vintage prenatal advice

5 pieces of advice for expecting mothers

vintage prenatal advice

Vintage “Prenatal Care” book photo from (advice below is not from this book)

As a doula I have worked with and know a lot of new moms. Their questions usually centralize around a few topics; health care provider, birth location and preparation. If I had a 5 minute window to give the best advice I know to newly pregnant or attempting pregnancy women it would be these things:

  1. Get healthy and stay healthy. There are so many statistics about how dramatically your health affects you pregnancy, your labor and your baby. Good diet and exercise through pregnancy decreases complications, length of labor, complications, and improves the health of the baby throughout the first moments and years of its life, as well as improves mother’s recovery time and decreases risk of postpartum mood disorders (depression). If you don’t exercise and eat well right now, it’s never too late to start! Women who have been diagnosed with serious conditions like gestational diabetes can minimize their risk and sometimes even eliminate the disease by simply exercising and eating right. And if you don’t know how to get into these good habits now, it’s not gonna get any easier with a baby! You wanna know now how to do these things right so you can keep up with these habits with a baby, set a good example and keep your baby healthy.
  2. Choose a health care provider (HCP) that cares about your preferences and agrees with your priorities. Do not choose a HCP based solely on insurance!!!! Can I say that again? Don’t do it! It is not worth the money to have a terrible pregnancy and labor and possibly risk your health, your child’s health and your happiness. Invest in your future and find someone who believes in what you believe in. Someone you can trust to help you make good decisions for your life and your child’s life. PLEASE consider midwives as well as doctors. OBs are trained in the medical, surgical, complicated side of birth. Midwives are trained in the healthy, support and encourage mind and body side of birth. There are midwives that work in hospitals if you still want a hospital birth. Midwives will NOT take on clients that have any complications in pregnancy that would make it risky for an out of hospital birth.
  3. Where do you feel the safest? Do you view hospitals as a place to go when you are sick or ill or when something is wrong? Have you had bad experiences at a hospital? Do hospitals make you nervous, anxious, stressed or fearful? Then consider a birth center or an at home birth! Your comfort and frame of mind SIGNIFICANTLY affect the labor process. If you don’t feel safe or comfortable labor will be more difficult. However, if hospitals feel like a safe place that you go to feel better, get help, and relief, than a hospital could be a much better place for you to give birth than at home. If you are having a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy, the risk of complications arising during labor that require a transport to the hospital are low.
  4. Prepare but don’t obsess.  Moms tend to be on one side of the spectrum or the other when it comes to preparation. There are the borderline obsessed, need all of the information, contemplate everything, plan everything, need to have control kind of moms, and then there are the I don’t care, I don’t have any preferences, I don’t do any research, I don’t mind not knowing what to do and I’m just gonna wing it kind of moms. Both moms are putting themselves at risk. You can’t control everything or know everything. The more stressed you are, the less healthy it is for your baby and the labor process. There are going to be things that happen during labor that go outside your birth plan. Don’t freak out! For my Christian clients I advise them to focus on the peace that God gives despite your circumstances. God grants us peace in the midst of chaos and turmoil. Being comfortable or getting what you want or expect is not always the best thing and does not guarantee peace. Trusting God’s plan for your birth, not matter how it looks, will bring you peace no mater the circumstances. On the other side, not preparing or not having preferences does not mean you will be without stress or disappointment. The biggest regret I hear from parents after the birth of their child is “I wish I had known more or had been better prepared”. You are right Ms. Unprepared, things never go as planned. But when things go wrong and you are forced to make a life or death decision for your baby, are you going to wish you had done a little more research? And there’s nothing wrong with having preferences. In fact, preferences are what make the birth unique, memorable and make you and your partner feel more like you are apart of this amazing experience. Don’t know where to start? Try taking a childbirth class or reading some books like “Pregnancy Childbirth and the Newborn”, “The Birth Partner” or “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”.
  5. Finally, have a doula. Read my previous post on the “Why everyone needs a Doula”.

Any other good advice out there?

why everyone needs a Doula

I think doulas can be one of the most valuable tools in childbirth, yet so many women go through birth without one.

Since beginning my profession in the realm of childbirth I have had many pregnant friends ask me questions about various things related to pregnancy and birth. No matter who they are or what they think they want for their birth I always recommend they get a doula. Off all my advice, it’s usually the best advice I can give, but it is usually taken the least seriously. Why is that? I think it’s because of two reasons; doulas aren’t a common word outside of pregnancy and they are completely under estimated.

I first learned what a doula was when I was looking into becoming a midwife. One of the pre-reqs for midwifery school was birth doula training. I had no idea what a doula was so I googled it: “a nonmedical person who assists a woman before, during or after childbirth, as well as her partner and/or family by providing information, physical assistance and emotional support.[1] The provision of continuous support during labour by doulas (as well as nurses, family or friends) is associated with improved maternal and fetal health and a variety of other benefits.” It is literally translated from the greek word to mean “a woman who serves”. I became more interested… what kind of benefits does a doula provide?

Numerous scientific studies have shown that the care provided by doulas is directly associated with:

  • shorter labors with fewer complications
  • reduced negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
  • reduced need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
  • reduced requests for pain medication and/or epidurals

Also, studies demonstrate that parents who receive doula support:

  • Feel more secure and cared for
  • Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
  • Have greater success with breastfeeding
  • Have greater self-confidence
  • Have less postpartum depression
  • Have lower incidence of abuse

So what are these doulas doing that provides all of these benefits? Doulas:

  • Recognize birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
  • Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
  • Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
  • Stays with the woman throughout the labor
  • Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decision
  • Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
  • Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman’s memory of the birth experience
  • Allows the woman’s partner to participate at his/her comfort level

This is all from the DONA website (which i recommend if you want to learn more about what doulas do, how to find one, or how to become one) but if I had to describe it in my own words… I wouldn’t, I would quote someone else who once said “During labor, the woman’s partner is her right hand and the doula is her left”. Doulas use their experience and knowledge of labor to personally help and advocate for the mother and partner to get through birth.

As a doula I have met with my clients multiple times before the birth to get to know them, their birth desires, and answer questions. I would then attend to the couple (or single mother) as soon as they wanted help. Sometimes this was only a couple hours before the actually birth, sometimes it was a couple days before the birth. No matter how long the labor is, the doula will be there the whole time. After the birth I would ensure the parents have transitioned from “birthing” mode to “connecting with new baby” mode and are ready to be alone with their newest family member. I typically do two follow up meetings following the birth to recap the experience and answer any questions relating to newborn care and labor recovery.

Birth is the most life changing, ever memorable, fragile and miraculous thing you (both mom and dad!) will ever experience.

Wouldn’t you want to invest in ensuring you have the best experience possible?

Now that you know all of this about doulas, do you think you would use one? Please?