How do you wish to deliver your baby?
Where do you want your baby to take his or her first breath when they arrive in this world? Deciding on the best childbirth option for you is a very personal decision. The birth experience you ultimately choose has many things to think about, as well as pros and cons. The day your little bundle arrives will be one of the most defining moments and the memories of the experience will last a lifetime.
“Should I give birth in a high-tech hospital? Or a more family-focussed birthing centre? Or in the comfort of my own home? Maybe the best option is to give birth in water, or positioned on my hands and knees? Maybe I should squat? Would I like background music playing during delivery? Do I want total quiet or loved ones around me? Lights on or dimmed? Should I even have a birth plan?”
There are so many questions (enough to make your head spin) you may be asking yourself already, and if you find yourself hyperventilating, take a deep breath. Options available to you have a lot to consider, this is true, but it’s not nearly as overwhelming a decision to make as it may seem at first. We’ll help break it down for you so that you can get to the part where you look forward to welcoming your little one into this world and begin being a new mom.
Nowadays there are a variety of different options a mom-to-be can choose from, as well as narrowing down the little details that will help to make the experience a favourably memorable one. There may be some limiting factors to consider, but overall, you have far more control in the decision-making process of your experience than generations of women had before.
Some limiting factors may include:
- What your health insurance covers
- Where your doctor practices
- Whereabouts you reside and what medical facilities are nearby
- Whether or not you have a pregnancy that is classified as high-risk
Even if you have some limiting factors at the starting block, which pre-determine the big decisions, there’s still plenty to consider when it comes to enhancing the experience for yourself. No matter your limitations, you can still plan to make the moment you welcome your baby and hold him or her for the first time the experience you’ve always dreamed about.
So, where do you start?
Nip panic in the bud before all of your questions and thoughts overwhelm you. One of the best ways to make a big decision is to start by researching. Do some homework. There’s plenty of information at your disposal, which you can delve into on your own and discuss with all of your healthcare providers. As with anything that exists ‘in the unknown’, once you have a clearer idea about what you’re dealing with, the easier it will be to make the right decision about which method is best for you.
- Look into the options available: You may like to start with the big one – “how am I going to deliver my baby?” Once you start researching the different birthing options, you may find that you are already favouring one over the other. The next question may be “where would I like to give birth?” Research these options a little, and start considering pros and cons. Before you set your heart on any method, you should talk to your partner (if you have one or involve a loved one who is on this journey with you) and weigh-in their thoughts too. Then consult your doctor and talk about the various options regarding how and where. If your doctor is comfortable with your favoured means of delivery, it’ll be easier to settle on making a decision. A high-risk pregnancy for example, may rule out being able to make these decisions for yourself and already pre-determine the safest way possible to deliver and where. Your doctor will assist you with what is safest for you and your baby, as well as what’s most practical. Take their advice and recommendations to heart, and discuss your concerns. If there are things you are unsure or worried about, your doctor is best to talk to and ensure that you understand all you need to know clearly.
- That said, you’ll need to prepare yourself for possible alternatives too: The ‘best laid plans’ can change, and for a variety of different reasons. The sooner you prepare yourself for this possibility, the better. A change can happen (i.e. become necessary) at any stage of your pregnancy, labour or even during delivery. You needn’t feel discouraged. Ultimately the best birthing experience is one that ensures a safe delivery, and healthy mom and baby. And that, you won’t have any regret about.
What childbirth options are available to you?
The natural way – a vaginal delivery
For a very long time in human history, this was the only option. Delivering a baby vaginally is still the most common means of birth and is considered the safest option too. There are a few ways you can deliver vaginally – naturally (without the assistance of pain-relieving medications) or with an epidural (with medication assistance).
