Birth Preparation. What is it, and why is it so important?
A guest blog by Charlotte Hogarth from Benefiting Birth and Beyond
I hear so many women and families make the comments, “I’m just going to go with the flow!” “The midwives and doctors are the professionals, they’ll tell me what to do!” “It’s natural so what do I have to know anything about it for?”
There are some good points to these comments, however, there are also a number of issues with this kind of attitude towards your birth.
So what are they? Why is birth planning so important?
Going with the flow is a great way to stay relaxed, enjoy and not get too worried about complications, HOWEVER, a problem with this attitude may be that it can hide a multitude of fear. It is like going into an exam with a relaxed attitude but having not studied, that is great to begin with but it is not long into the exam that you start to stress, tense and start to understand and experience more pain than the other students.
The midwives and doctors in hospitals are professionals, they are the “experts” of birth, but not you, not your family, not your history, not your body, the only person that is the best judge, the best expert of your experience is you.
If you don’t have all the facts, if you don’t know the questions to ask, then how are you going to know that you are in fact making the best call? The best decision for your baby and yourself?
As for “it’s natural so why do I need to know anything more?” When was the last time you heard a positive birth story? When was the last time you had a complete conversation about birth with someone? Someone who truly understood what was going on? Who do you know has had a birth where they felt in tune with their instincts, their intuition and they followed it?
Birth is a life event, it is not a medical event, however, for many women they don’t know how to experience birth as a life event as opposed to a medical event. Many women struggle to get in tune with their internal monitors, their internal judgement and rely on the external environment to tell them what they are or are not feeling.
Let me give you some examples of Medical Lingo used in Pregnancy and tell me honestly if you knew and understood these terms completely prior to now.
Gestation – How many weeks you are.
Primip/Multip – First time mumma/More than first time mumma
Geriatric – Been busy with career and life and now having kids at 35 or over.
Nuchal Translucency – An ultrasound performed between 11 and 14weeks gestation, whereby the sonographer will look at your baby and check all its limbs and organs that can be seen at this early stage. The main purpose of this scan is to see and measure the nuchal fold, the small portion of skin on the back of babies neck, this is combined with the results of a blood test to give a likelihood of some chromosomal abnormalities such as Trisomy 21 (Downs Syndrome), Trisomy 18 (Edwards Syndrome) and Trisomy 13 (Patau Syndrome). It will also determine a Papp-A (pregnancy associated plasma protein A) score in conjunction with your blood test results. This is linked to placenta function and if found to be low may be an indicator for your care provider to keep a slightly closer eye on your babies size and how your placenta is coping at the end of your pregnancy, you may be offered induction and growth scans which you can accept or decline.
This scan is used to identify chromosomal abnormalities early in pregnancy to give parents notification earlier rather than later. This scan will NOT pick up all physical abnormalities which is why a morphology scan is recommended at 18-20weeks when bub is a little bigger.
NIPT – This is an alternative test to the Nuchal Translucency Scan, or a next line of investigation prior to more invasive and higher risk procedures after a Nuchal is found to be high risk due to its more accurate risk assessment. This is a blood test performed on mum whereby the foetal cells are examined providing a high level of accuracy for the 3 major chromosomal abnormalities. This test can also provide a high level of accuracy for sex determination of baby depending on sex of baby. If it comes back with male dna you are pretty safe to say you are having a boy, a girl does have the possibility of a mix up with you also being female.
Birth planning is important for so many reasons, the excuses and reasons we give ourselves and others while they sound great and are based on a solid reasoning, are flawed, they need to be backed up with MORE.
Birth planning assists with:
- Knowing your options, the benefits as well as the risks
- It provides you an opportunity to do more research, further discuss with others prior to making a decision on the day with little to go on except the professionals word
- Making the right decision for you and your family, especially in care settings where your labour midwife is unknown to you. This midwife does not your ability to listen to your baby and body, she does not know what preparation, what research you have done except what is on your birth preferences. In these circumstances it is even more important to know your options and be able to make an informed decision regarding any circumstances that arise, good, bad or slightly different to expected.
- It gives you and your partner the opportunity to discuss your birth preferences, while an option may seem obvious to mum, her partner may have a different obvious opinion and it is important to air these prior to a decision needing to be made in pregnancy, labour or birth.
- It means you can prioritise what is important to you, what is a definite yes/no, what preferences have more wiggle room in them?
- It means you can plan a potential cascade of intervention – we know that inductions are a much higher risk of further intervention being introduced, more pain relief and a higher rate of caesarean section. By knowing your options you can plan if you need an induction/antibiotics/caesarean and what you are happy to have with this, what you would prefer to avoid and where you would like to have more time/alternatives/discussion.
- It means if you do decide that a certain hospital policy or “normal” intervention/preference is NOT for you and your family you can prepare for this, you can gather research to support your choice, you can practice what you will say. Your birth companion can practice advocating for your rights as parents.
By knowing what is involved with birth preferences and getting fully informed it gives you and your partner the opportunity to go away and gather more information, discuss, get in tune with your baby, your body. So when the situation arises, you are not scared, you are not bullied, you are aware, you are informed and you are completely comfortable as a family in what you wish to do with the information provided by your care provider.
Birth Planning is not just for interventions, or complications. Birth planning is knowing your options for tests, preparation for labour and birth in pregnancy. It is for knowing ALL of your options regarding labour and birth, pain relief (natural, pharmaceutical and the complete benefits and risks or each). It is about knowing what you want after your babies birth, for the placentas birth and your babies transition to extrauterine life. It is about immunisations for your baby, discharge times, baby feeding, the list goes on.
Want to know how to have a positive and empowered birth? Check out Benefiting Birth and Beyond and grab your FREE HypnoBirthing Checklist or sign up for their next Group Session Webinar currently FREE for all pregnant women.
Who is Charlotte?
A mum of 3, a midwife, a certified HypnoBirthing® International (The Mongan Method) educator and passionate about women and their families. Charlotte has worked within a number of hospitals in Brisbane and Interstate with very different approaches to care for women, however, the remaining constant between all of these hospitals was their lack of time and staff.