BirthTruths: The Truth About Birth Plans

I am not a medical professional. Nothing on this website is meant to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure any disease. Please research your options and discuss them with your care provider when making health decisions. This post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting this free resource! See full disclosure here.

 

Birth plans can be a controversial subject. Some birth professionals advocate for them, while others discourage them.

Some women choose to write out a birth plan to give to their care provider, some write one but reserve it for themselves and their support team, and others don’t write anything out but know what they want and are comfortable advocating for themselves.

Some women feel they don’t need a birth plan because they are comfortable with their care provider. Some think that writing a birth plan is just setting themselves up for disappointment or that it’s foolish to plan something as unpredictable as birth.

I don’t know, dear expectant mama, where you fall on the birth plan continuum. I’m not here to tell you that you should or shouldn’t write one. But there are a lot of misconceptions out there about birth plans, so I want to give you some truth to counteract all those lies, so you can know if a birth plan would be a beneficial tool for YOU.

Truth #1: A birth plan is an education tool.

A birth plan is first and foremost a way for you to learn about birth, learn about yourself, learn about your options, discern what’s most important to you about birth, and then to prepare both for the birth you want and for the unexpected.

In this way, a birth plan is very much about the process. The process of educating yourself, the process of uncovering your beliefs and values and desires around birth. Some women will go more in depth with it than others. What matters to you might not matter to your best friend.

But knowing what IS important to you about birth and then making choices that align with that is a healthy thing for any mother. And writing a birth plan helps to facilitate that learning.

Truth #2: A birth plan is not a guarantee.

You don’t hand your care provider a birth plan as if it’s a legal contract, nor can you predict exactly what will happen in your birth. Almost every mother I’ve talked with has had something unexpected happen during birth, maybe a little thing, maybe a big thing. Whether or not she had a written birth plan, she did have expectations.

It’s important to have a care provider you really trust, so that in an emergency or when something comes up that presents you with unexpected choices, you can still have confidence that the choices being made are the best ones for you.

Truth #3: A birth plan is not a substitute for face to face communication with your care provider.

As you’re learning about your options, bring up any questions you have to your care provider and talk to them about your hopes and fears for your birth well before you’re in labor. Sometimes it can be hard to have these conversations in the typical short appointments we’re accustomed to, but at least ask about the most important things. The process of creating a birth plan should help facilitate communication with your care provider, not shut it down.

Your care provider has a valuable knowledge of birth, and you have a valuable knowledge of yourself. Take both into account. You may find that much of what is important to you about birth is standard practice for your care provider, or you may discover that your basic philosophies of birth differ greatly and decide to switch care providers.

Truth #4: A birth plan starts way before birth.

It starts even before conception, with your attitude toward pregnancy and motherhood. I would argue that it starts even before that, with the expectations you build from the stories you see and hear from your mother, your grandmother, your peers, and in art, literature, and media.

It includes the very first decisions you make about your pregnancy and your care, decisions like where you will give birth and who will attend it. These decisions will dictate some of your options, so as much as is in your power (because I know sometimes options are limited), don’t choose a setting or provider that you know doesn’t support what you want.

Early on, when you first make these choices, you might not know what’s important to you, and that’s ok. But if your care provider or birth setting is no longer a good fit for you, consider changing. I know it’s a hassle, but it’s worthwhile if it’s what’s required for you to have safe, respectful care you can trust.

Truth #5: A birth plan serves as a guide to help you prepare for birth.

As you learn about birth and learn about yourself, you can take steps during pregnancy to help prepare for the birth you want. Making sure you’re comfortable with your care provider, nourishing your body, trying to keep your baby in an optimal position, learning some comfort measures (or learning lots of comfort measures if you’re planning on an unmedicated birth) – these are all things you can do that have an impact on your birth.

And then think about what you don’t want during birth. Are there situations in which that thing you want to avoid might be helpful or needed?

For instance, when I was planning my first birth, I wanted to avoid an epidural. I even chose to birth at home so that it simply wouldn’t be available to me without the significant inconvenience and stress of transferring to the hospital.