- Natural: With this option, you can expect to feel just about everything that happens during the process of delivering your baby. There are a variety of physical sensations your body will go through, but the two most prominent things you are likely to be aware of are pain and pressure. Initially, you will be very aware of pressure when experiencing contractions, which begins to alleviate once you get to the pushing stages of delivery. Once the baby descends into the birth canal, pressure begins to increase and become more constant. Many women have described this sensation as feeling a strong urge to have a bowel movement. This is because the baby is likely pressing down on the same nerves that stool would as he or she descends into the birth canal.
- Epidural: If you opt for an epidural, there’s little way to predict just how much you are likely to feel during birth. What you feel and how strongly will depend on the effectiveness of the epidural block. An epidural effectively numbs nerves in this area of the body. You may feel some pressure. You may feel very little at all, if anything. If you do feel anything at all, it is likely to be mildly uncomfortable. The degree of discomfort will be relative to how well you can tolerate sensations of pressure. Many women do not feel their vagina stretching (as you would during a natural birth) or even an episiotomy (a surgical incision which is made in the muscular area between the vagina and perineum (anus) to enlarge the vaginal opening just before a baby is born).
Once a baby descends into the birth canal and enters the vagina, muscles and skin (the labia and perineum) begin to stretch. Once the maximum point of stretching is reached, you may notice a burning sensation in the skin as tissues expand around the baby’s head. This is sometimes referred to at a ‘ring of fire’. This is often the moment a doctor will perform an episiotomy. Whether you have an epidural or not, you may not feel the incision. The tightly stretched area can lose sensation at this point.
Pressure alleviates once the baby’s head emerges, but you can still feel a fair amount of discomfort. At this point you may be asked to stop pushing while the baby’s nose and mouth are suctioned to clear any mucus and amniotic fluid. It’s important that you do stop pushing when asked as this can affect a baby’s first breath.
Your doctor will then rotate the head of the baby, just a quarter of a turn, so that it is aligned with the remainder of the body which is still in the process of being delivered. Your doctor will then request that you begin pushing once again. You can expect to push the top shoulder out, then push again to deliver the second, and finally one last push for the remainder of the body.
Your delivery process, however, does not end there. The amniotic sac and placenta which has protected and supported your baby during your pregnancy is still in the uterus. Delivering the placenta can happen spontaneously or it may take as long as half an hour.
Your doctor may begin to rub your abdomen, just below your belly button. This is done to assist with tightening the uterus, which also loosens the placenta, effectively enabling easier delivery. Your uterus is more or less the size of a large grapefruit at this stage. You may feel some pressure building as the placenta passes through and is expelled. Pressure or pain during this delivery process is not nearly as much as when you were delivering your baby.
Your medical team will assess the expelled placenta to ensure that it was all delivered in full. If any remains in the uterus, your doctor may reach into your uterus and remove it. If any remains, you can experience heavy bleeding which can lead to serious consequences.
Childbirth by vaginal delivery is not always a straightforward, predictable process. Anything can still happen to disrupt the natural flow of delivery and complications can arise. That said, it’s not entirely impossible to prepare yourself for labour and delivery. If all goes according to the natural flow, you’ll be glad you did. If any complications do arise, you can trust that the right professionals are on hand to promptly assist, ensuring a safe delivery and a healthy mom and baby too.
In the case of necessary assistance while giving birth, your doctor may help things along with a forceps delivery or a vacuum delivery. If forceps are needed to help you deliver, you doctor will use instruments (which resemble large spoons) to cup your baby’s head and guide the little one as you push and he or she moves through the birth canal. Similar to forceps, a plastic cup can be applied to the baby’s head instead and using suction (vacuum) can help to gently guide and pull the baby.
It can happen that at the last minute (or during labour just before delivery time) a vaginal delivery is simply not possible. In this case, a doctor will opt for a surgical option – a Caesarean delivery (C-section). If safety to both mother and unborn baby is compromised for any reason, this will be necessary irrespective of your preferred choices for birth. Some reasons this can happen include:
- If a baby is breech (not positioned head-down)
- If a baby has grown too large for a woman’s pelvis size (and it’s not safe to attempt passing through)
- A baby is in distress
A planned C-section
A Caesarean is not always reserved for complicated, dangerous or compromised natural deliveries. In some medical facilities around the world, you may opt for this method of birth well before time. You can select this option for a variety of different reasons, many of which may be medically related (sometimes not at all) or if your gynaecologist believes that this is the safest option for you and your baby.
