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For women planning a home birth since early in their pregnancy, or through a desire late in pregnancy to be in the comfort of their own home, planning for a home birth can seem exciting.  However, for families that might need to make a quick change of plans due to fear of their desired birth location, changing your birth team and environment might feel overwhelming.  Here are some tips to guide you through preparing for a home birth no matter which path led you here.

GET HEALTHY TO PREPARE FOR HOME BIRTH

Being healthy for home birth is quite ideal.  Birth at home is safe when the woman birthing at home is healthy.  There is no technique, skill, knowledge, or care provider that can make birth safer than the woman herself.  Home birth is statistically so safe because the women birthing at home have been, by default, some of the healthiest women in the population as someone unhealthy to birth at home is risked out if their lifestyle cannot change to improve their overall wellness.  Even the medications used to treat complications only buy time for the body to do what it was designed to do, and the nutrients and environment provided throughout and after the birth are at the base of healing.  This is up to women to eat well balanced, eliminate non-nourishing foods and other chemicals, and to live a movement-based lifestyle with reduced fear.

  • Eat an ample portion of dark leafy greens at every meal
  • Eat a rainbow of vegetables and fruits throughout the day
  • Drink at least 2-3 quarts of water and/or herbal tea (such as red raspberry leaf, alfalfa, and nettles) daily along with hydrating foods
  • Take supplements where you’re lacking, and be sure they’re bioavailable to your body
  • Walk an average of 3-5 miles daily (throughout the day, even if this is through your daily chores)
  • Stretch throughout the day, change positions, and get bodywork (even if this is a basic massage by someone in your family)

KNOW HOW TO DO A BASIC PRENATAL ASSESSMENT

Knowing signs and symptoms to watch for through pregnancy and birth can help you know when it is truly necessary to seek additional care.  For a detailed explanation of how to perform these basic prenatal care assessments and normal ranges, read THIS POST.

  • Your blood pressure should be balanced. You will likely feel off if it is not.
  • Your pulse should be calm. Hydrate if it is not, seek additional support if this does not balance it.
  • Your temperature should be normal during pregnancy.
  • Your baby should grow about a centimeter each week. Sometimes, baby’s position changes this measurement, but the measurement should be within 2 weeks +/- of the week of pregnancy you are currently.
  • Your urine should be clear to pale yellow.
  • Your bowel movements should be easy and smooth and a minimum of once daily.
  • You should not have swelling that doesn’t subside with rest or a change of activity.
  • Your baby should be moving well after you’ve started feeling movements and reacting to you stimulating them if you palpate your belly.

REDUCE FEAR TO PREPARE FOR HOME BIRTH

Fear causes tension.  Tensions causes pain.  Pain causes fear.  Fear increases blood pressure and pulse.  Fear increases adrenaline and stresses mom and baby.  Explore your fears and find the information that helps to allay them.  If you are preparing for home birth that you are not fully desiring, this is especially important.  (This approach is the same for preparing for any birth anywhere, as fear is one of the biggest factors outside of wellness that contribute to complications in birth).

  • Practice relaxation techniques that help you to stabilize your breathing
  • Read positive birth stories and remind yourself that birth is normally safe (even when moms are not at their ideal health)
  • Most birth variations have multiple approaches that a few basic skills, or herbs, can remedy – learn them DOWNLOAD BIRTH COMPLICATION BASIC MANAGEMENT.
  • The less we rely on others to “take care of us” or have the answers, the more confident we become. Learn – no matter where you’re planning to birth – so your fear is a non-issue
  • Learn comfort techniques like walking, swaying, rhythmic movements, birth balls, hip squeezes, how to move baby’s position, and so much more. These can be learned through Birth Classes, or in-home prenatal care.  These options are available virtually, as well.
  • Take the Esali Birth Labor & Birth Overview course for a quick run-through of expectations of labor progression and tips for pregnancy and postpartum, or the complete Esali Birth Online Birth Class for more thorough information

 

GATHER SUPPLIES TO PREPARE FOR HOME BIRTH

Basic home birth supplies can help your home birth be more comfortable and provide you with tools in case labor doesn’t take a straight forward path.  Most of the supplies you’ll need are around the house, and a few a midwife can provide.  It is helpful to have all your supplies together in one location no later than 36 weeks.

  • Prenatal Records (lab results, prenatal care notes, vital sign baselines, list of allergies, back-up provider information, and any other details about your desires that would be beneficial to anyone supporting you – including a birth guide for your desires of how to be cared for)
  • Towels & Wash Cloths
  • Package of Underpads or absorbent material to place wherever you are during labor and birth
  • Sturdy Plastic Sheet to cover and protect your bed in case you birth there
  • Nettles & Red Raspberry Leaf tea (or chlorophyll), High-Quality Grape Juice, and anti-hemorrhage herbs if you can get them (though nipple stimulation and your placenta/cord/membranes can be used in lieu of these herbs)
  • A long clean string, clean crocheted cord tie, or sterile cord clamp. DON’T cut the cord routinely after birth.  Wait until the cord is white and the placenta has been birthed!  This is only for if the cord snaps or in a rare case the cord has to be cut early.
  • Nourishing, easily-digested, foods. Fruits, soups, dark leafy greens, protein, broths.  For you and anyone that might be supporting you.

For a full list of supplies for optimal comfort, DOWNLOAD HOME BIRTH SUPPLY LIST

KNOW YOUR BIRTH SUPPORTERS FOR HOME BIRTH

There are so many people throughout our communities with wide ranges of knowledge about natural childbirth.  Many mothers that have planned home births in the past.  Doulas that have supported home birth (which is a bit different than supporting birth in the hospital).  Midwives and their assistants that have cared for women from pregnancy, birth, and postpartum – as well as provided routine checks on baby.  Have a list of people you can call for phone or video support if you plan (or need) to be alone.  Find a provider – the sooner the better.  If you wait too long in your pregnancy, a provider may not be available.  Likewise, a large part of the support a provider gives during labor is from learning about you and your baby during pregnancy.  The more time they have to do this, the more care they can provide.  If you’re considering home birth because of world changes like COVID19, waiting until the last days of your pregnancy to make a decision might decrease the safety of preparing to birth at home.  You can start receiving in-home prenatal care, learn techniques for self-prenatal care in case the home birth caseload for providers significantly increases, and learn techniques for birthing unassisted should the worst-case scenario occur.

SMILE, LOVE, & LIVE LIFE

While planning for a less-than-ideal birth might increase panic, once you become comfortable with your knowledge, these fears will subside.  Make the majority of your day focused on positivity, centering yourself, prayer, meditation, a walk in the woods, spending time with family, and going about your daily routine.  Women have birthed babies in far worse circumstances with joy and love and health over many centuries.  The health and happiness of birth is on your side.  Use the last weeks of your pregnancy to be amazed by your incredible body and how wonderfully it has been created.

 

If you would like more guidance on home birth, self-prenatal care, birth classes, education on birthing unassisted, reach out!  My virtual office is open to those outside my radius and support for my local community is available.