But I knew from the beginning that if labor was really long and I was too exhausted, if I simply couldn’t relax enough to dilate, or honestly, if the pain was far worse than I was prepared for and the natural comfort measure I had learned weren’t helping enough, then I would transfer to the hospital and have an epidural.

A birth plan helps you prepare for the birth you want and take positive, proactive steps to make it happen, while still preparing for the reality of the uncertainty of birth.

Truth #6: A birth plan serves as a guide for your support team during birth.

It’s a good idea to have your birth team know what’s important to you during labor so that they’re able to support you toward those ends. Your birth plan for your support team (partner, doula, and any other family members or friends who will be present) might be more detailed than the one you give your care providers, and it’s something they can refer to if you’re offered different interventions. You are always free to change your mind and be flexible, but they can remind you of questions to ask or provide comfort measures that you’ve perhaps practiced beforehand. If you’ve communicated your hopes, even just verbally, your support people will be able to be more helpful to you during labor.

Truth #7: A birth plan is not an indicator of a control freak mom. A birth plan is an indicator of a thoughtful and engaged mom.

Every woman has expectations and values and desires around labor and birth. Even if a woman hasn’t taken the time to figure them out, even she’s not honest about them, even if she doesn’t care about all the same things you care about, even if she doesn’t have anything written down on paper, she still has hopes and expectations and is probably at least in some way trying to prepare for what she wants. Even the decision to “not have a birth plan” is often an effort to not be disappointed in birth.

I don’t say that to criticize the moms who aren’t interested in written birth plans. A written birth plan isn’t helpful to everyone and that’s ok. I just say it because sometimes anti-birth plan voices are loud and an unnecessary point of tension among mothers. But the process of learning what you want and how to prepare for that along with how to prepare for the unexpected is a valuable one for any mother.

Know What You Want

So write a birth plan or don’t write one, but do know what you want and prepare for it. You might be disappointed, yes. Disappointment is a possibility whenever you have ANY sort of expectation, but not being honest about what you want doesn’t necessarily protect you from disappointment either. And through doing the hard work of learning and knowing what you want, you might have an amazing birth that you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t taken the time to prepare for it now. You are the person who is most invested in your baby. Your hopes for birth, your hopes for how your baby is welcomed into the world, and your hopes for those first moments with your baby matter. Don’t be afraid to know what you want and go for it.

Want to delve deeper into the truth about birth plans? Click here to receive your Brave Womanhood Reflections Worksheet!

Don’t Waste Your Wedding: Three Ways to Glorify God on Your Wedding Day

This post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting this free resource! See full disclosure here.

If you’re of my generation and active in certain theological circles, you’re probably familiar with John Piper and have at least heard of his book, “Don’t Waste Your Life”. I read it when I was 15 and it definitely had an impact. In it Piper laments the tragedy of people who live their lives for meaningless pursuits instead of living their lives for the glory of God.

The catechism asks the question, “What is man’s primary purpose?” and gives the answer, “Man’s primary purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” I knew the purpose of life, but until I read Piper’s book, I had never been gripped by it with so much intensity, both in my desires to fulfill it and my sobering awareness that I presently wasn’t.

The fact is all of life is worship and all of life is meant to glorify God. How we do the everyday things of life, how we celebrate milestones and the forming of families, says much about our values and what we’re living for.

Your wedding provides a tremendous opportunity to share the gospel with unsaved loved ones and to exalt Christ in the very beginning of your marriage, and this will hopefully set the stage for a lifelong commitment to the glory of God in your marriage and family life.

Three Practical and Tangible Ways to Glorify God in Your Wedding

 

1. Make the gospel clear in the ceremony.

There will be both believers and unbelievers present, some who wouldn’t come to church with you no matter how many times you asked them, but wouldn’t dream of missing your wedding. You have a really unique chance to share the gospel, and the picture of Christ and the church in marriage lends itself well to doing so. If you are a believer, the gospel is a treasure, a treasure you ought to desire others to possess. So talk to your pastor about the message he plans to share in the ceremony and your desire for the gospel to be clear in it.