In any instance that this option is selected, it is a good idea to remember that a C-section is a surgical procedure and carries its own set of risks. An elected C-section may be decided on because there is a definite medical reason that has been determined and this option may prevent serious complications which can affect both mother and baby, or if your baby is breech and facing the wrong way near time of delivery. Sometimes a baby is simply just too large to be delivered vaginally. It can also be that you’ve delivered by C-section before and a natural delivery places you at risk of rupturing your uterus.
In other instances, a C-section may be opted for purely as a preferred choice of birth method. Many women favour this option so that they can select a specific date they wish to deliver their baby and / or to avoid a vaginal delivery altogether.
Generally, a C-section is not recommended before 39 weeks (unless an emergency situation arises) and in many countries, it may be discouraged altogether if you wish to have more than one child in your lifetime, due to some associated risks.
Having a baby by C-section can be appealing in another sense that it takes place in a controlled, medical environment. This makes this birthing option generally a safe means of having a baby. There are still risks involved and your doctor will take you through these very carefully.
As a C-section is considered a surgery, recovery time is longer than that of a vaginal delivery. You may spend more time in hospital following the birth than if you’d opted for the alternative, and will also require a period of time recovering at home once you are discharged.
Some possible risks of a C-section you will need to be mindful of include:
- Heavy bleeding and the possibility of requiring a blood transfusion
- Blood clots
- Injury to organs in the body
There may also be some risks to the new-born baby during the delivery. One such risk possibility is breathing problems following birth. If this happens, your baby may need to be cared for in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for a handful of days (at least).
If you, as a new mother, have plans to bear more children in your reproductive years, you will need to take the decision to deliver by C-section carefully. Having more than one Caesarean procedure also carries some risk to you physically. You can encounter some difficulties with more than one C-section, as those that follow the first tend to carry more risk.
If you already know that you would like to have more children and may consider this birth method again, talk to your doctor about your plans and ensure that you are well aware of all the factors that could affect your plans.
Some possible risks include the placenta not attaching correctly in the uterus. If this happens the risk of bleeding is much greater and could result in a necessary hysterectomy. Scarring in the uterus could also split open, and this can also have an impact on any future pregnancies.
Generally, a vaginal birth following a C-section experience is not always possible for many moms-to-be. It can happen that some women are able to deliver vaginally a second time around (known as a VBAC – vaginal birth after Caesarean delivery). Depending on the nature of the C-section method previously experienced, it may be possible. If you’ve had more than one C-section surgery, chances are slim to none, that you’ll ever be able to deliver vaginally.
Ultimately, when it comes to making a decision, for personal or medical reasons, or both, weigh up the benefits and risks carefully. The best scenario is when the benefits outweigh the risks. What’s most important is that the delivery experience is safe for you and your baby.
What else do I need to take into consideration?
Once you’ve settled on how you would like to deliver your baby, the next big question may be ‘where’.
A hospital birth
For many women, a hospital is the go-to place to deliver a baby, whether there are high-risks involved in the pregnancy or not. A C-section always needs to take place in a hospital as this is the safest way to handle any complications which may arise. If you’ve had a pleasant and comfortable pregnancy, with low risks involved, you may decide on a hospital delivery too as the environment gives you access to the latest medical technology. Many hospitals around the world offer more practical and plush comforts today than the cold, more stereotypical medical room from way back when.
- A traditional hospital birth: In some hospitals, the labour and delivery rooms are separate from that of the recovery area and you may find yourself being moved from one to the other during the various stages of your labour / delivery experience. From recovery, you may be moved again to either the maternity ward or a semi-private room where you will be able to start bonding with and feeding your baby. Your baby too may not stay with you all the time in your room, only being brought in from the nursery at specific times for feedings etc. Not all hospitals are set up this way for new moms, so if you’re considering a traditional hospital delivery, it is a good idea to ensure that you are aware of the routine at the hospital you have selected.