Motivational Tea Scrolls can be printed free, clipped, and added to each cup of herbal tea (or your favorite relaxing drink) for daily inspiration.  Various formats from quotes, tip, scripture...etc., plus new additions regularly, will keep your daily cuppa inspirational for pregnancy, motherhood, and beyond.

Add motivational tea scrolls to gifted tea blends for blessingways, baby showers, and postpartum gift boxes.  Print these out for your loved one (scrolls for mom and dad) to give them a surprise moment with every glass.

 

I'm sure you heard of one or all of these if you've made it to this page:

  • Belly Mapping
  • Pelvic Alignment
  • Optimal Fetal Positioning
  • Back Labor
  • Prodromal Labor
  • Posterior
  • Long Labor

I'm sure you're probably asking one of these questions:

  • What is belly mapping?
  • How to belly map?
  • How to flip a breech?
  • How to VBAC?
  • How to get baby in a good position?
  • How to avoid back labor?
  • How to avoid a long labor?
  • and so on and so forth...

Become a FREE member at EsaliBirth.com and get a FREE BELLY MAPPING GUIDE

Pelvic Alignment & Fetal Position

The position of your body, you guessed it, creates the position of baby's body.  From fetal development to their ability to move through your pelvis and soft tissue, alignment matters.

  • Move in a variety of [aligned] positions throughout the day
  • Go to a physical therapist who is restorative exercise savvy, or otherwise doesn't tout kegels as the only way of get ready for birth.
  • Get aligned - not just by a chiropractor, but all the soft tissue as well
  • Learn aligned body movements
  • Get abdominal massages regularly to loosen up the tissue and encourage baby to be in an optimal position

Stomach Sleeping and Pelvic Health

If you're a stomach sleeper, chances are your pelvic is out of whack.  Actually, if you're a side sleeper, this is likely the case as well, especially if you favor one side or the other.

  • Stomach sleeping rocks the top of the pelvis forward making it more likely for baby to be in a funky position and you to experience back pain
  • Stomach sleeping, because of the aforementioned issue, can contribute to pelvic floor health, and sneeze peeing
  • Sleeping on your back with a flat back position can also tilt your pelvis, so be sure you keep that curve in your spine and your ASIS aligned with your pubic bone (horizontal plane to your sleep surface, which shouldn't be overly squishy)
  • Don't use a pillow too much.  Not totally specific to pregnancy, but this raised position can contribute to back pain, future neck pain, headaches, and upper body health - which is connected to your mid and lower body health, e.g. the pelvis.  You may need to slowly wean yourself off a pillow (and try not to get this started in your kids, either)
  • Alternating positions throughout the night, and using body support pillows, can be helpful during pregnancy, especially if transitioning from a padded pillow and squishy sleep surface to a sleep environment that encourages your body to do most of the supporting.

Fetal Position & Comfortable Birth

Now that you see that your pelvic and body alignment contributes to fetal position, what's this mean for the birth?  Everything.  Your stress levels, your movement, your nutrition will all influence your body's ability to release, move, and let baby move through the pelvis and soft tissue.  Discomfort during birth is most often due to stress emotionally (increasing adrenaline and tension), and tension and misalignment of the pelvis and soft tissue.

  • Fetal position can influence baby's ability to move through the pelvis
  • Birth in a biologically supportive environment that allows a lot of patience and a lot of instincts and movement
  • Get aligned and physical therapy support
  • Learn how to belly map and determine baby's position
  • Use movements and techniques that support a good position in baby
  • If you sit, sit up on your sitz bones and move your legs in a variety of positions
  • Get out of the heels (evening the seemingly 'flat' ones)
  • Walk, aligned, a LOT - Strive for 3-5 miles daily on average
  • Belly dance, or just move your pelvis a lot
  • Vary your positions all throughout the day
  • Use straight leg stretching positions, don't overdo the bent legs
  • Stretch daily, hamstrings, back, pelvis...etc.
  • Do a side-lying release (both legs) at least once a day
  • Release tension and stress to allow your body to flex and be mobile

Fetal Position & Breastfeeding

Baby is growing inside of you, in whatever shape you're putting them in.  Ever used a cookie cutter to let a cucumber grow in?  It will take the shape - really neat heart-shaped cucumber slices!  Cute for cucumbers, not so much for postpartum comfort.

  • Funky fetal positions can mean difficult birth
  • Difficult birth can mean difficult breastfeeding and healing
  • Baby's muscles can get tight and not allow baby's head to turn and jaw to move as needed
  • Tight muscles can cause pain, problems sleeping, problems eating, colick...etc.
  • Tight muscles can mimic tongue tie
  • Funky breastfeeding positions and shallow latch can cause painful breastfeeding, cracked and bleeding nipples, and make moms want to stop breastfeeding
  • Osteopathic manipulation, cranio sacral therapy, and other body work methods postpartum REGULARLY can relieve tension and with adequate support, breastfeeding can become enjoyable and long term
  • Bodywork MUST continue even with a surgical tie release

How to do Belly Mapping

So, now that you know the importance of fetal position, how do you monitor baby's position daily to know if you need to work to keep baby in a good position or move baby into a better position?  After about 20 weeks, you can begin to palpate and feel baby through your belly.  This will be much easier as baby grows, but its good to get an idea of what you're looking for early on if possible.

Belly mapping allows you to know how baby is positioned, but also gets you intimate with your body and improves your ability to listen to your instincts.  While prenatal appointments can really help with this, the more confidence you have in your own abilities, the less you feel at the mercy of others and the more this improves your ability to make confident decisions during your birth.

  • Be in some place quiet
  • Pull up your shirt
  • Get a skin-safe marker or natural earth paints (or just a piece of paper with a belly drawn on it)
  • If you're using a piece of paper, hold the circle up to your belly, place a dot for a belly button, and note which side is the left side, and which side is the vaginal opening
  • Now, on your belly (or piece of paper) you can draw quadrants and segment your belly into four segments with a large plus sign.  This will show two quadrants above, and two quadrants below
  • Now, listen and palpate.
  • If you've recently had a prenatal, or own a fetoscope, you can easily determine where the heartbeat is most easily found.  Draw a "heart" wherever this is most easily found.
  • Feel through your uterus at the lumps.  Draw a circle for the largest hardest lump you feel on your belly (or on the same place on the piece of paper).  This is likely the head.
  • The next large lump, draw an "m", this is likely the bum.
  • A long hard place can be indicated with a long half circle line, indicating the back.
  • If you feel big kicks, write a "k" for the feet or knees.
  • If you feel tiny wiggles or tickles, write a "w" to indicate the hands.

Now, look at your map.  You may notice you feel a lot of kicks and wiggles in the front of your belly, and can't feel much of the other lumps.  Baby's back is likely aligned with your back.  Maybe they're sideways or they change every day or every moment.  Are you noticing this?  Great!  Now you can understand the position your baby is in, get a good idea of how they may be influencing your comfort levels, and determine if there are methods to improve comfort and position if needed.

The position we're looking for ideally is "LOA" - Left Occiput Anterior.  This means the baby's occiput (back of their head) is towards your left side, and a little anterior (towards your front).  Your belly map would look a little similar to the image below.  Anything different from this is a good indicator that some stretching, releasing, bodywork, walking, varied movement...etc., can be helpful.