2. Sing hymns that exalt Christ.

Congregational singing perhaps isn’t so common in weddings, but it’s an element that can be included to create a beautifully worshipful atmosphere. As I think back to my own wedding, the whole thing was rich with meaning and each part was so precious to me, but I know the singing together was one part that stood out to many who were present, perhaps because it isn’t very common. My husband and I each chose a favorite hymn (“In Christ Alone” and “All I Have is Christ”) and also chose “Amazing Grace”, a hymn that many, even unbelievers, are familiar with. When my sister got married this past summer, she and my brother-in-law opened their wedding ceremony with “Oh Praise the Name”. The feeling of worship was overwhelming. Your wedding is worship because all of life is worship. Make it clear Who the object of your worship is.

3. Use traditional vows.

I’m sorry, I know this might rankle some people, but I’ve never heard vows written solely by a couple that truly captured the significance of marriage in the way that traditional vows do. You’re not here to promise to be best pals and make each other laugh. You’re here to promise to love, honor, and cherish one another for better or for worse ’til death do you part. I’m not saying that you can’t add a personal touch – I’ve seen some really beautiful and meaningful variations – but I am saying that there are some basic elements that should be present and that the promises you make should be promises to keep. You don’t need to vow to never again make imitation mashed potatoes out of cauliflower. It might gain a laugh, but it kind of detracts from the solemn beauty of what is being promised.

After the Wedding

In making your vows, praising God with singing, and sharing the gospel in the wedding ceremony, you’ve made a strong statement about what you believe and what is valuable to you. People, even unbelievers will now have a certain standard they hold you to and the way you continue in your life and marriage will have an impact on your witness.

The Reception

In all the planning of the ceremony don’t forget about your reception. There’s nothing wrong with having a good time at a wedding reception. It is a celebration after all. But in the celebration don’t create an atmosphere that makes it hard for your guests to honor God and easy for them to dishonor Him. You’re not responsible for other people’s actions, and I’m not going to tell you exactly how to plan your reception or what you should and shouldn’t do, but think about the crowd you have and about how your values are reflected in your choices in music, dancing, alcohol, and how you do activities like the garter toss or other entertaining pieces that are usually part of a reception. In entertaining your guests be sure you are also honoring and respecting one another and honoring God. It should be a joyous occasion, but not a raucous one.

The Rest of Your Lives

I know that sometimes as a young person from a Christian family grows up, unbelieving family members may wonder if the kids are really as crazy as the parents. They might not really know where you stand at the beginning of your life together unless you make it known.

And if you do make your faith clear during your wedding, the whole of the rest of your life and marriage is a witness to that truth. You won’t be perfect, and people, especially those close to you, will see your faults and your failures.

But hopefully they will also see you becoming more like Jesus, responding with grace, humility, and repentance when the usual difficulties and disagreements of life create rifts.

Hopefully they’ll see you truly loving each other for better or for worse. Hopefully they see husbands modeling sacrificial love and wives modeling submissive respect and both modeling tenderness, delight, and absolute faithfulness to one another.

Hopefully they’ll see you welcoming children as gifts from God with precious, eternal souls to nurture, not resented as mere inconveniences or leeches sucking away at their bank accounts.

Hopefully they see you as members of the body of Christ loving not just those of God’s family who are like you, but those who are not like you, because the earthly things of life are not the most important thing you have in common. The love of Christ, both His for you and yours for Him, is the most important thing you have in common. You are bound together by the blood of Christ, which creates a commitment even stronger than the blood ties of family.

None of those things make sense apart from the gospel. Sometimes your loved ones will see the way you live and just scratch their heads. Sometimes the way you live may even invite ridicule and conflict. But sometimes the way you live will draw others to you. They’ll think back to your wedding and they’ll know why you live as you do, and perhaps you’ll have an opportunity to again share the gospel with them.

God’s Word tells us to do all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31). Your faithful witness, your glorifying God in your marriage starts with your wedding. So don’t waste it.