- A family centre / private hospital: Some hospitals offer more private care whereby you can expect to go through every stage of labour, your delivery and recovery, all in one comfortable room. If you have a partner, they can also stay with you in this room for the duration of your stay, as can your new-born baby following the delivery.
- An in-hospital birthing centre: Located either within a hospital or next to one, these centres are purposefully set up for a home-like birthing experience. If any complications arise, expert staff are on hand and hospital facilities are within reach.
Other factors you will be able to consider regarding hospital births include:
- Having a certified nurse / midwife as part of your birthing team
- The option to use a birthing pool, jacuzzi or tub for a water birth
- The options to use a birthing stool or birthing ball during the stages of labour and delivery
A hospital will try and honour as many of your wishes for your birthing experience as possible. Ultimately, safety comes first and if a medical team feel that surgical interventions, whether you initially wanted them or not, are absolutely necessary for both your and your baby’s safety, they will do what needs to be done.
Birth centre (standalone)
A certified nurse / midwife can help to deliver your baby in a standalone birth centre. These facilities are usually affiliated with local hospitals and you can easily be transferred to medical assistance, should a problem or complication occur.
A standalone centre is different in that these facilities typically offer childbirth and parenting classes, as well as lactation support. Many are covered in health insurance plans in some countries. If you are considering this option, it is a good idea to check in with your health insurance provider to make 100% certain.
If your pregnancy is high-risk, this will not be considered an option for you. Low-risk and overall healthy women are able to make use of standalone birth centres as the place they first welcome their little bundle of joy.
If a natural birth with little medical intervention is important to you and your pregnancy is considered normal and healthy, these centres provide a very comfortable, home-like experience. Most will be equipped with a handheld ultrasound to monitor the baby, oxygen, local anaesthesia, a supply of IV (intravenous) fluids, as well as resuscitators and warmers for the new-born baby. Pain management and the option of having an epidural are generally not part of this package. Birthing centres are generally for women wanting the most natural experience possible.
You will be set up as per your wishes in a private room and even be able to wear your own clothes. Most facilities treat this experience as a home-away-from-home. Loved ones can be present as well, as per your choice.
If delivering in water appeals to you, many centres can also accommodate your wishes with a tub or jacuzzi, which you may use to relax during the stages of labour and give birth in as well.
Every centre will have their own set of policies for birthing procedures. If this option appeals to you or you’re curious during the decision-making stages, ensure that you attend a centre orientation to be well informed about what you can expect. Find out about as much as you can regarding what’s on offer and what the plan-B scenarios (should your birth not go as planned) will entail. Should there be a need, it is good to know in detail, what back-up measures (from minor complications to an emergency situation) are in place to ensure the safest delivery for you and your baby.
Check that the centre is licensed and has appropriate accreditation before you settle on this option. It is also a good idea to enquire about the credentials of those practicing there and whether gynaecologists and doctors are in attendance or on call, as on call staff will take some time to arrive at the facility if issues arise and this is not always ideal in emergency situations.
If you are a mom-to-be that desires as much control over your own birthing process as possible, a home birth may be the best option for you. As with any other environment, giving birth in the home has both benefits and risks to carefully take into consideration. The biggest risk with a home birth is the death of an infant, which can be 2 to 3 times higher than in a medically controlled environment. Overall, if a woman and her baby are in the best condition possible and there are no complications, risk is incredibly low and a woman can successfully deliver a healthy little one at home.
Giving birth for the first time in a home environment is not always recommended by medical professionals as complication risks can be higher. If you have given birth before and have had a very healthy and normal pregnancy, a home birth may be a lot more comfortable.