 

Become a FREE member at EsaliBirth.com and get a FREE BELLY MAPPING GUIDE

What position is your baby in?  Need help determining?  Have questions where to go from here if your baby isn't in an LOA position?  Get in touch - some one on one doula mentoring can be really helpful in providing you with physical and emotional support for belly mapping and optimal fetal positioning.

 

Choosing the best birth location for your birth is an individual choice.  Having a friend or family member that liked a birth location won't tell you what that birth location can do for you.  The best way to choose the best birth location for your birth is to take a tour of the location and know the routines and policies that birth location utilizes for birth.  Considering home birth, birth center birth, and hospital birth can all help to provide you with the most well rounded approach to making an informed decision for your birth.  In most cases, your care provider determines the birth location, so choosing the birth location and care provider are choices that go hand in hand.

Trusting your birth location for the options available to you that allow you to feel comfortable laboring in this space for the pregnancy that you are experiencing now will allow your oxytocin levels to be at their highest for labor progression rather than labor suppressing adrenaline.

Why are You Selecting This Birth Location?

Are you selecting a location other than your home?  Do you know why you are selecting home or not your home? Your birth location not only comes with your care provider, but also the team of people working with your care provider.  In most hospital births, your care provider won't even be present until shortly before the actual birth, so you need to be well aware of the staff that you will be interacting with as if they were the chosen care provider.  Routines and policies can influence not only what you may have to request differently than the routines, but the respect you receive during labor, birth, and the days following.

Use the table below as a guide to help you find the best birth location and birth environment for your #happyhealthybirth.

Thoughts and questions to ask yourself and to research about your chosen birth environment Biological Birth Supportive May want to seek other location
I am excited to walk into my chosen birth location and it feels like a place I can kick up my feet and relax if I want to without feeling like I'm burdening anyone YES NO
I enjoy the presence of the staff or assistants available in this birth locations YES NO
I do not have time limits for birth expected of me in this birth location YES NO
Medications are not a first recommendation for labor progression YES NO
Cytotec is NOT a method used for induction at this birth location YES NO
Pitocin is NOT a routine approach to the birth of the placenta or following the birth of the placenta YES NO
Eating and drinking is encouraged, as the mother desires, during labor YES NO
Movement is encouraged through labor YES NO
Quiet, calm, and dark environments are encouraged through labor and birth [the pushing stage], as well as the first few hours after birth YES NO
Using the placenta for postpartum hemorrhage is an option YES NO
The cord is routinely kept intact until the placenta is birthed and the cord becomes white and stops pulsing YES NO
Lotus birth is an option YES NO
Staff do not become aggressive or sarcastic when handling home birth transfers YES NO
Women choose their own labor and birth position YES NO
Doulas are encouraged to be present and respected YES NO
Siblings can be present during labor and birth YES NO
Water (tub or shower) is encouraged and available as a method of relaxation through labor and birth YES NO
Physical and emotional support is a first approach to helping a mom be confident and comfortable through labor, not medications YES NO
Staff encourage me to talk with my birth team about the benefits, risks, alternatives, intuition, and choosing not to use a recommendation or option YES NO
Babies are encouraged to be skin to skin with mom, or dad if mom is unavailable YES NO
Mandatory nor encouraged nursery time is NOT a part of routine care YES NO
Experienced lactation providers are available at all hours and days and a part of routine care for new mothers YES NO
Birth partners are encouraged to participate and are supported through labor, birth, and postpartum YES NO
I don't feel like I need a birth guide [birth plan] to get the birth that I desire at this location because the routines and policies align with my views of birth and care throughout labor, birth, and postpartum for me and my baby YES NO

Of course, the ideal is a YES to all of these, right?  At least much more than the majority. Are these the only priorities?  No, of course not... and there are many other factors that will play into the quality and care of a birth location.  Each mother may have different needs that help her determine the specific options she may want to utilize during birth, but facilities and the staff that support in those facilities create an environment of belief of the body's ability, or belief that birth is always a risk waiting to happen.  From unassisted birth to any level of risk, providers can be supportive of birthing families through respectful care.

It is common for mothers to hear the word "doula" and a birth story that goes along with it and believe the doula was the most important part of the positive birth experience.  While a doula does provide a level of trust and comfort to a mother, this would be typical of most anyone that is comfortable and confident in the physiology of birth providing continuous support to the mother.  The key to a positive birth experience, however, is knowledge and utilizing your human rights to make your own birth decisions.

Maybe you've heard, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink," and that statement very much applies to birth decisions.  A doula can show you paths to take, and caution you of possible road bumps along the way, but they cannot create your healthy birth.  A doula should no make your birth decisions.  Making your own birth decisions is a significant part of feeling empowered from the birth and bringing confidence in your abilities into parenting, specifically early parenting.

Birth Choices and your Birth Journey

This birth, this pregnancy, is a part of your journey.  Your experience now and in the future will shape who you are as a human.  What you experience is meant for you, and the the way people experience the journey with you is meant for them.  There really isn't a right or wrong answer when it comes to birth choices.  However, we don't simply get the birth journey we're meant to have because we have influence over much of our experience.

You grow from your birth journey through the way you interact with your pregnancy, birth and postpartum.  The way you feel now will be similar to the way you feel during birth.  Build your confidence now, and your confidence will grow in birth.  Improve your physical health, and you will experience improved health during birth.  Allow everyone else to make your decisions, and you likely may feel out of control during birth.

5 Ways to Create a Healthy Birth

You've heard it so many times that your health, your birth location, and your care provider will be the biggest influences on your birth experience.  You've heard doulas improve birth experiences as well.  But simply knowing these three influences and then hiring a doula to make it all happen is a bit unrealistic.

Resolve to make decisions.

Right now.  Make this choice for yourself.  Choose to make your own birth decisions.  Choose a care provider and birth location that you know practices in a way that blends with your ideas for birth care.  If your care provider does not, know that it is up to you to make a change.  Your doula will not change the way your provider or location practices in the middle of birth.  Your birth plan and a signature doesn't change the default routines or they can kind of get a little murky in the process.

Think of it this way.  You don't tell a pastry chef how to bake his cakes.  If you're hiring a pastry chef, it is likely because you want a skill of his that you don't have.  You don't find a pastry chef and simply because he has this title expect that his cake tastes the same as anyone else's.  You don't have him sign a contract that says he will bake a cake the way you want it with ingredients he's not used to using and expect it to turn out exactly like you imagined.  You don't bring in a friend and have that friend encourage you through eating this cake that isn't turning out exactly like you imagined, either, and expecting them to tell the chef how to do their job at the same time.

Making your own decisions means you get to be comfortable with the outcomes.  Knowing the possibilities you have with your choices lets you to be informed and understanding of your birth experience.

Eat well.

