any question you may have.
  2. Ask for some time to discuss the matter with your support person/people.  This may include your partner, your doula, or any other person whom you have invited into your birth space.  The person you talk with doesn’t have to be knowledgeable at all, really.  The goal is just to see if you can buy yourself some time.  If you are dealing with an emergency situation, you won’t have time to talk.  If they give you time to talk, you know it’s not a real emergency.
  3. Give your consent or refusal.  If you give your consent and change your mind later, you can tell them you’ve changed your mind.  it’s okay, it’s not a contract.  You can revoke your consent.

If your provider makes threats or is combative and difficult to speak with despite your best efforts, you can ask for a new provider.  You have the right to switch care providers (yes, even while you are in labor.)  You can ask for another OB or midwife in the hospital to attend your birth.  If you are in a birth setting where they do not have another provider available, you can ask for the patient advocate or chaplain.  These individuals can serve as a mediator of sorts, to help facilitate communication between you and the care provider.  This may seem extreme, but the alternative is checking out of the hospital against medical advice (AMA) and heading to a different hospital.  It’s probably the last thing you want to do when you’re in labor, but it has been done.

This, of course, begs the question . . . What kind of threats could they make?

I’ve heard of providers threatening to call CPS on families who refuse to cooperate with their plan.  This is mostly an empty threat because a.)  CPS understands that you have the right to informed consent and refusal and b.) even though CPS is obligated to respond to the call, it doesn’t mean that anything will come of it.

TIPS:

  • Don’t buy the line about “it’s hospital policy”.  Yea, it’s the care providers obligation to abide by hospital policy, but it’s not yours.  Hospital policies are not laws, therefore you are under no obligation to follow them.
  • Recognize their humanity.  Something that will make any situation a lot easier is to acknowledge that the people you are dealing with are just trying to do their job.  They are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents . . . just like you and your family.  They have job stress, life stress and family stress just like you.  Acknowledge this to them.  Say, “I understand you are just doing your job [say their name] and I appreciate that you are being thorough, but I do not consent to this.”
  • Start off on the right foot!  Right when you get to triage and then again in L & D, introduce yourself, or have your partner/doula introduce themselves to the staff.  Read their name tag, say their name when you introduce yourself, shake their hand.  Thank them for supporting you/your partner.  Ask them about their life outside of work, their job, their kids, anything . . . make small talk and tell them things about you outside of your exciting journey to becoming parents.  Bring a little treat for the nurses station.  You don’t have to go over the top, it can be candies or cookies or whatever.  Gifts of food are a way to show them that you are thoughtful and kind.  It’s a way to humanize them and yourself.  Write your names on the gifts so they remember you/who they are from.  You are building a little relationship with the people who are supporting you and you want them to consider your feelings/wishes/preferences if push comes to shove.  This is more likely to happen if you’ve already made an impression that you are kind and thoughtful.

Do you have any other tips for handling a situation where your care provider disagrees with your choices during labor?  Please leave a comment.  Thanks!

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List of labor interventions

(not an exhaustive list)

Drugs or measures used to induce or augment labor such as:
Misoprostol (Cytotec)
Cervidil
Prepidil
Foley Balloon
Membrane Stripping
Pitocin

Practices used to gather information about the mother or baby’s condition:
Cervical checks
Electronic fetal monitoring (both internal and external)

Procedures/medication used to manage pain:
Epidural, Spinal, CSE (combined spinal-epidural)
Oral or IV Pain Medications

Measures used to mitigate side effects of interventions:
IV fluids

Actions used to move a poorly positioned baby:
ECV or Breech Version
manual rotation of the fetal occiput

Practices to expedite birth:
Episiotomy
forceps or vacuum assisted birth
Cesarean

 

Birth Intentions not Birth Plans

Writing your Birth Plan?  Consider reframing it as your Birth Intentions.

We all know births don’t go according to plan, right?  I’d love to see a shift away from calling the birth plan a birth plan and more towards something that allows for sharing our ideas about how we want our birth to go without the “commitment” of a plan.

The Problem with Birth Plans

One of the problems with birth plans is that they can be perceived by hospital staff as a setup for failure or disappointment.  The joke is sometimes bandied about that the birth plan is a ‘ticket to the OR.’   I don’t think anyone who is planning a vaginal and/or unmedicated birth wants to invite that presumption to their birthing space.  A slight change in our language can help hospital staff see what we hope for our birth experience while also showing them that we understand the situation is fluid.

I’ve also heard people call the birth plan their “Birth Preferences”.  While this does acknowledge that birth is no place for a rigid plan, I think that the word ‘preferences’ is too non-committal for the hospital staff because preferences are perceived like this:  I would *prefer* to have black olives on my pizza, but it’s okay if I don’t get them.  Using preferences for your birth:  I would *prefer* that you don’t stick your hand in my vagina, but it’s okay if you do.  <—-  That doesn’t work for a lot of reasons.   But, the main reason I really don’t like the word “preferences” is because it gives the power to someone else.

Why We Should Call Them “Birth Intentions”

Showing up with your Birth Intentions conveys a few ideas.  First, that you the birthing person are, in fact, the person with the power.  You are asserting your autonomy.  Second, it creates a space where you can say what you want about your birth without feeling guilty or disappointed if things go differently.  Third, naming your birth intentions clarifies for your birth team what you expect to happen, unless you deem otherwise.  Intentions are hopeful versus dictatorial (plans) or submissive (preferences).

So let’s say a few birth intentions together, shall we?

My Birth Intentions
i intend To receive my child skin-to-skin immediately after birth and remain this way for as long as we desire.
i intend To keep the umbilical cord attached and intact until it appears white, allowing my baby’s blood to return to their body from the placenta.
i intend To remain undisturbed during active labor unless I specifically ask for support or interventions.
i intend To labor and birth in any position that my body tells me.

 

Now, create your own Birth Intentions.  You can do something as simple as changing the title of your document from “Birth Plan” to “Birth Intentions”.  But, because I’m a fan of the law of attraction, I highly recommend trying to phrase your intentions in such a way that you are inviting them to happen.  This has a way of shifting our mindset if we are in need of reclaiming our power.

I’d love to hear your birth intentions so please share in the comments if you’d like .  It feels empowering to put them out in the world and inspires others to create their own.

Power to the Birther,

Earth Mama Jenn