For any woman with high-risk factors, such as an existing health condition such as diabetes or hypertension, a home birth is not an option. Multiple births, such as delivering a set of twins or perhaps if you’re attempting a VBAC, is also out of the question for a home birth. The higher the risk of complications associated with delivery, the more strongly your doctor is going to recommend a more medically kitted out environment for the birth of your baby.
Understanding the stages of labour and delivery
If you’re nervous about your delivery, you can take comfort in the fact that you’re not the first. Every woman has jittery emotions about childbirth, which can range from mildly apprehensive to downright terrified, no matter the option selected. If you’re undecided as to how you want to give birth, understanding the process of labour and the different delivery methods may help clarify the decision-making process (depending on whether your pregnancy is considered normal and healthy enough for you to make the decision entirely on your preference).
It’s human nature to be a little nervous, even scared. If you have a better idea of what to expect, chances are your levels of anxiety will drop and the process of each stage of labour and delivery can go a lot smoother for you.
Labour and birth by vaginal delivery
There is no perfect script for childbirth. Once labour has been triggered, you can expect to go through 3 stages before you are able to hold your new little human in your arms. Every woman’s delivery experience is going to be unique in its own way. How one woman experiences these stages may be different for another. There’s no way to really expect what exactly you’ll go through and feel until you are well in the moment.
For the majority of first time moms, labour can last anywhere between 12 and 24 hours. Some have shorter labour periods and for others this period can last a little longer.
As labour approaches you may experience the following:
- Your belly may drop a little and you may feel like you are able to breathe a little easier. This is because the baby is beginning their descent into the pelvic area and relieving pressure from the lungs where he or she has been stationed for the duration of your pregnancy.
- You may also feel a strong urge to urinate as the baby begins pressing on your bladder (sometimes this occurs in the weeks leading up to the day of delivery or several hours beforehand).
- During the build-up to labour, you may experience frequent loose stools (diarrhoea). This can sometimes be an indication that labour is imminent.
In general, this is what every new mom can expect to go through during her labour process:
- Stage one – the latent phase: Of all the stages you will go through, this one will be the longest part of your childbirth process and happens in two distinctive parts. Once labour is triggered contractions (uterine muscle spasms) begin. Notify your doctor and birthing team. Contractions will be mild at first and you will feel pressure approximately every 15 to 20 minutes as your cervix begins to open (dilate) and stretch (thin). Opening and stretching of the cervix ends when there is approximately a 3 or 4 centimetre gap (about 1 and a half inches). Many women liken the sensation of contraction pressure to a moderate back ache or menstrual cramps. Contractions may last anywhere between 30 and 70 seconds at a time and become more regular, frequent and intense as labour progresses. As the cervix opens you may notice a pink/red or brown-tinged discharge. Sometimes this can happen as early as a few days before labour, as well as during this initial stage as the body naturally prepares for birth. This discharge is merely the rupturing of the amniotic membranes and is perfectly normal. You may notice the discharge as merely wetness or perhaps feel a ‘gush’ of activity. If you are in reasonably good health and are not considered high-risk for complications, you may be able to remain home at this stage until you begin experiencing contractions around every 5 minutes. Once this happens, notify your doctor and ensure that you make your way safely to your birthing environment. If at any point you notice that you are leaking fluid, even before contractions are 5 minutes apart, it is best to get to a hospital as quickly as possible. During this phase, make yourself as comfortable as you can throughout. If soaking in a warm bath helps or playing music helps, do what you can to ensure you are calm, comfortable and focussed.