A few resources for those who are married, thinking about getting married, planning to be married, or planning a wedding.

What’s More Important Than a Wedding?” sermon by Voddie Baucham

We Two Are One” sermon series by Alistair Begg

This Momentary Marriage” book by John Piper

101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged” book by H. Norman Wright

Vaginally-Born Babies Can Have Respiratory Issues Too: My Own Experience

I am not a medical professional. Please research your options and discuss them with your care provider when making health decisions. This post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting this free resource! See full disclosure here.

So in my recent post about the benefits of vaginal birth I shared a lot of studies that show increased rates of asthma, allergies, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease and others among children who were born by cesarean. Whenever I share about negatives associated with a certain practice or outcome I’m afraid of making parents who have experienced those outcomes feel criticized or judged or guilty or just bad in any way.

Cesarean birth does increase those risks, but it is just one of many factors. There are so many decisions you make as a parent that are important to your kids. And let’s be honest, physical health matters, but there are lots of things that matter more to our kids, like feeling safe, knowing they’re precious to you, nurturing their souls. And there are all kinds of outcomes we can’t control. Nothing we do can guarantee a perfectly healthy kid.

When I was preparing for the birth of my firstborn avoiding a c-section was a pretty high priority to me. I knew the cesarean rate was high in the US and wanted to decrease my risk as much as possible. I switched care providers around 30 weeks because of the red flags I was seeing in my initial care, and I had a pretty textbook vaginal delivery.

And my son still has a weak respiratory system. So I just want to share my own experience in hopes that parents won’t feel like they’ve somehow failed their child if the child was born by cesarean. And to remind them that there are sometimes circumstances that are simply outside our control, but that there are a thousand good ways to be a parent that are within their control.

My Own Experience with Having a Child with Respiratory Issues

My two sons were both born vaginally. They were born at home, so they weren’t exposed to some of the concerning bacteria more common in a hospital setting.

But my oldest is definitely prone to respiratory issues. It seems like every time there is a respiratory bug going around he gets it and gets it bad. Though he’s never been officially diagnosed with asthma, as a baby he had wheezing , and we gave him albuterol through a nebulizer (though we chose to forego the steroids). I’m pretty cautious with medication for my kids, but it was definitely scary enough for me to give it to him without a second thought. Though he’s not as sensitive as he used to be, he easily develops asthma symptoms whenever he has more than a miniscule amount of dairy.

So he has the birth factors for a lower risk of respiratory issues, yet he still has them. I have my own theories as to why he does have them and why my second child doesn’t (at least not yet).

What My Kids Have in Common

1. With both babies, my water didn’t break until pretty shortly before they were born, so they had less time to be “soaking” in vaginal flora. Was this within my control? Technically, yes, I guess I could have asked to have my midwife break my water sooner, but not much sooner, because I’ve had pretty quick births. And there are risks to artificial rupture of membranes that, for me, aren’t worth the possible benefit of my baby being exposed to vaginal flora for a slightly longer period of time.

2. I don’t know that my own microbiome was all that healthy to pass on to them. Mothers pass their microbiome almost directly to their babies, and my own mother was not breastfed, so when I was born, her own microbiome was probably not in optimal health. And I wasn’t very consistent about taking probiotics or anything. I don’t know if this has anything to do with it; it’s just something I wonder about. Do I have control over the microbiome that was passed on to me? Nope. Could I have improved my own microbiome more? Probably. But I’m not beating myself up about it.

3. My husband has asthma and allergies, so I wonder if there’s a genetic component. Do I have control over his genetics? Nope.

So these are all factors that both my babies have in common – same birth setting, similar birth events, and same dad. But my second baby is now 11 months old, and so far he hasn’t had the respiratory issues that my firstborn has (which started around 9-10 months).

What We Did Differently with Baby #2

Of course there were some differences between my first and second. They obviously have a difference set of genetics, though with some in common. My first was born in late fall, my second in early summer. We skipped the Vitamin K shot with my second. We already knew we weren’t going to circumcise, so we didn’t get it. Honestly, I didn’t give it much thought at the time, and future babies might get the shot, or we may do the oral vitamin K drops. I just haven’t researched it enough to be sure I’m comfortable either way. Here‘s a great article from Evidence Based Birth on the research behind the vitamin K shot.

