I have been in midwifery for seven years now and have had various experiences whilst supporting women and their partners throughout labour. Some have filled my eyes with tears of joy and others have made my heart race faster than ever before, but each and every experience has made me the midwife that I am today so I would like to share my top ten tips with you in the hope that my experience will help you in some way.
1) Don’t panic.
I know it’s daunting and I know you’ve probably been waiting a while for this, or maybe you have gone into labour unexpectedly, but either way, try not to panic because your mental state has a huge impact on your whole experience and tolerance. Remember that this is all new to you but we have more than likely come across your scenario numerous times. We want the best for you and your baby and want to be able to give you options and advice, but if you are panicking then communication is difficult for everyone.
2) Your birth partner is more important than you think.
Your birth partner needs to understand you as a person and needs to be able to support you. Don’t let anyone come into your delivery room, at home or in hospital, unless you are sure he/she will be supportive and helpful. I once had a lovely woman allow her mother in law to attend her birth and almost instantly the atmosphere changed from being quite relaxed and calm to slightly awkward and stressful. She was asking numerous questions and her tone of voice expressed anxiety, she was loud and kept tapping her foot. The woman I was providing care for also changed. In the end she asked her mother-in-law to leave. She had her baby just 15 minutes later. Although it might be uncomfortable not inviting people or saying no if anyone asks, it will be more awkward if you have to ask them to leave during your labour. Try and remember those people that have made you feel calm in times of difficulty. Choose your birth partner/s well.
3) Sometimes things do not go according to your birth plan.
Most women have a birth plan written and ready, but as labour progresses things can change. Rather than hold onto your original plans try and go with it. I once looked after a lady that was adamant she did not want an epidural; it was her first baby and at 6cm dilated (you need to get to 10cm) she was very distressed and kept talking about “letting everyone down” she wanted an epidural but felt guilty about having one as she had set herself a rule. No epidural. Please try not to rule anything out, especially with your first baby. Take it as it comes, allow things to change and do what is right for you at the right time. That way you won’t feel bad, guilty or upset about any changes that occur along your journey to having your baby.
4) Have faith in yourself
Your body has grown another human inside you. It has supplied your baby with nutrition, excreted waste, your heart has increased in size, your lungs have changed shape, your blood volume has increased by 50% and your whole body has transformed. You are strong and your body is amazing. Have faith in yourself that this last hurdle may be a hard one but you’ve got it.
5) Pack and be prepared by 36 weeks pregnant
Although it is not common to go into premature labour it can be quite a shock if you do and not being prepared makes everything seem worse. If you would like any further advice on this I will be at The Baby Show at Kensington, Olympia between the 21st-23rd October with my premium pre-packed maternity bags and to answer any of your questions.
6) Keep hydrated
A lot of women become dehydrated in labour which can cause fetal tachy cardia (fast heart rate.) Try and sip water regularly and if you are having a water birth this is even more important to keep well hydrated. That can be your birth partner’s job…to keep the drinks coming!
7) Think about birth positions
Research suggests that sitting in a semi-recumbant position whilst in labour, or pushing, can increase pain and duration of labour. There are several positions that you can get into to push even if you have an epidural, for example, laying on your side with one leg bent up toward your chest is good. All fours for women that do not have an epidural is another option. Standing (if you can) during early labour is great as gravity takes its course and helps the head descent down into the pelvis. Sitting semi-recumbant is a little outdated, explore what is right for you and go for it.
8) Let the cord pulsate for at least one minute after birth.
After you have had your baby the cord will need to be clamped and cut. Allow the cord to continue providing your baby with oxygen rich blood for at least one minute. The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that delayed cord clamping is recommended for improved maternal and infant health and nutrition outcomes. It can also decrease the risk of you bleeding heavily after birth.
9) New-born skin
Your new-born baby’s skin is 5x more absorbent or permeable than yours. Please be very careful with what you apply to their delicate skin because it is absorbed so quickly. We all know what alcohol does to us so if one of the main ingredients in any wash or moisturiser is alcohol avoid putting it on your new-born baby.
10) Listen to your instinct and do what’s right for you
As a new mum you will be given a lot of information and advice from different people. Remember that your needs are individual and to listen to your instincts. Relax into your role as a new mother, but if you are concerned about you or your baby, let a healthcare professional know because our super human abilities don’t end in delivery room!
By Marie Louise, senior midwife at The Baby Show, and founder of Marie Louise Maternity