- Stage one – the active phase: Still part of the labour phase, this is when contractions begin to get serious. Contractions will be getting more frequent, around 2 or 3 minutes apart and lasting about 45 to 60 seconds at a time or longer, and becoming more intense (painful). During the end of this stage, your cervix will dilate (stretch) a little more rapidly (around 1.2 centimetres an hour). Once dilation reaches between 8 and 10 centimetres (3 to 4 inches), you are moving into a transition stage, and may begin to feel increased pressure, back pain and even nausea. Once you have reached or are set up in your birthing environment, your delivery team will assess your condition (body temperature, pulse and blood pressure). External monitors may be used to assess your contractions and the baby’s heart rate. Your rate of cervix dilation will be assessed and the delivery team (nurses, midwife, doctors etc.) will then begin preparing for the next stage of your labour. You may be offered pain management options (an epidural or anaesthesia). If you’ve planned a fully natural birth with no pain management you can change your mind at this stage and opt for pain assistance, if you are in a medically controlled environment that can provide this for you. At this point you will be rather uncomfortable. You may wish to find some relief by changing positions, such as walking around or getting down on all fours (hands and knees) at this stage. Bouncing on a birthing ball or receiving a massage can help with lower back pain. Deep breathing also provides considerable relief.
- Stage two – the pushing phase: This stage generally lasts between 2 and 3 hours and begins when you reach maximum dilation (10 centimetres / 4 inches) and the baby’s head descends into the birth canal (vaginal / pelvic area). Pressure will build as the baby pushes down on nerves, creating an intense urge to have a bowel movement. Trust your birthing team. They will guide you and tell you when to start pushing. If you do this too early, your cervix can begin to swell. It’s more than likely that you will push in three spurts during each contraction. To ease delivery an episiotomy may be suggested but is not always all that necessary. Your birthing team will measure the baby’s descent through the birth canal in what is called ‘stations’ until he or she crowns (the top of the head becomes visible at the opening of your vagina). With a few final pushes, you will deliver the rest of your baby. The umbilical cord will then be clamped and cut.
- Stage three – the afterbirth: Once the baby is safely delivered, you will need to push out the afterbirth (placenta – a disk or pancake shaped organ that is attached to one side of the uterus and on the other, the baby’s umbilical cord) which has helped to nourish your baby while in the womb. This final stage is the shortest of the three and can last anywhere between a few moments or up to 30 minutes. You will still experience contractions, but this will not be as intense as those experienced during your baby’s birth. It’s hardly likely that you will experience any pain at all. Some women may not even notice that the placenta has passed through. Any tears or incisions that occurred during birth will be stitched up once all the placenta has been removed. It is vitally important that a woman deliver the placenta. Any that is retained can cause serious complications, such as bleeding and infection. The doctor will examine the placenta once delivered to ensure that it is intact and a portion hasn’t been left behind in the uterus. Typically, the maternal side (the side that attaches to the uterus) of the placenta is a dark red colour and the side attached to the baby is almost translucent. Placenta that isn’t delivered entirely is known as ‘retained placenta’ and this can happen because the cervix begins to close and the opening is too small for it to move through, or it is too tightly attached to the uterus, or a portion has broken off during the delivery. A doctor will ensure that all is removed (surgery may be necessary in some instances). This is very important as the uterus must naturally contract and clamp back down following the birth of a baby. This tightening enables the blood vessels inside to stop bleeding. Retained placenta will cause internal bleeding and infection if not removed entirely, which can be dangerous for a new mother.
Labour and birth by C-section
If you and your doctor have opted for a C-section delivery, your birth method experience will be explained in detail to prepare you for the big day. Being a surgical procedure, all operation processes and risks will be discussed with you. Your doctor will give you a complete outline about what to expect and what he or she will be preparing for in the event of a complication (such as blood for a blood transfusion), as well as a recommend set of instructions to assist with lowering any foreseeable risk factors as well.
You will also need to prepare for recovery time (at least 3 or 4 days in hospital and up to 8 weeks recovery at home) following the procedure, which is longer than that of a vaginal birth.
In a nutshell, how will the procedure be performed?
- Before the procedure: You will be asked to shave your pubic area the day before the procedure (or the nursing staff will do it for you prior to it). Your bowel will need to be cleaned out prior to surgery (usually via an enema) and IV (intravenous) fluids administered. A catheter may also be put in to help empty your bladder ahead of surgery.
