Did you know that women who stay low-risk during pregnancy generally have more options, less need for intervention, and better birth outcomes? But how is this possible, can we really control our labor and birth outcomes? Although we may not always be able to control every factor that comes up and sometimes there may be pre-existing conditions which label you as “high-risk”, there are a few things that can be done throughout pregnancy that we actually CAN control. One of the best ways to achieve more control in birth is to work towards staying as low risk as possible. As a doula, I always explain to my clients that as members of a team, we both have responsibilities. During pregnancy, my responsibility is to support and educate my clients as they prepare for birth. I do my best to keep them as informed as possible; however, at the end of the day they are the only ones who can truly decide what to do with that information. YOU are the only one in control of YOU. It is your responsibility to stay healthy and low-risk (beyond any pre-existing medical risk factors you may have). Below are some detailed suggestions for you to best fulfill this responsibility so that you can truly be prepared for your best birth while controlling the things you can control.
There is a reason why this is number 1. If there is anything you should work towards during pregnancy, this is it. Good nutrition in pregnancy has the potential to lend itself to a minimal intervention birth. Why is a nutritious, well-balanced diet so important? Optimal nutrition can help you to avoid pre-eclampsia, premature labor and birth, gestational diabetes, and other pregnancy related issues. PLUS- you’re ensuring your body is getting all of the nutrients needed to grow a healthy baby! I always encourage my clients to look into The Brewer Pregnancy Diet. The website linked is a fantastic resource to learn more about the diet and why it is so beneficial to your pregnancy.
This very morning, I hit the track at my local gym for my daily routine. I am currently 22 weeks pregnant and my daily routine consists of walking 2-3
miles a day and a series of stretching / balancing techniques. (Click to learn more!) I leave the gym feeling SO good everyday. When I miss a few days, I can tell it in my tired, aching, pregnant body. But just this morning, an older lady stopped me to ask about my routine and was clearly concerned if it was hurting my baby. I thought “how much time do you have to discuss this?” Daily exercise is a GREAT way to prepare your body for a healthy and safe birth. It comes with a variety of benefits to pregnancy such as- better sleep, improved mood, boosted energy, ease for minor aches and pains AND again, prepares the body for a safe, healthy, and low-risk birth. Who wouldn’t want those things? I know this momma’s sciatica thanks me for the daily bodywork. As with any exercise, specifically during pregnancy, I encourage you to listen to your body and consult with your care provider if there are concerns. Take it slow and do what works for you! If you haven’t been a routine weight lifter or marathon runner, pregnancy may not be the best time to pick up new exercise hobbies. Daily walking, stretching, body balancing, yoga, swimming, etc. are exercises that are suitable for most pregnant women.
Sometimes I feel like I’m all but begging my clients and pregnant friends to take a childbirth education course. I truly can’t stress how valuable it can be to your pregnancy and birth experience. Does it guarantee desired outcomes? NO. But can it prepare you for all variations of labor and birth, as well as prepare you for how to navigate each? YES. As a doula, I do not require my clients to take birth education, but HIGHLY encourage some type of comprehensive, out of hospital course. I do my best to educate women during your pregnancy, but it is just not feasible for me to be the only source of education. In pregnancy, I spend an average of 4-6 hours in face to face prenatals with my clients. Our time together is always so valuable, BUT it's impossible for me to cover everything you would get in a birth class spanning multiple weeks. By enrolling in a class, you AND your partner have the opportunity to learn together. If you would like more information on classes in our area, check out the bottom of this post for resources. I also encourage self-study as much as possible - there is no such thing as being “too well-read”. Check out the list of book recommendations at the bottom of this post.
4) Exploring your options-
This will typically come up during your education, but it is your responsibility to know all you can about the birth place and provider you have chosen. What do you envision for your birth? Can you envision those things in the hospital
you’ve picked? Or with the provider you’re seeing? If you can’t, you may need to step back and do some evaluating. So how can you really know? Start with people in your circle. Are there moms in your life who have had similar birth goals as you do? Ask them about their birth place and experience there. Do you have a doula? Ask her and really listen to her response. More than likely she has witnessed a vast variety of births in more than one location with more than one provider. She likely has some insightful knowledge to give and can help you find what you’re truly looking for. Ask your provider open ended questions. It’s super easy to get someone to give a yes or no answer, but the true reveal is in the explanations. Instead of “Do you support natural birth?”, try “What are your thoughts on natural births? How often do you attend natural births? Etc”. See the difference? At the end of the day, if you have the slightest bit of hesitation with those responses - 2nd, 3rd, and 4th opinions are always okay. The healthy and safe birth you want is worth it to find the person and place who most supports you. Birth teams are critical in encouraging you to achieve a healthy, low-risk pregnancy and birth. Check out this great post on interviewing providers!
I hope this has been helpful and encouraging to moms just wanting to take control of their pregnancy and prepare for their BEST birth! At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter your birth goals are - but staying healthy and low-risk is a good goal for ALL pregnant women. I wish you well!
Childbirth Education Resources-
Bradley Birth Instructor - Jenny Brown
HubCity Birth Collective
Coaches Corner - Madelene Daniell
Evidence Based Birth Instructor / Hypnobirthing Instructor - Cassandra Newman
Gulf Coast area-
Building Blocks for Birth - Bianca Wooden
Reading Recommendations for Pregnancy and Birth-
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth - Ina May Gaskin
Your Best Birth - Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein
Hypnobirthing - Marie Mongan
Husband-Coached Childbirth - Robert Bradley
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way - Susan McCutcheon
The Birth Partner - Penny Simkin
Babies Are Not Pizzas - Rebecca Decker
Natural Hospital Birth - Cynthia Gabriel
The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth - Henci Goer
Painless Childbirth - Giuditta Tornetta
Childbirth Without Fear - Grantly Dick-Read
Birth Without Fear - January Harshe
Orgasmic Birth - Elizabeth Davis
Birthing From Within - Pam England