As the months of your pregnancy pass you will probably be starting to think about giving birth. You may be looking forward to giving birth with excitement, or perhaps you are really scared, having heard lots of horror stories from ‘well-meaning’ friends.
The more you plan and prepare your mind, hopefully, the better you’ll feel about the whole experience. So let’s see if we can ease your mind by covering every angle that you might be concerned about, after all, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Planning For The Birth
Giving birth is going to be one of the most amazing things you will ever experience, so it is really worth trying to plan how you want it to go so that you can get the most out of it.
One thing to bear in mind, though, is that even with the best laid plans things can go very differently to how you’d hoped they would. For instance, I planned to have Freddy in a local cottage hospital, which is a small community team maternity unit, where they have a lovely homely atmosphere, a wonderful team that looks after you really well and a birthing pool (which I also wanted to try). This is what I really wanted, but at the end of the day, I had to go to the big busy hospital because my labour wasn’t progressing as it should.
Basically, prepare your mind that things might not go as you’d planned, don’t be too hung up on having a certain thing, then you won’t be so disappointed if something different happens.
So, you will find a measure of peace of mind if you write up a birth plan to make known your wishes. Each midwife seems to do things differently, so don’t assume that a midwife will be able to read your mind for what you want her to do, (for example, giving you the baby as soon as it is delivered). Don’t leave any room for being disappointed by not getting things done the way you would like. If you write it all down they will know what you want and will follow your wishes, within reason.
Click here for more information on birth plans
Homebirth or Hospital?
You will also need to plan for where you want to have your baby. The two main choices are at home or in hospital. I had the choice between the large maternity unit in the nearby city or the above mentioned community hospital, or home. It really depends on how you feel.
Some women don’t like big hospitals and want things to be more personal, so they opt for a home birth, or a smaller maternity unit. However, the smaller maternity units often don’t have certain facilities to enable them to carry out caesareans or to enable them to deal with emergency problems, and this would mean you being taken in an ambulance to a better-equipped hospital.
So some mums-to-be opt for the larger hospital from the start because they feel more comfortable knowing that whatever they need is right there and they won’t have to be moved during their labour.
Click on the link below for more information on birth locations.
Methods For Delivery
There are different ways a baby can be delivered, either by choice or through forced circumstances. This is a brief overview, but you can click on the link below for more detail on the different methods that might be used.
The most common method, you will already know, is Vaginal delivery. The baby exits the womb through the cervix and comes into the world through the vagina. This is what the majority of women will be hoping to achieve whist giving birth. However, as you’ve probably already pondered, the vagina is an awful lot smaller than a baby’s head! Don’t worry! It’s made to stretch to allow the biggest part of the baby, the head, to pass through.
There are still times, though, when, for varying reasons, instruments may need to be used to help along a vaginal delivery. You may come across the following:
1. Forceps – steel pincers (kind of like salad servers) that gently grasp the baby’s head so that an obstetrician can pull the baby down the birth canal and speed up the delivery.
Click here for more information on forceps delivery
2. Ventouse – suction cup that is placed on the baby’s head to pull the baby down the birth canal and speed up the delivery.
Click here for more information on ventouse delivery
3. Episiotomy – an obstetrician may need to make an incision in the perineum to widen the vagina and speed up the delivery. This will be sewn up afterwards.
Click here for more information on episiotomies
The other way a baby can be delivered is by caesarean section. Some women opt for this right from the start. Others find themselves having to have a caesarean because the labour isn’t progressing and action needs to be taken.
When a woman has a caesarean a fairly small incision is made in their lower abdomen (bikini line area), and the baby is delivered through this. It is very quick, normally taking 5-10 minutes. It can be done while you are awake having been anaesthetised from the waist down, or under general anaesthetic, meaning you wouldn’t see your baby until you wake up.
Click here for advice on the different positions for giving birth
Pain Relief During Labour
Yes, labour is very painful. There’s no point trying to gloss over it. But you don’t have to do it alone. There are different pain relievers that you can try to help you get through it. These are:
1. Gas and Air or Entonox – mixture of half oxygen and half nitrous oxide (laughing gas).
2. Pethidine – an opiate drug similar to morphine.
3. Tens Machine (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) – an electronic device that sends electrical impulses through pads attached to your skin to block pain signals to different parts of your body. Used on your lower back in labour.
4. Epidural – Painkilling drugs are injected around nerves in the small of your back (and continuously fed through a fine tube) to stop you feeling labour pains, causing you to become numb from your waist down.
Many women find that a warm bath while they are in the early stages of labour helps to soothe the pain, or having the shower on their lower back.
Click on the link below for more detailed information on pain relief.
Giving Birth - Ignore The Horror Stories!
No doubt, not everyone will have spared you their horror stories about giving birth. You may be really worried about some of the things you’ve heard, wondering whether things will run smoothly for you or whether things will go wrong.
The best advice I can give is to be realistic but positive. Here are some statistics to help you reason on the likelihood of you having problems when giving birth:
In England in 2008 only 15% of women giving birth had to have an emergency caesarean. Only 7% of women giving birth had to be aided by ventouse and only 5% by forceps. In the same year in England 20.4% of women had to be induced.
The average length of time for a first-baby labour is 12 hours of active labour. (They count active labour from when your cervix is about 4cm dilated). This can of course vary tremendously, it being longer for some, and shorter for others.
But all-in-all, it’s going to be a fraction of your life that you spend in labour. Ok, it is painful and unpleasant, but in the grand scheme of things it is over very quickly, and what a fabulous reward you will get for your efforts; a beautiful new baby!
Click here for more information about what goes on inside and out during labour and delivery
Click here to find out how to identify the signs of labour
Return to Home page from Giving Birth