I’m not sure what if any effect any of those differences have had on my second born’s respiratory health, and some of them aren’t within my control. But there is one thing we purposefully and conscientiously did differently.

We introduced food differently.

With my firstborn, I did a modified baby-led weaning approach.   He had a few tastes of food around 5 months, and I started giving him a small amount of food every day starting at 6 months. He got his first tooth at 7 months, and by 8 or 9 months, I was pretty laid-back about what he ate. He didn’t eat junk food or anything, but as long as it was real, unprocessed food, I wasn’t too worried about it. So he definitely had dairy and eggs and nuts and some of those other harder-to-digest foods well before a year old. And we eventually discovered he had a dairy intolerance that significantly worsened his respiratory issues, especially the asthmatic wheezing.

With my second, I was really hoping to avoid food allergies and intolerances, so I took a different approach. We still did a sort of modified baby-led weaning approach (by modified, I mean we mostly let our babies pick up food and feed themselves, experiencing a greater variety in textures, but when it was convenient we mashed up food and spoon-fed them).

But this time we introduced foods more slowly, starting with foods that were the most easily digestible, and then moving on to harder-to-digest foods, per the recommendation of our naturopath. He also had a few tastes of food around 5 months and started eating food more consistently at 6 months, but he already had teeth by 4 and a half months, so quite a bit earlier than my firstborn.

So far he’s mostly just had fruits and veggies (minus the more acidic ones like strawberries, tomatoes, pineapple, etc.) and beans. He’s getting his molars now, so we’ve tried a few grains (no gluten yet) and a tiny bit of meat. We’ll still wait a while for dairy, gluten, and nuts. We make additions slowly so that we can watch for reactions, and if he does show any signs of sensitivity we stop the new food and try it again after a month or two. By this age, my first born had started wheezing. We’ll have to wait and see if my second baby develops asthma or any other respiratory issues, but so far, so good.

Ultimately, I don’t know if this different approach to feeding will make a big difference for my second child’s health. He also has a different set of genes to work with. But I have more information now, along with my personal experience with my first child, and I’m trying something different.

I share my own experience not because the research and statistics on method of delivery and childhood health doesn’t matter; I believe it does. I just share it because the development of these health issues is so multifaceted, and statistics are just that, statistics. Nothing we do can guarantee perfect physical, psychological, or spiritual health in our children. We just do the best we can with the knowledge we’ve gathered, the choices we’ve made, and the circumstances we’ve been given.  

I’m not totally sold on any one way of infant food introduction. I’d love to hear  your own experience of how you introduced food to your baby and if they have any food allergies, asthma, etc. Tell me about it in the comments!

Dear Expectant Mama: What You Should Know About the Benefits of Vaginal Birth

I am not a medical professional. Please research your options and discuss them with your care provider when making health decisions. This post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting this free resource! See full disclosure here.

Dear Expectant Mama,

You might be wondering what the big deal is about having a c-section versus having a vaginal birth. Perhaps you’ve seen news articles, health organizations, or advocacy groups calling for lowering the cesarean rate, which is currently just over 30% in the US and globally is steadily climbing. Cesarean birth is so common now that on the one hand its relative safety and ready availability in an emergency is often taken for granted, and on the other hand its risks are often minimized. Some women are so fearful of vaginal birth that a cesarean seems like a desirable alternative.

So what ARE the benefits of a vaginal birth?

 

[Please note that in this post many of these benefits of vaginal birth are set in the context of risks of a cesarean birth, since cesarean birth is the other possibility. This is never meant as a criticism to mothers who have experienced cesarean birth, whether by choice or necessity.]

1 – A quicker, easier recovery for the mother.

Healing after birth is a big job for your body to complete, and so is caring for a brand new baby! Postpartum and adjusting to mothering a little human is challenging, and those few months following birth are especially significant to a mother and baby’s well-being. The better a mom is feeling physically, the easier it will be to focus on bonding, getting a good start to breastfeeding, and learning each other’s rhythms and patterns, which are all so important to your journey as a new mother.