- Preparing for surgery: You may be given one of three types of anaesthetic – a spinal block (injected in the sac that surrounds the spinal cord and numbs the lower portions of your body), an epidural (injected into the lower back outside of the spinal cord sac) or a general anaesthetic (reserved for emergency scenarios where a mother will need to be completely unconscious).
- During the procedure: A horizontal incision will be made just above your pubic hairline, across the pelvis. The doctor will then make an incision into the uterus. Unless birth is happening as an emergency, surgical incisions will not be visible to you, even though you will be conscious. Once the incision into the uterus is made, the baby will be removed and his or her nose and mouth cleared of any fluids. The umbilical cord will then be clamped and snipped, and prepared for that first moment in your arms. The doctor will physically remove the placenta from the uterus. From there your uterus and abdomen will be repaired and stitched (usually with dissolvable stitches). Your doctor will also likely massage the top of your uterus to encourage the natural contraction (shrinking) process. If the uterus does not firm up, medication may be given to help things along or you may be asked to try and breast feed your baby (this can also help the uterus to contract).
- After the procedure: A hospital stay of at least 3 or 4 days will be required for both you and your baby. Medical staff will keep you on an IV and adjust the levels of pain medications administered into your bloodstream while the anaesthetic wears down in the body. You will be encouraged to move (walk around) to help prevent constipation and blood clots. Medical staff will also be on hand to assist you with the most comfortable positions so that you can move about and breast feed without causing yourself injury (to the incision area). You will also be well prepared with instructions for the most comfortable home care as you recuperate and begin being a new mom. Home care will involve rest, the correct posture and support for your body post-op, plenty of fluids, and medications (for pain and discomfort, as well as for infection prevention).
Which option is best?
There’s plenty to think about when it comes to deciding how your baby will be born. If your pregnancy has gone smoothly and you are in good health, you may be able to make the choice as to how your little one will be welcomed into the world.
If you have the option to make the decision, talk to your health care providers and ensure that you have taken everything there is to know into consideration before making the decision. Any method has pros and cons. It’s important that you understand everything involved, including what your medical insurance will cover, so that you have a healthy and happy birth experience.
In all birthing methods, utmost care and safety is important. It’s vital that you consider all eventualities, including any complications or emergency situations that may arise. As much as you can plan for the birth of your baby, plenty that is not within your control can happen too. Having qualified / certified individuals around you for appropriate assistance will go a long way to ensuring all goes well with your chosen method of giving birth.
It is also a good idea to understand what is likely to happen to your body after birth and how your chosen method will influence how you heal. The body will go through changes post-birth and recovery will depend on your chosen birth method.
All new moms may go through the following:
- Swollen, hard or painful breasts, as well as tender nipples (as milk production begins)
- Haemorrhoids (swollen varicose veins in the anus)
- Painful or highly uncomfortable bowel movements and constipation
- Hot and cold flushes (as hormone levels adjust and blood flow returns to normal)
- ‘After pains’ (the uterus may contract for a few days following birth as it returns to normal)
- A vaginal discharge (this may be bloody and heavy at first, but subside and fade to a white or yellow substance before stopping altogether)
- ‘Baby blues’ (due to hormonal changes, the emotional adjustment of being a new mom and exhaustion following pregnancy and birth)
Women who experienced a vaginal birth may also experience:
- Pain at the episiotomy incision site (it may be difficult walking or sitting, or painful if you cough or sneeze during the healing time).
- Incontinence (accidental urinary and faecal leakage)
Talk to your health care providers about your recovery time and what you’re likely to go through once you’ve delivered ahead of the birth. Once your baby arrives, the last thing you’ll want to deal with is a nasty surprise. Understanding the processes involved from preparing for birth, the actual birth and what to expect once the baby arrives will ensure that you recover well, as well as have every opportunity to enjoy bonding with your new baby.
Preparation is key, as is planning for the unexpected too. The most important thing you can do ahead of time is ensure you are well aware of everything you need to know and make your decision based on the lowest risk and safest benefits for the best outcome possible.