Eat well for a healthy happy birth.  While you may not be able to afford everything organic or have the space to grow everything you eat, you can eat well.  You buy your food.  Your doula doesn't buy your food.  Your doula cannot change eating fast food every day during labor.  Your doula cannot force water in you and hide the soda.  Even if your spouse and other children don't want to eat the same way you do, you are still the one putting food in your mouth and eventually the family tends to follow along with what mom is eating, even if it takes a while (sometimes years).  If you are in a situation where someone is holding you down and force feeding you, or emotionally manipulating you to not eat healthy food choices, then I urge you to seek counseling or find a shelter that will help protect you from abuse.  Otherwise, search for recipes of snacks and meals that have little to no sugar and make bulk items ahead of time.  Eat a rainbow of colors of whole foods and little to no processed foods.  Eat only real ingredients.  Properly assimilated adequate nutrients means your hormones and your body systems function at their peak, and your birth risks are at a more even level.

Move regularly.

Make movement a routine part of your day.  Maybe going to a physical therapist or chiropractor or bodyworker isn't an option for you, but movement is always an option. You can stand at your desk.  You can stretch and move positions (off the sofa) while watching TV.  You can go barefoot.  You can squat to use the bathroom and for any movement that requires up and down.  You can belly dance.  You can sway.  You can do side-lying stretches.  You can walk.  You can move a little bit at a time regularly throughout the day and not have to block out time for "exercise" and in fact, this is the way you should be living.  Take opportunities for longer times of movement and walking, but not making that time doesn't mean you should live a mono-movement and low movement lifestyle.  Better movement now means the baby has a clearer path through the pelvis and you're less likely to feel crampy during birth.

Find time for self care.

In some way, soothe your mind without a screen for even 5 minutes a day.  Better if it can be 1 hour a day.  Pray.  Stretch.  Deep breathe.  Walk.  Use herbal teas or essential oils to soothe the thoughts of the day.  Take a bath and close your eyes to relaxing music.  Make a routine part of your day uninterrupted.  Find a person or a thing that can help you with kids - even if this is a blanket in your bathroom with a quiet toy they can play with or wear your earbuds with relaxing music to mellow out the sounds.  Every day work to explain to your children their need for respect during this time and set a routine with them that allows them to feel nurtured also when you're done so you both can enjoy some relaxation time.

Learn about birth.

Birth doesn't have to be scary.  Review your previous births and discover new choices for a different (or similar) experience.  Listen to positive birth stories, and learn about the choices that supported those births.  Discover the parts of birth that cause fear and BELIEVE that you have the ability to learn about those aspects of birth and how to prevent and deal with those complications.  Don't allow someone else in your birth space to project their fear upon you.  If they do not learn or cannot reduce their fear with the choices you've made, it may be necessary to request them to not be a part of your experience.  If you are unable to move past a fear, seek counseling - there is likely a deeper struggle causing this fear response.

The information is here.  For selecting a birth environment that supports you, to steps to take if you find yourself in less than ideal birth situation.

You don't plan your birth.  You don't "plan a home birth" or "plan a birth center birth" or "plan a hospital birth."  You prepare for birthIf you take a prenatal prep approach of learning about your body, birth choices, and even a basic knowledge of birthing and supporting a birth, then USE the information you've been given to support your body and your mind and then birth happens.  You simply birth your baby and make decisions during that process to support your body (physically and emotionally) and your baby.  Don't get stuck in the idea that you have to birth in a certain location once you've chosen where you want to begin labor and experience labor.  Prepare for the ways to prevent complications and feel holistically supported now and during postpartum.  If your birth location and care provider changes in the middle, you'll be more empowered and confident to speak up and utilize your birth rights.

 

 

just breathe Reflection Journal Prompt - Week 4

Reflect: What questions have you had answered and how are you using those answers to seek the birth you desire? Write some new questions or topics you feel you need to learn about. Research those this week and jot down some notes and feelings.

#TheOxytocinMethod is an approach to the role we play during our childbearing years of the responsible consumer. I can provide you with information, but only you can choose what you do (or don't do) with information. You birth how you live.  You birth how you feel.

 

 

Be empowered - take responsibility and experience the joy from making your own birth decisions and allowing those choices to build your confidence for parenting.  If you're looking for more in depth information on your options for birth and building your confidence for making decisions, schedule mentoring or join an Esali Birth class.

Birth baggage, we all carry it even when we're planning a first birth.  We've seen a movie, read a book, heard someone's birth story.  We've listened to our mother or father tell our own birth stories.  Perhaps we even have suppressed memories from our birth that we don't even know we're remembering and reliving.

No matter where we've been, our baggage wasn't lost so let's start the unpacking process.

Birth Baggage Personalities

Your birth baggage probably has a personality.  Personality characteristics have been studied since ancient times - even before Hippocrates and our memories play into the personality characteristics that we show.  They can also help us to find a way of unpacking this baggage.

Dominance Birth Baggage

Do you feel like your birth memories are dominating your every choice?  Do they make you angry and frustrated?  Do you feel like, "If I make this ______ choice, this ______ experience will happen?  Do you feel as though your decisions are better than others?  Do you feel as though someone else's decisions are better than yours?

If this feels like some of your reactions, your birth baggage may be dominating your pregnancy rather than allowing you to enjoy this experience.  Maybe you've experienced birth trauma or someone close to you experienced birth trauma.  Maybe someone's story really hit hard because their situation was so similar to yours.  We must understand that birth is a journey.  We can make choices that support our health, but what we experience and choose is neither better nor worse than anyone else - only the experience we have and how we are influenced by that experience for our future.

Influence

Do you feel like you made choices that other people made in their birth, hoping for the same outcome?  Do you look at professional birth images and yearn for that experience the image seems to create in your mind?  Or, do you feel like others made your birth decisions for you?

We can often let others influence us into making decisions, especially in a culture where we doubt our own abilities to make health decisions.  We need to work towards building our confidence in our own abilities.

Steady

Are we passive on making new or different decisions for our birth?  Are we unwilling to change providers or birth locations even when we feel our current choices aren't supporting our birth philosophy?  Are we putting off making decisions?  Are we comfortable in certain birth choices just because they are the common routine in our modern culture?

The norm can feel easy at first.  Making decisions different than those around us can feel almost counter-intuitive at times so we must really look at the evidence and branch out to find multiple perspectives on the approach to health and maternity care.

Conscientious

Do you feel as though you must plan every aspect of your pregnancy and birth to avoid complications?  Do you assess all the details, all the studies, all the scientific tangible evidence?  Do you feel any deviation from your plan would be difficult to experience or a "failure" of birth?

We cannot control birth.  We can influence our experience, but there are no guarantees with birth.  In many ways, we have to come to peace with that uncertainty.

 

How to Unpack Your Birth Baggage

We may be able to determine our birth baggage personality, but the real task comes in unpacking.  Ever went on a trip, came home and just lived out of a suitcase for a few weeks never really decluttering our living space?  Next trip, do we do the same thing?  Do we pack less?  Do we deal with our baggage immediately to make the following weeks a little lighter so the transition to coming home is a little more feng shui? How do we learn from this?

Pack Less - Reduce the baggage you take into birth so you have less to deal with when you get there (and home).