After you give birth there is always healing to do. But if you give birth by cesarean, your body will have to heal the layers of skin and muscle where your incision was made, and, in all likelihood, this will simply take longer than healing vaginal stretching, tearing, or even an episiotomy. There may be pain or infection at the incision site, and there is also the possibility of other organs accidentally being injured during surgery. These circumstances may further prolong healing or require additional medical attention. Whether you give birth vaginally or surgically, the good news is that your body is designed to heal.

2 – A healthier microbiome for the baby.

Every human is colonized with a variety of microbes (mostly bacteria, along with fungi, viruses, protozoa, and archaea) that either helps or hinders the health and function of the body. Before your baby is born, she is for the most part protected from bacteria by the amniotic sac, but once your water breaks, your baby starts being exposed to bacteria from your vagina. Your own microbiome is passed on to her as she is “seeded” with the first bacteria she comes into contact with. As your baby is born and hopefully handed straight to your arms, she comes into contact with more bacteria from your skin. As you nurse your baby she is being fed with the perfect food to feed the right kind of bacteria in her gut, the seat of her immune system.

When a baby is born by cesarean, she doesn’t get the chance to pass through the vagina and be seeded with your bacteria. Instead she first comes into contact with the hospital environment and medical staff, so she is seeded by different bacteria. The method of birth isn’t the only factor to microbiome health, but babies born by cesarean generally have a less diverse microbiome with a less healthy balance of good and bad bacteria.

Higher rates of autoimmune and allergic diseases like asthma, type 1 diabetes, and celiac disease are correlated with cesarean birth, and microbiome health may very well be a contributing factor to these higher rates. It should be noted that correlation does not equal causation. There may perhaps be other factors that lead to an increased risk of both cesarean birth and autoimmune diseases, causing their increases rates to correlate. We simply do not know with certainty the exact factors involved in a child’s development of certain diseases.

If you have a cesarean birth…

At times, having a cesarean is due to factors completely outside your control, or you may have very personal reasons for wanting a cesarean birth. So if you do need or want a c-section, you can talk to your care provider about taking measures to help support a healthy microbiome in your baby. Vaginal swabbing, a procedure in which sponges are placed in your vagina prior to the birth and then are swabbed all over the baby, is a practice that helps to partially restore the microbiome. You may also be able to have immediate skin-to-skin in the operating room, and breastfeeding will also help create a healthier microbiome in your baby.

If you want to learn more about the microbiome…

Check out these resources:

“Your Baby’s Microbiome” by Toni Harman

“Microbirth” a documentary based on the book

microbirth.com, the corresponding website. They frequently offer a free webinar, “Understanding the Infant Microbiome”

3 – Better respiratory health for the baby.

As your baby passes through the birth canal, the pressure squeezes amniotic fluid from the lungs. As already mentioned, your baby’s microbiome may play an important part in her risk of developing asthma, but this process of squeezing during birth along with exposure to hormones during labor are also thought to play an important part in respiratory health, as they ready the lungs for breathing.

Some studies have shown that vaginally born babies have a decreased risk of transient tachypnea, which is abnormally fast breathing during the first few days of life. If a baby is born by cesarean before 39 weeks and without proof of adequate lung maturity, she has an increased risk of respiratory distress syndrome. Vaginally born babies are also less likely to be admitted to the NICU, but this could be due to factors that make both cesarean and NICU care more likely.  So if a baby has a known health concern that makes cesarean birth safer, that health concern may also mean the baby is more likely to need NICU care.

Here is my own experience with having a child with respiratory issues.

4 – Safer future pregnancies.

Perhaps you’ve heard “once a cesarean, always a cesarean”. The reality is in many cases if you’ve had a cesarean, a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) may be a totally legitimate option for you, but finding a care provider who is truly supportive (and not just tolerant, or worse, actually opposed to VBAC) can be a challenge! On the other hand, depending on your individual circumstances a repeat cesarean may be the only safe option for you, or you may look at the risks and benefits of both VBAC and repeat cesarean and decide you are more comfortable with those of a repeat cesarean.

