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!

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

I. Gurol-Urganci, S. Bou-Antoun, C.P. Lim, D.A. Cromwell, T.A. Mahmood, A. Templeton, J.H. van der Meulen; Impact of Caesarean section on subsequent fertility: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Human Reproduction, Volume 28, Issue 7, 1 July 2013, Pages 1943–1952

Keag, Oonagh E., Jane E. Norman, and Sarah J. Stock. “Long-Term Risks and Benefits Associated with Cesarean Delivery for Mother, Baby, and Subsequent Pregnancies: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Ed. Jenny E. Myers. PLoS Medicine 15.1 (2018): e1002494. PMC. Web. 18 May 2018.

Magnus, Maria C. et al. “Delivery by Cesarean Section and Early Childhood Respiratory Symptoms and Disorders: The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study.” American Journal of Epidemiology 174.11 (2011): 1275–1285. PMC. Web. 17 May 2018.

Metz, Torri D. et al. “Simple, Validated Vaginal Birth After Cesarean Delivery Prediction Model for Use at the Time of Admission.” Obstetrics and gynecology 122.3 (2013): 571–578. PMC. Web. 17 May 2018.

Neu, Josef, and Jona Rushing. “Cesarean versus Vaginal Delivery: Long Term Infant Outcomes and the Hygiene Hypothesis.” Clinics in perinatology 38.2 (2011): 321–331. PMC. Web. 21 May 2018.

Prior E1, Santhakumaran S, Gale C, Philipps LH, Modi N, Hyde MJ. (2012). Breastfeeding after cesarean delivery: a systematic review and meta-analysis of world literature. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 95, Issue 5, 1 May 2012, 1113–1135.

Rossi, A., Lee, R., & Chmait, R. (2010). Emergency Postpartum Hysterectomy for Uncontrolled Postpartum Bleeding: A Systematic Review. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 115(3), 1453-1454.

Van der Woude, D.A., Pijnenborg, J.M., & de Vries, J. (2015). Health status and quality of life in postpartum women: A systematic review of associated factors. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 185, 45-52.

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.

BirthTruths: The Truth About Pain

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.

All women have a pool of knowledge, beliefs, and ideas around childbirth that come from a variety of sources. We consciously or subconsciously receive messages from the media, entertainment, our family, friends, and peers, and from the collective memory of the women around us, and those messages influence our own thoughts and feelings about giving birth. Within this pool of knowledge, the fact that childbirth is painful is often at the forefront.

Barriers

Many women express a desire to have a “natural” birth. The definition can vary woman to woman, but often what is meant is an unmedicated, vaginal birth.

A lack of realistic expectations about pain in birth and about the determination required of you to move through labor without pain medication can create a barrier to achieving this desire. As can a lack of knowledge of your own capabilities, a lack of a confident and supportive birth team, a lack of physical and emotional preparation, and a lack of effective coping measures during labor. But those are posts for another day.

So if you’re hoping for an unmedicated birth or if you’re just thinking about it and you’re wondering what to expect in the pain department, read on.

#1 The pain of birth is normal and purposeful. It’s normal because bringing a baby into the world is intensely hard work for your body, along with your mind and heart. It’s hard like running a marathon is hard or like completing a thesis is hard or like facing great uncertainty is hard. But every contraction brings your baby closer, and pain is just a sign that your body is doing that hard work.

#2 The pain of birth is really intense and legitimately one of the hardest things you’ll probably ever do. Though some women experience painless birth, that is not the norm. There will be times when you will want to give up, and that’s totally normal. Overcoming the painful and overwhelmingly difficult parts of labor will require determination, endurance, and courage from you.

#3 The pain of birth is temporary. It may feel overwhelming and never-ending, but taking labor moment by moment instead of thinking about how long it might last can help it feel less so. In the grand scheme of things, the pain of labor is relatively brief. It won’t last forever. You can do anything for five minutes. And then you can do it again.

#4 Your perception of the pain of birth is dramatically influenced by your hormones and emotions. The physical pain of labor is real, but feeling helpless, afraid, unsafe, or stressed can drastically intensify those feelings. Feeling fearful inhibits the helpful hormones of labor and increases pain. Feeling safe, supported, and respected helps your body produce the oxytocin and endorphins that help reduce pain and make labor effective.

#5 Most women will experience parts of labor as not painful. Usually there is a break between contractions that may be uncomfortable but not painful. Those breaks will give you a chance to catch your breath and perhaps rest a little.

Note: There are some factors that can reduce those breaks, such as having a posterior baby or being on synthetic oxytocin. Having back pain in between contractions with a posterior baby is not unusual, but it’s rarely as intense as contractions. Leaning forward over a bed, counter, or exercise ball can help your posterior baby turn and take the pressure of your back.

If you are on synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) to induce labor or speed it up, your contractions may be longer, stronger, and closer together with little break in between. You may be able to have the Pitocin turned down, and if you want an unmedicated birth, you may want to consider avoiding induction and augmentation altogether if there is no medical indication.

#6 The harder it gets, usually the closer you are to giving birth. When those breaks do start getting shorter or disappearing completely, you are probably getting really close to pushing. During transition (the last phase of active labor and final few centimeters of dilation before pushing) you may feel like you simply can’t do it even if you’ve been coping really well up until that point. You may cry, feel overwhelmed, and be ready to throw in the towel. Be prepared for this. Some women feel the emotions of transition as they go from early labor to active labor as well. This is all a very normal part of the process and can be seen as an encouragement that you are going to meet your baby soon!

#7 Sometimes the pain of birth is unusually difficult. There is such a thing as an unusually painful labor, and there is a difference between pain and suffering. There are times when pharmacological pain management is absolutely the best thing for a mother and helps to facilitate a safe and satisfying birth. It’s ok to want and plan on medical pain relief. And if you were hoping and preparing for an unmedicated birth and end up needing or wanting medical pain relief, it’s ok to be disappointed. It’s also ok to feel happy and at peace with your choice. To face choices and circumstances in birth that you had hoped to avoid takes its own kind of courage and endurance.

I want to hear about your experience! Was the pain of labor what you expected? Let me know in the comments!

Recommended Resources

Pain Medications Preference Scale by Penny SimkinThis tool is great for helping a woman think about her pain medication preferences during labor and communicating about them with her birth team.

Pain Management Series from Evidence Based Birth This podcast series is full of great information about scientific research on various aspects of pain and pain management during labor.