This can be a literal translation into not over packing the labor bag - but we need to reduce the emotional baggage we take into the birth so we can enjoy the experience and focus on the labor and birth, and not losing some piece of ourselves in the process.

Accept that birth baggage exists.  In a culture where birth trauma is so prevalent, it might not only feel wrong to believe you've experienced trauma, but it may be hard to accept that positive birth experiences exist and are thriving.  It may also feel frustrating to have prepared well for a previous birth to have still experienced birth trauma... even from what may have felt like a positive birth experience.  Women are often told, "at least you have a healthy baby" with total disregard for the health, especially emotionally, of the mother.  Fathers, and all birth partners, absolutely experience birth trauma as well and it may be even more difficult to realize this trauma when so many of these negative experiences occur every day.  We must believe that birth should be a joyful experience and that we are meant to experience pregnancy, birth, postpartum and parenting in a positive, energetic, and joyful way.

Get birth counseling.  If you're feeling any of these emotions that don't allow you to simply enjoy your pregnancy and birth and feel confident about your experience - then there is some piece of emotional hindrance on your experience.  Find where those feelings are coming from and confront them, talk with a therapist, chat with your doula, take a perinatal education course, and join a birth group that allows you to work through your previous birth story.  Finding a community of like-minded people allow us to feel safe sharing our experiences.  Finding a community of positive birth supporters that believe in the biology of birth helps us to feel confident in our body's abilities to gestate, birth, and heal.

Learn about the birth industry.  Birth classes are so much more than breathing and comfort measures.  True, they may start out with the idea of learning tools to reduce discomfort, but a quality perinatal education series helps you to navigate the birth industry to confidently make informed decisions.  Research quality evidence-based information with a wide variety of perspectives.

Unpack Your Baggage Soon

The sooner you unpack your baggage, the more quickly things can get back to a new normal.  If we let the emotions sit, they sit and stew and tend to keep piling on as they get mixed with new emotions - like tired nights with a newborn or little help as our culture thrusts us back into home duties and work so quickly after birth.  If you feel uneasy or disappointed at all after a birth, talk to someone.

Write Your Birth Story.  Get it out, and quickly.  Get it out before you retell the birth story so many times that emotions twist the experience.  It is inevitable that the emotions surrounding us when we retell our birth story will continue to ingrain the memory's feelings for long term retrieval.  By writing, or recording, our birth story in some way soon after the birth - we keep our immediate memories whole.  We can then process our birth story as we continue to share, but keeping in mind that we must continue to find 2-3 positive aspects that we bring into our story no matter how the rest of the story makes us feel.  If we only focus on the negative, we will soon find ourselves unable to remember the positive.  Recording our birth story, even if we discard our recording, also allows us to move these memories to a more long-term space in our mind rather than constantly recalling the traumatic events (even the seemingly minuscule thoughts that are so fleeting).

Share Your Birth Story.  Find someone that understands birth trauma, and share your birth story.  Go back to that group you created prior to birth and share your story and allow yourself to heal - no matter what your birth looks like to anyone else.  All that matters is a healthy happy family - not just one member we get to bring home.  A mother must have a support team that understands her needs and is in an emotional place to provide her with the support she needs as well.

 

just breathe Reflection Journal Prompt - Week 3

Reflect: My previous birth experience (or someone else's) makes me feel ________. Reflect about how you can make decisions that can positively influence your birth.

#TheOxytocinMethod works because it address your life individually. It isn't a specific "birth method" that offers a cookie cutter approach to birth. It teaches you to build your confidence through self-exploration and life choices that support biology, and oxytocin - the hormone needed for spontaneous labor progression and a happy healthy birth.

 

So, come on in to Esali Birth... unpack your birth baggage and stay a while.

Historical Birth Influences - what are they?

So many times, our modern culture focuses on the fact that cesareans are now a choice and the technology and skills have improved.  So many times, birth in the modern world is promoted because we have epidurals and obstetricians and... well, those aspects cannot be denied.  However, I want to focus not on what technology didn't exist throughout the history of birth, but what the historical influences on birth were that actually may have improved the outcomes of birth compared to the modern day.

Historical Influences on Birth - Life

You birth how you live.  It is kind of that simple.  The historical birth would have experienced life in a way that better prepared the body for birth.  Nothing more than the daily actions (and non-actions) of living prepare the body to gestate, birth, breastfeeding and experience vitality in the childbearing years and beyond.  Now, this also means each culture would have seen their own influences of how they live on birth - most having really great outcomes.  Think way back before civilized America.  Too many times early America and Europe-before-America is the comparison to health statistics when people were either living in highly crowded unsanitary conditions or highly secluded conditions with mono-diets full of filler foods.

Historical Influences on Birth - Wild Food

Wild food is hardier.  Wild food germinates and sprouts in the conditions that support its growth the best.  This means they are, typically, growing in optimal conditions being fertilized naturally through forest decomposition and companion plants.  It will thrive in those conditions (or stop growing when it is not provided with them or overtaken by larger plants or invasive species).  A wild food will most often have more nutrients than its store-bought, farmers-market purchased, and even organically farmed counterparts - especially when the comparison is to a mono-culture of plants.  Hunter-gatherer cultures have increased nutrients in their body compared to western cultures, reducing the need for synthetic or whole-foods supplements.  Wild foods are highly diverse.  One wild fruit tree will never be the same variety as another wild fruit tree grown from the seed.  The seeds are designed to carry unique genetic codes to improve the health of the species.  We can relate this to what happens when humans mate with other humans who's genetic structure is similar to theirs - many complications physically and neurologically.

Adding wild foods (not seeds planted in rows in the forest - but foods that grow, seed and spread on their own) is one way we can improve modern birth in the way that a historical birth would have benefited.

Historical Influences on Birth - Movement

Movement was crucial for survival at one time.  This meant, even when someone didn't want to move - they had to from a very early age or they wouldn't eat or have shelter.  They not only had to move to hunt and gather their food, but also to process it.  A food processing movement now takes only the push of a button.  A food processing movement historically would have taken days of labor to not only create a quality tool to process the food, but then to process the food with that tool by hand.  It isn't just the movement that improves the whole healthy of the body, but the significant decrease in processed food due to the movement it took to create a processed food.

The other major movement influence on historical birth was walking and climbing with minimal to no footwear as well as bending and squatting for various needs, such as elimination.  This improved whole body alignment, especially in the pelvis area.  The soft tissue surrounding the pelvis was significantly more flexible and toned (round ligament and lower back pain would have been experienced to a much less degree).  This would have created a significant impact on not only the health and safety of the birth, but also the speed of labor and the birth phase.  While many tribal rituals appear to be barbaric to our modern culture, the daily life of the woman prepared her for this physiological task.  Wallis tells us in The Micmac Indians of Eastern Canada that, "a normal labor lasted two hours."  Each culture, of course would have had their differences just like the modern women that sits more than she moves will often experience a longer more physically demanding labor (or deal with symphysis pubis dysfunction).  More whole-body movement prior to childbirth (and pregnancy) typically equates to an easier labor.  Whole body movement does not equate to one style or a few styles of exercise; keep this in mind.