If you have a cesarean and still want more children you might want to think more seriously about trying for a VBAC (chances are you’ll be successful). Complications like placenta previa or placenta accreta that are more common after a cesarean also increase with each additional c-section, while the risk of uterine rupture, which is an increased risk during a VBAC, decreases with each additional VBAC. Both VBAC and repeat cesarean carry more risk than a second vaginal birth, and some studies have shown an increased risk of stillbirth after a cesarean while other studies have shown the increase to be only very slight. So if you can avoid a primary cesarean your future pregnancies simply carry fewer risks.

 

Cesarean and VBAC Resources:

ICAN International Cesarean Awareness Network

The VBAC Education Project This is a resource offered by ICAN. It contains a wealth of information about your options for subsequent births after a cesarean.

VBACfacts.com An organization dedicated to sharing evidence-based information on  VBAC and making VBAC more accesible

“The VBAC Companion” by Diana Korte

“10 Steps to Finding a VBAC Supportive Provider” by ImprovingBirth.com

5 – Less risk to future fertility.

While secondary infertility can happen to anyone, some studies have shown that having a c-section may place you at higher risk of future infertility, and unplanned hysterectomy, and adhesions that may cause long-term pelvic pain are also increased risks for women who have had c-sections.

If you’re a cesarean mama struggling to conceive or struggling with pelvic pain, I highly recommend exploring NaPro technology to try to help address your concerns. NaPro used specialized surgery and works with a woman’s cycle to try to get to the root cause of a problem and is less invasive than many traditional fertility treatments. I wish I had known about it when I was struggling with infertility!

6- Easier breastfeeding and bonding.

For years the norm has been to whisk baby away to be cleaned, weighed, and monitored after a c-section. In fact, for many years that was even the norm after a vaginal birth. Many hospitals are now encouraging more “baby-friendlypractices, and unless there is some complication you can usually hold and breastfeed your baby immediately after a vaginal birth.

Oxytocin produced during labor makes you and your baby ready to bond, so even if your labor ends in a cesarean, being in labor beforehand still provides you and your baby with some of the benefits of labor hormones. If you have skin-to-skin immediately or quickly after birth, yourbaby can start smelling and exploring and may even latch on by herself. 

After a vaginal birth you’re more able to sit in a more upright position that makes it easier to hold the baby, and your baby won’t be pressing against an incision while she’s nursing. There’s more to bonding than hormones and immediate skin-to-skin, and you absolutely can breastfeed after a c-section, but it may take more work and perseverance from you.

Gentle Cesarean

If you do need a cesarean, talk to your care provider (preferably during pregnancy) about gentle cesarean options. While it’s certainly not mainstream yet, many care providers are willing to support your wishes to have quick skin-to-skin and initiate breastfeeding without delay and without separating you and the baby while you’re in recovery. Because of the strong medications needed during a cesarean, you’ll need your partner, a doula, or a nurse to help you hold the baby securely, and you may feel too sick to hold the baby right away, but as long as you’re feeling up to it, you don’t have to miss out on those early moments of bonding immediately after birth. Whether you’re planning a cesarean or just want to be prepared in the case that a cesarean becomes necessary, you do need to make sure your care provider is supportive of this plan before your baby arrives!

References:

de la Cruz, C., Thompson, E., O’Rourke, K., & Nembhard, W. (2015). Cesarean section and the risk of emergency peripartum hysterectomy in high-income countries: A systematic review. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 292(6), 1201-15;

Donovan S, M, Comstock S, S, Human Milk Oligosaccharides Influence Neonatal Mucosal and Systemic Immunity. Ann Nutr Metab 2016;69(suppl2):41-51

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Dear Expectant Mama: What You Should Know about the Benefits of Natural Birth {An Introduction}

I am not a medical professional. Please research your options and discuss them with your care provider when making health decisions. This post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting this free resource! See full disclosure here.

