The Women's Journal

7 Things To Consider When Preparing For Your Birth

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gathering_birth_diana_jas16By Diana Spalding

We hear the term birth plan a lot. Giving birth is one of the most intense, intimate things we do, so the desire to make a birth plan is natural; plans make us feel safe. But the problem with birth plans is that they are, well, plans. Our bodies (and babies) are really good at birth, but just like any force in nature, birth is unpredictable. Instead of writing a birth plan, write your birth preferences. A plan details the step-by-step itinerary of your birth while your birth preferences lets your caregiver know what’s important to you, and allows you to be an active participant in your care as your unique birth story unfolds.

Here are some things to consider when writing your birth preferences:

1. Where do you want to give birth?gathering_birth_baby_jas16

A hospital? A birth-center? Your home? Consider this early in your pregnancy as it will help you determine who your caregiver should be.

2. Who will attend your birth?

Do you have a partner, and will s/he be there with you? What about family members? Will you hire a doula? Think about who will have a calming, supportive presence. Remember that birthing places have different policies about the number of guests allowed so do be sure to ask.

3. What will be in your relaxation/coping bag of tricks? 

Childbirth education classes are an excellent way to equip yourself with tools to help you cope during labor. You’ll learn relaxation techniques, positions that can ease discomfort and speed up labor and much more. Be sure to learn a variety of methods; you may be surprised at what you find helpful when the big day arrives.

4. How should pain medication be offered to you? 

The first moment possible? When you ask for it? Never? It can be hard to make the epidural decision before your birth. Some women feel strongly one-way or the other, while others take a “I’ll wait and see how I feel” approach. Both are completely fine. Just make sure to communicate your thoughts with your birth team ahead of time.

5. How do you want to care for your baby? 

Do you want the baby placed on your belly immediately after birth? Delayed cord-clamping? Baby rooming in with you? Circumcision? Breastfeeding? It’s overwhelming to think about, I know. But it’s even more overwhelming right after you’ve given birth. Consider taking a newborn care class to help you learn about your options. Or, pick 1 topic per week to research and think about what feels right. Then let your provider know.

6. Do you have traditional and cultural considerations? 

Who is going to cut the umbilical cord? Do you want to take your placenta home? Are you banking your cord blood? Are there religious traditions the team should be aware of? It’s helpful to communicate these preferences before the baby is born and you are too flooded with emotion to think about them.

7. Is there anything else we need to know?

Sometimes parts of our histories can have a profound effect on how we approach intense experiences like birth. For example, women that have experienced violence often report that vaginal exams feel invasive and upsetting. Please don’t feel like you have to tell your provider anything. But do think about the important stuff that could have a true impact on your experience.

This is your birth. Your midwife or doctor will serve as your guardian of safety, but you have every right to let them know about what is important to you. Considering and communicating your birth preferences will empower you to give birth in awareness, and start your journey into parenthood with confidence. I wish you the best of luck!

Call us at 610-627-0782 or visit our website for more information on childbirth preparation courses, support groups and more.

About Diana

A midwife, pediatric nurse, and mother of three, Diana Spalding is thrilled to be the founder and class instructor of Gathered Birth. Diana grew up around birth (her mom is a midwife too) and has always been in absolute awe of pregnancy and birth. Diana earned a BA in Anthropology at Emory University and a BSN at New York University. She worked as a pediatric oncology nurse in the Bronx, and then returned to NYU where she received her Master’s Degree in Midwifery. Diana had the honor of attending hundreds of births at Bellevue Hospital in NYC. After moving to Media, PA, Diana shifted her focus to teaching; she worked as a nursing school professor at Cedar Crest College, and served as a midwifery school advisor at Georgetown University. Her most treasured roles are as the mother of three young children, and partner to her husband, all of whom amaze, surprise, and inspire her every day.