Historical Influences on Birth - Reverence for the Circle of Life (Not Fear)

The heartbreaking aspects of life are the most difficult topics for modern cultures.  I cannot even begin to pretend that I wholly understand what a family experiences through some of these most difficult times, even through various losses I have experienced myself and with my family.  What we do see, however, is that our culture is built on quantity of life and not quality of life.  We do see that the more disconnected cultures become in daily life, the more difficult it is to manage the times where our spirit must be supported from many angles.  Tribal cultures had a deep reverence for not just human life and death, but the place humans have in connection to the earth - giving thanks for everything that is received and thanks (because of understanding) when desired things are not.  The more we fear any of life's experiences, the more we fear birth.  The more we search for one thing or many things to save us, the less we rely on our own actions.  Making choices doesn't guarantee us anything (hospital, home, midwife, obstetrician, unassisted, herbs, medications, faith) - but it does allow us to be an active participant in this experience and better understand, or trust, outcomes when we have participated in the informed decisions of our life.  There can be a lot of healing in accepting that we will never know everything; our beliefs shape our actions and reactions.

Historical Influences on Birth - Birth Normalization

Though many historical cultures used a woman that had experienced many more births and had more knowledge of herbs than the others, most births that weren't unassisted, were attended by the family and friends of a woman who had a natural knowledge of birth and herbs because they were immersed in it from the time they were born themselves.  A young child would have fetched water or an extra set of hands to come when labor had arrived and these women were often mistakenly labeled as a "midwife" causing modern readers to relate that name to what they see in a care provider today.  Being someone that would have learned from their elders and having been immersed in [mostly] normal birth from when they were a babe is quite different than someone who learns western medicine, surgery and birth on your back from mothers that may be very ill-prepared going into pregnancy.  Modern birth is simply not like birth was from a culture that lived a life of survival which naturally developed the body for reproduction.  The historical birth attendant (usually the mother or mother-in-law) provided guidance on herbs and foods to use or avoid, and in many cultures offered regular abdominal massage throughout the pregnancy improving fetal position and maternal relaxation.  During pregnancy, she held space and provided calm energy.  Not much more was needed and in most cases hands and herbs did the trick where it was needed.

We can't address the normalcy of birth views without addressing the awareness historical cultures had on the number of pregnancies they experienced.  More babies would have meant a lot more work for survival of the tribe, so it wasn't common to have more than 2-3 kids in many tribal hunter and gatherer cultures.  Food sources, and even various stress levels, would have influenced the menstrual cycle and affecting fertility too for when natural food sources would have better supported pregnancy.  Additionally, through awareness of their body, physiological breastfeeding, and herbal uses, they would have naturally spaced babies and prevented pregnancy (yes, even more barbaric measures as well) to reduce the number of babies for their culture's needs.  Spacing their babies meant more time for the uterus and body to heal between pregnancies and to be in a physiological space best prepared to handle a pregnancy and birth.

 

just breathe Reflection Journal Prompt - Week 2

 

Reflect: List 6 practical goals for movement and health:

The Oxytocin Method creates actions that improve the biological function of your body - physically, emotionally and holistically to improve the natural hormone needed for spontaneous labor progression and a happy healthy birth.

 

While we can choose to utilize historical approaches to birth, we are also blessed to not have to use all their measures as well.  The biggest influences are our regular life choices that will affect our perinatal experience.  Can you see historical influences on birth that you can adapt to your daily routine which may positively influence your birth?

 

speed up labor naturally Esali Birth

In a medical setting, keeping labor to a 12 hour time frame is fairly typical to move patients in and out and avoid long-drawn out labors.  Many times providers and facilities are using a very outdated (misled) method of assessing labor and have coupled that with techniques of increasing facility income by number of patients in and out of the facility.  While long painful unhappy labor isn't ideal for mom's and baby's oxytocin levels and neurological function, a long labor doesn't necessarily mean mom and baby aren't doing well.  We have to take it situation by situation and ultimately ask mom if she prefers to speed up labor.  Augmenting labor (speeding labor up) is prevalent in many births, even without an initial labor induction.

Labor augmentation isn't ideal.  If mom's hormones aren't at an ideal level, and baby is fitting well in the pelvis, speeding things up typically just increases pain and distress (and cesarean).  Allowing your body to naturally progress through labor provides your body and baby's body with the hormones and the time to allow the pelvis to move and baby's skull to mould and fit together like a key in a lock.  Speeding up the process with medications, herbal remedies or a breast pump may be effective, but not always safe or necessary.

When to Speed up Labor

Much of the means of speeding up labor naturally have nothing to do with speeding up the labor process, but making the labor process more effective through supporting the biology of the birth.  So, yes, labor would, as a result, not take so long - but it is not due to forcing the baby through the pelvis, but enabling the baby to fit through the pelvis and comforting mom.  Of course, there are often times where a provider suggests you get things moving a little faster and these techniques provide very valuable.

  • Of course, the first approach is to hire a provider that understands biological birth.
  • Ask why someone would want to speed up labor.
    • Time limits from the provider
    • Time limits from the birth facility
    • Time limits because you're exhausted
    • Recommendations for getting the baby out sooner than later due to medical reasons.  This would be the only case where augmenting labor may be useful, though I would have to ask myself, "Is augmentation actually the safest course of action, or would cesarean be more appropriate to reduce the overall short and long-term risks?"  Because, in fact, if there is a medical complication, augmenting labor may very likely increase these risks.
  • Decide if speeding up labor is the answer, or following your instincts with possible physical and emotional guidance from a doula would allow labor to progress more smoothly.

 

Techniques to Speed up Labor Naturally

When and how to speed up labor might be something you're thinking of during pregnancy, or during a long labor.  Here are techniques to prevent long labors and to speed up labor when time limits seem to be approaching faster than you'd like.

The following methods to speed up labor should be used with these thoughts in mind:

  • These methods to speed up labor can be used in conjunction with one another, or on their own - though nipple stimulation is the most intense of the techniques
  • These methods to speed up labor can be used to prevent a long labor
  • These methods to speed up labor can be used to avoid medical (or herbal) labor augmentation
  • These methods to speed up labor can be used in conjunction with any medicated birth or medical (or herbal) labor augmentation
  • These methods to speed up labor can be cycled through, revisited at a later time and are often common doula techniques to create a happy healthy birth

Quiet, Calm, Dark to Speed up Labor

Oxytocin, the prime labor hormone, works best in a quiet, calm, and dark space.  Oytocin works synergistically with melatonin and dopamine and as such is heightened in dark settings.  Continue this environment prior to and during labor (to include the first few hours after the birth).  This practice not only creates a calmer environment, but also reduces adrenaline for a safer (normal risk of postpartum hemorrhage) experience.