This post is the first in a series on the benefits of natural birth. I have purposefully allowed for flexibility in the term “natural”, as we will specifically be examining the benefits of each of the main components of what is usually considered a natural birth.  See full disclosure here.

Natural birth.

It’s a term that can elicit all kinds of feelings. Often seen as an ideal, women sometimes feel pressure to try for a natural birth while others are happy to avoid it at all costs. For those who do want a natural birth, there are many barriers that may stand in the way, so actually achieving it usually takes some preparation and determination.

For those who want to avoid a natural birth, there is sometimes a lack of knowledge of the benefits and a perception that a medicated or surgical birth is safer. And some are aware of the benefits but consider the benefits of medicated birth to be greater (which is fine!).

If you’re expecting a baby, knowing the benefits of natural birth is part of being able to make a thoughtful, well-informed decision about your care and your birth.

So, what makes a birth “natural”?

Usually when someone tells us she had a natural birth, we make a few assumptions.

1) We assume she had a vaginal birth.

2) We assume she had an unmedicated birth. Or that even if there was some medication involved, such as Pitocin for an induction or antibiotics for group B strep, she didn’t have an epidural or other pharmacological pain relief.

3) Some of us also assume that she had a low-intervention birth.

These are some pretty fair assumptions to make, but let me be clear, “natural” does not equal “better”. Nor does having a natural birth guarantee a joyful birth, a fearless birth, a satisfying birth, an empowering birth, or any other positive quality we might hope for. A natural birth may be all of those things. But it might not be. And having a medicated birth or a surgical birth also has every potential of being a positive, joyful, empowering experience.

Additionally, it’s pretty natural to want to avoid pain, especially here in the US where most of us are slow to embrace the value of pain and its transformative power. The pain of birth is pain with a purpose. It’s pain that you can handle. It’s pain that can empower you. But it’s still pain. And unless you’ve got some pretty compelling reasons, it’s not the kind of pain that you’re probably gonna just breeze through.

It’s also really natural to want to protect yourself and your baby from harm. Self-preservation is a normal and healthy instinct, and while medication and surgery during birth are currently overused in the US, in the face of a birth-related emergency they can truly save your life or the life of your baby. I don’t know one mother, even the most committed to a natural birth, who wouldn’t willingly undergo surgery or medication or suffering if it truly meant saving the life of her baby. We mothers are fierce protectors of our young.

So my intent here is never to cause a mother to feel guilt or shame because she doesn’t want or didn’t have a natural birth, whatever the reason. It’s not to crusade for a certain kind of birth. There are so many facets of what makes a birth safe and satisfying and joyful, and human beings are so complex with their own sets of experiences, fears, and desires, that I am not willing to say natural birth is best, or even good, for everyone. The risks and benefits of any birth choice go beyond the physical health of the mother and baby to encompass the emotional health of both of them.

I want you to be aware of the benefits of natural birth, and from there, examine your own heart and your own values and make choices that are good for you and good for your baby. You are capable of that and it is your right as a woman and a mother. Even when aspects of birth don’t go as desired, being an active part of the decision-making process is key in producing a satisfying birth experience. And what I want for you, dear expectant mama, is a satisfying birth.

Resources:

Painless Birth and Pain Perception During Childbirth podcast from Evidence Based Birth. Though the focus of this podcast is painless birth, it includes a ton of fascinating information on maternal satisfaction during birth.

References:

Romano AM. First, Do No Harm: How Routine Interventions, Common Restrictions, and the Organization of Our Health-Care System Affect the Health of Mothers and Newborns. The Journal of Perinatal Education. 2009;18(3):58-62. doi:10.1624/105812409X461243.

Goldberg H. Informed Decision Making in Maternity Care. The Journal of Perinatal Education. 2009;18(1):32-40. doi:10.1624/105812409X396219.
Cook K, Loomis C. The Impact of Choice and Control on Women’s Childbirth Experiences. The Journal of Perinatal Education. 2012;21(3):158-168. doi:10.1891/1058-1243.21.3.158.