Times have changed since our mothers gave birth. Even my second birth was dramatically different from my first six years before. It’s hard to keep up with new birth lingo, baby gear, and countless updated health guidelines. Friends, family, and social media bombard us with their birth stories, must have’s, and altered plans. Does birth and motherhood really change so much and so fast that the options will overwhelm us?
The truth is that birth itself has not changed. In fact, more and more women are sharing their birth stories, inspiring others to trust the journey. Modern birth studies and observations will point to the most basic and natural practices for the best birth outcomes.
So what’s new in the birth world?
Prenatal education. With my first pregnancy (over 13 years ago) we focused on baby’s gender and having every item on the baby registry. It was exciting! I wanted a natural labor and wanted to breastfeed. The only class I found was a 3-hour hospital course to prep me for procedures and intervetions. I didn’t reach my birth goals. I just know that I wasn’t prepared. My next two births, while each different and challenging, I felt like an active participant and empowered enough to make the best choices. I was a Lamaze instructor by that time, but my point is that knowledge will be your best ally. Did you know that most modern parents don’t learn any birth basics (whether in the classroom or home)? Learn the basics, then more, you won’t regret it.
Birth and prenatal care location. While hospital birth is most common, women now have other birth location options. Free-standing birth centers offer full service prenatal, birth and postpartum services. They offer a smaller, intimate setting, have basic medical supplies, and offer minimal interventions. They’re staffed by midwives and a team of professionals such as nurses, doulas and lactation professionals. A home birth is also an option for low risk pregnancies. The birth team for a home birth is smaller and will accommodate for the family’s birth needs.
In the birth room…
Maybe you’ve had a friend or a friend of a friend who had a doula. Doulas are trained professionals who support parents before during and after birth. Women have joined other women for birth and postpartum recovery for a long time. It’s only in the last hundred years or so that women were moved to hospitals to birth without extra support. That continuous support is crucial to keeping birthing women comfortable, confident, and (in many studies) safe. Doulas do not provide medical support like a midwife, but are an excellent addition to the family’s care team.
Food and drink restrictions.
Women burn hundreds of calories an hour giving birth. They’re hungry and thirsty! Studies show healthier outcomes for women who eat and drink during labor. It’s an out-dated recommendation to withhold food and water. I’ve seen a hungry mama take big bites of a sandwich minutes before pushing her baby out. The only exception is after epidural placement, so before then, eat and drink what you want.
Positions and comforts.
Do you spend your days moving you and your baby belly often just to find the most comfortable position? Labor is like that. While some find the semi-reclined, feet in stirrups position we see in TV and movies comfortable at times, it’s not the only way. There are many classes, books and websites dedicated to staying comfortable in labor and finding positions to help make progress. In fact, the more a woman in labor moves, the more her baby moves, and the more comfortable she’ll feel.
Many women are choosing to labor and birth in tubs for relaxation and comfort. It’s often called a midwife’s epidural due to the subtle analgesic effects of water immersion. Many hospitals and birth centers offer birth tubs. Even home birth midwives will rent out a birth tub if a woman desires.
The postpartum period…
Lying-in (postpartum recovery).
In many cultures, it’s believed that women need an extended period of rest and recovery after delivery. Even though we don’t see it, there is major physical, mental, and emotional internal recovery taking place in the postpartum body. Modern society is so fast paced that we’re not giving new moms the chance to recover fully. This quick recovery mode is contributing to an increase in postpartum anxiety and depression. It helps that mothers are sharing more postpartum experiences though. Did you know that you’ll need a size ‘gigantic’ maxi pad (or adult diaper) for a couple of days after birth? Or that you can freeze water soaked maxi pads to make ‘padsicles’ for your sore bottom? It’s OK to just get comfortable and take your time recovering.
While there are no substantial studies yet to support the act of consuming the placenta, it is a practice done in many cultures for a long time. Mothers claim that it helps increase energy, boost milk supply, and help with postpartum hormonal balance. There are professional organizations and individuals that can provide information and preparation.
These are only a few ideas. While some of these are seen as trends, most of these have been around for centuries. With more information available at our fingertips, we might continue to make these basics mainstream. While basic and natural options may be the best option for most people, let’s also be thankful for the modern ability to help mothers and babies.
If you’re overwhelmed by your options, you’re not alone. As mothers, we often have similar concerns and ask ourselves the same questions. Stay connected (whether technologically, face-to-face, or both) and remember that 300,000 women will give birth with you today. Relax and breathe and do nothing else. It’s hard work and you can do it.