Clear the Room & Hands Off Mom to Speed up Labor

This is similar to quiet, calm and dark - with an enhanced attribute.  The more people and stuff going on in the space, the more mom's logical brain turns on and the less her instinctive brain (the part needed to progress through birth) works.  No talking - definitely no asking her questions.  No watching TV or carrying on conversations in this space.  No touching (unless this is obviously desired by mom).  Clear the room down to mom's main support person (as long as that support person is calm and providing positive energy to the mom).  The more vaginal exams, monitoring and general fiddling with the mom, the more intense labor sensations will be felt and the longer labor will be (and the more likely recommendations to speed up labor will occur).  Historically (I'm talking pre-city culture), women labored on average about 2-4 hours.  Labor was thought of quite differently in those times.

Move

If you can't move, your pelvis won't move, and baby won't move.  Labor is a blend of feeling safe (building oxytocin) and being aligned (whole body alignment and soft tissue mobility) for baby's movement through the pelvis.  Speed up labor by getting baby into a good position prior to labor through prenatal aligned movement is ideal.  Continuing this through labor and birth, by mom following her instincts is also ideal.  Walk, stretch, belly dance, get some bodywork.  If labor feels intense or long, having a knowledgeable doula to provide you with positioning and movement guidance can be quite helpful.  This could be side lying releases, massage, hip squeezes, rest, rebozo work and various other forms of movement (and relaxation) suggestions.

Emotional Release to Speed up Labor

It is quite common to have emotional tension holding a mom back from smooth labor progression.  Whether this is causing prodromal labor or a long labor, getting your emotions out is ideal.  Use the feel, yell and tell method to speed up labor.

  • Feel your emotions - your anger, your frustration, your annoyance, your hurt, your fear.
  • Yell - Do you know what it feels like to be alone in the woods - or any solitary place - and just yell?  If you don't, you should try it.  It is quite liberating.  It works in similar ways to how crying releases hormones causing sadness and anger.  Sometimes all we can do is just let those hormones flow.  Giving a deep empowering Tarzan and Jane like roar can really help you move through adrenaline and let oxytocin rise.
  • Tell someone what you're thinking or feeling.  If you're thinking of something, you are preventing your instinctual brain to take over.  Get it out.  Tell someone what you're thinking and/or tell the person you're thinking about what you're thinking.  If you're annoyed at the way someone is treating you, speak up.  If you need to vent about your fear, let someone know.  If you're worried you left the stove on, call someone and have them go check.  If you'd rather birth in the hospital after planning a home birth, tell your midwife or birth team it is time to transfer.  If you just don't understand why you're experiencing labor this way, tell your doula that you're pissed off and tired and just annoyed that you're still in labor.

Sometimes, letting these emotions out is all your mind needs to no longer hold the weight of these feelings and speed up labor.

Kissing, Intimate Touching to Speed up Labor

What gets the baby in, gets the baby out.  Birth is intimate.  This might make you feel uncomfortable; however, that doesn't make it any less true.  Oxytocin peaks during orgasm, and after childbirth.  You're meant to enjoy labor with those you love, and those that will love the baby.  Kiss and be intimate with your significant other.  Eye gazing, skin to skin touching, and open mouth kissing allow oxytocin to rise enabling contractions to be more effective.

Nipple Stimulation to Speed up Labor

While similar to being intimate, nipple stimulation can be slightly different.  Ideally this would be involved in your intimate connection.  Nipple stimulation (as will happen during breastfeeding) releases oxytocin, the hormone that causes contractions in the uterus (and contractions in the alveoli of the breast to express breastmilk).  Using nipple stimulation aggressively, whether through the hands, orally, or with a breast pump, will stimulate contractions.  It is very important to note that stimulating contractions in this way is often used first, unfortunately, when there is an alignment issue and baby ends up just being jammed into the pelvis instead of helped through the pelvis through movement and the other emotion-supporting techniques.

 

Looking for guidance to prevent or remedy a long labor?  Get in touch!

how to push baby Esali Birth

How to Push Baby

You know you better than anyone else.  You can push baby without any direction - in the most gentle way or with all your might.  Yes, even as a first time mother.  If you remember nothing else for birth, this is the most important.  It isn't about empowerment - it is the most true statement that can be made about your birthing body.  Your body has carried you this far, made to gestate life, made to birth life, made to nourish life.  No one tells it how to do that - it just does.

Your birthing body is as intelligent as your elimination functions - like bowel movements, peeing, coughing, sneezing... breathing.  Your birthing body does not need help or guidance, though it does prefer an environment supportive of biology.  This doesn't mean that it requires suggestions.  You don't have a doula, midwife, or obstetrician holding your legs, directing positions, or ready to cut fecal matter out of you each time you have a bowel movement, do you?  Sure, maybe there have been times the suggestion of a squatty potty, an abdominal massage, or a laxative have supported you or someone you know, but that's certainly not the norm (or, rather, it shouldn't be).

You Don't Have to Push Baby Out

Your uterus is amazing.  You're amazing!  Your uterus contracts to dilate the cervix.  Yup, that's right - the uterus dilates the cervix, not the baby's head pushing against the cervix.  Sure, how the baby is positioned can influence dilation, but often in terms of where most of the effacement and dilation is happening as well as the amount of patience your birth team will need.  Your alignment and soft tissue health also has a significant influence on dilation and effacement as well.

As the muscles of the uterus pull open the cervix around the baby's head - all that tissue has to go somewhere and mostly it gathers up near the fundal area.  Ideally all this occurs in an even mostly comfortable fashion based on overall health, wellbeing, and a supportive birth environment.  Now, the top of the uterus has a nice thick mass to provide force to push baby earthside - no extra help needed.  While many moms do feel an overwhelming urge to support this, actually gentle, force - when listening to their instincts, they often don't "push"  for very long at a time providing themselves with plenty of moments to catch their breath and have the energy for as long as this phase takes.

Get OFF your Bottom to Push Baby

For the love of all whole perineums and energized mommas, get OFF your butt (and providers, stop propping moms up with pillows in this uncomfortable position with the inclination that it's the more optimal position).  Unless (through no outside direction) your body encourages you to be on your bottom or your back, being in some sort of upright, often forward leaning position, allows for the most optimal movement of the pelvis and sacrum, not to mention the soft tissue and the baby.  It widens the vaginal opening while giving you a bit of leverage for strength by being able to use your arms.

Being in a propped up squished-over-your-belly position has to be the worst for actually working with your body and getting any sort of lung capacity to avoid exhaustion. And when they add in "let me hold this leg back while Dad holds that leg bag," OY!  It is NOT better than being flat on our back.  Yes, getting off your back is beneficial to birth and fetal health - but pushing a baby out in a way that compresses the perineum between baby's head and a surface below the perineum is asking for an uncomfortable tear.

Listen to Your Body to Push Baby Out

Moving through labor AND the birthing [pushing] stage by following your instincts increases the safety of birth.  It doesn't matter if a provider has caught 5, 500, or 5000 babies. YOU know YOUR body more than anyone.  Only YOU can feel what baby is doing inside of you.  A machine cannot.  Only YOU can feel your pelvis, your ligaments, your uterus, your discomfort and your comfort.  A provider or birth professional cannot.  YOU are intelligent enough to make these decisions.  What your birth team should be doing is supporting you in these decisions such as helping with light levels, loving words, comfort, holding you up, and generally keeping the environment calm and quite so your hormones can work at their optimal level (hormones that love the quiet, calm, and dark).  While at some point you may desire some suggestions if there are some alignment influences - when and how to push is not one of those suggestions needed and almost always causes exhaustion to some degree in the mom.  You DO know what to do, even as a first time mom.  You don't need to be told where to push baby, though wisdom for birthing positions that support biology, as well as education prenatally and confidence building at any stage, can be valuable for allowing the instincts to be heard.

The Ring of Fire

Take your pointer fingers and place them inside your mouth - pull your mouth open gently and let the skin of your lips slowly stretch.  The more supple the skin with healthy hydration, fats, and nourishment - the more easily you'll be able to stretch.  The slower you go, the more time the elasticity of the skin will work with you.

As baby's head moves through the perineum, the stretching sensation can sometimes be intense (though not always) and is often described as the "ring of fire."  Note that not all moms experience this.  The beautiful thing about this moment is that it doesn't last long, and if you are following your instincts, typically any uncomfortable sensations trigger you to instinctively slow the support of pushing through panting, holding back as best you can any urge to push (often by blowing or altered breathing), or some other variation (including perineal, labial, or clitoral support by touching and adding counter pressure as you would through any other discomfort).

Fetal Ejection Reflex

There is this amazing moment where our body decides that having baby earthside is safer (in ancient views) than having baby continue inside that cozy womb.  You get an overwhelming feeling that you need to push with all your might and have baby in your arms.  In some cases, this can cause moms to push so hard that they may increase their chances of tearing.  In most cases, listening to these urges (even for first time moms) is encouraged.  Warm compresses can be helpful if you find this comfortable to help support the skin (especially if blanching of the skin is noticed); though it really depends on if you want people touching you and your baby.  If blanching is noticed (and especially if you're in a position with pressure on your bottom) listening to the encouragement to slow our pushing urges at this point may be helpful in reducing or preventing tearing.6

When Guidance on How to Push Baby is Valuable

Keep in mind that you do NOT need guidance.  Keep in mind that the more you listen to your instincts - your body - your spirit - during pregnancy and especially the early parts of labor, the more able you will be to trust your instincts through the birthing phase and into parenting.  First time mothers sometimes have the most powerful instincts, but out of fear (whether self-induced or provider-induced) they learn to not listen to these voices in their head.  They are told by so many that they have not experienced this before and can be guided.  They even often ask for guidance because they are so uneasy about their skill and understanding (a significant side effect from a culture so detached from the birth process throughout life).  They may be with a provider that totally supports and encourages mom to listen to her instincts and then the birthing phase comes into play and that trust gets thrown out the window (a modern medicalized approach common in all birth settings with all providers).  Whether birthing in a hospital with a medical team to birthing at home with a midwife - and everything in between - your body will move baby out.  Even mothers with epidurals can be placed into more biologically-friendly positions by her birth team to support the birthing phase rather than up on her bum, legs held back, and coached.

This isn't football...

That being said, guidance on how to push baby isn't wrong.  Most pushing guidance is well-meaning.  Some supportive guidance may be helpful when mom has not been supported or guided to let go and listen to her body and her birth team doesn't know how to encourage those thought processes.  A few situations where guidance through the birthing phase can be very valuable (though most of these are guidance on positions rather than the pushing itself) may be:

  • When there are misalignments or health implications that are not supporting a smooth labor and birth experience.
  • When baby is coming fast and slowing things down may reduce tearing.
  • When there are variations or complications that elicit the need for a wise voice in the mix to prevent unfavorable outcomes.
  • When mom has been listening to her body for some time and she is getting discouraged and sleep and rest are not an option for various reasons... or in general when mom is in some way unable to let go and listen to her instincts.  This is very common in a birth with too much going on or too many people present.  Get back in that quiet, calm, and dark mode of labor and continue this through birth and the first few hours after the birth.

How to Push Baby Without Suggestions

  • Eat well to encourage efficient muscle contractions, hormonal balance, and spontaneous labor
  • Be aligned to encourage efficient muscle contractions, hormonal balance, and prevent funky baby positions
  • Wait for spontaneous labor to ensure your hormones are at the best level they can be for pelvic mobility through labor and birth
  • Be patient through all labor transitions so your pelvis has optimal movement time and baby's head can mould as needed
  • Practice confidence during pregnancy by keeping a journal of food, symptoms, your own prenatal care (along with your provider's as you like) so that you have a more active approach during appointments and feel less at the mercy of others.  The more you learn now and are able to communicate to others, the more confidence you will have during labor.  This goes for Dad and whomever may be your main birth partner or people on your birth team.  You can make the decisions - make them!
  • Don't allow fear (or lack of health) to prevent you from moving during labor.  If you are so scared because you're unprepared, or haven't taken care of influencing trauma, that you don't want to move out of one position - you'll encourage misalignment, discomfort, and a not so fun birthing phase.  Learn all you can.  Get counseling.  Communicate.  Find a provider that sees your fear and helps you.  Hire a doula.  Change your birth choices. Dance.  Get in a shower or birthing tub.  Get out of the shower or birthing tub and move.  Do what it takes to increase your level of calm, confidence, and instincts.
  • Labor instinctively through positions and relaxation, eating and drinking so that you're aware of your instincts during the birthing phase.
  • Listen to your instincts during pregnancy and labor so you learn to hear them.  If you have to pee, don't wait.  If you have to poop, don't wait. If you have to adjust your lifestyle to accommodate these things as well as your stress level - take the initiative and make it happen.  Don't allow yourself to let everyone else dictate your health.  This is your job.
  • Wear earplugs if you have to block out any noise around you... or earbuds - whatever floats your boat.
  • Ask anyone to leave that is not supporting your instincts.  Say, "No Thanks."  Have a partner or doula that can remind others in your space that you will be following your instincts through the entire adventure.  Ask them questions like, "Where are some towels?"  "Could we get some more pillows?"  "Would you be able to cover the machines, turn down the lights, get me a cup of coffee, grab a snack, give us some privacy...etc.?"  Whatever questions give them something to do other than providing suggestions.  If you're in a space that doesn't let this happen... consider changing your birth plans.
  • Talk with your providers well well ahead of time so it is very well known that you want all talking and suggestions minimized at all parts of labor and birth - no matter if you're birthing in a hospital or at home.
  • Avoid vaginal exams - especially the one many providers do to "check for full dilation."  This doesn't feel good and is incredibly disruptive to oxytocin and the flow of labor hormones needed not only for comfort and physiology, but the safety of the birth as well.  If you're feeling pushy, go with it - there is a very low risk of swelling your cervix if you're following your body's signals.  There's a pretty logical chance that if you're feeling pushy, you're ready to push.  It's like when you feel like you have to pee, you probably have to pee.  Kind of funny how our body shows us signals like that.
  • Relax and let go.  Sometimes easier said than done, I know.

OH, right... how to push...  So, you'll see you don't NEED suggestions for pushing because YOUR BODY ALREADY KNOWS.  It's ALL about the environment - the birth team and the birth location - that supports your body to do its thang.

How was your birthing phase?  What position(s) did you choose?how to  push baby

 

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