Ten Tips for a Better Birth

It’s important to remember that there are no guarantees when it comes to birth – after all, your baby is an active participant in labor and has not done the same preparation you have! – but you can certainly do a lot to stack the odds in your favor and maximize your chances for a positive birth experience. Here is my list of top ten tips for how to do that:

  1. Take a childbirth class. It’s important for both a mom and her partner to learn the stages of labor, comfort measures, relaxation techniques, effective labor positions, and so much more. If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any! You want to learn about labor positions because how you move in labor has a significant impact on labor progress. The positions you choose can help your baby align with your pelvis and speed your labor all while relieving pain. You also want to learn about comfort measures (or pain relieving techniques), such as water, massage, accupressure, aromatherapy, double hip squeezes and many more techniques.

  2. Nourish your body. Excellent nutrition is so important! There are very real consequences of poor prenatal nutrition. And very real long-term benefits of good nutrition. Don’t strive for perfection, strive to be better each day. Small changes can add up to big changes for the better. A number of moms in my classes have reported that once they started becoming more aware of their protein intake (striving to consume at least 75 grams of protein each day) and diet in general, they did feel a difference in how much energy they have. Exercise helps too!

  3. Nourish your heart and mind. Take the time to connect with your partner. Learn a variety of relaxation techniques and practice them. Connect with your baby in a mindful way, such as through meditation, visualization or simply engaging in mental dialogue with your baby. Slow down. Read good books. Create a support network of those who share your parenting philosophies, such as La Leche League, Holistic Moms Network, conscious parenting groups. Be proactive in reducing stress in your life. Celebrate this season in your life. Ask a friend to organize a blessingway for you.

  4. Choose your birth team wisely. This is a very important decision. Your care provider is going to have a tremendous influence on how you perceive your birth experience. You want someone whose birth philosophy is aligned with yours and who is supportive of your choices. But it’s not only your care provider and doula who are part of your birth team. Carefully consider the effect the presence of any relative, friend, even child who may be present will have on you, and the type of energy they may bring to your labor. Protect your space. Labor is not a spectator sport – it’s OK to choose not to have someone present.

  5. Choose your intended birth place wisely. You have to be comfortable with your chosen birth place. What the best place is for one person may not be the best choice for another. Some feel best at home, others prefer birth centers, some feel reassured in a hospital environment. Do what is right for you and your situation – not what someone else thinks you should do. Wherever you birth, you can make the space your own with your own clothes, scents, pillows, music, photos, whatever helps you relax.

  6. Read and learn. At a hospital tour once, I heard a dad whose wife looked to be about 35 weeks pregnant ask what an OB was. You don’t need a medical degree to birth a baby, but you need to have a pretty good grasp of the basics if you want a good chance at achieving the birth you’re hoping for. Again, if you don’t know your options, you don’t have any! Too often I receive requests for doula services that start out like this one: “I had an unwanted epidural [or caesarean] with our first baby (failed induction, “failure to progress” and an uneducated mommy and daddy). I want this birth to be different.” It pains me to know that too many people have less-than-positive experiences in childbirth because they just didn’t know what to expect or didn’t know what their alternatives were.

  7. Don’t be afraid. This may all be new to you and it may be your first pregnancy and birth, but don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is no stupid question and you have every right to ask and receive answers from your care provider! Don’t be afraid to say no. You have every right to informed consent – and informed refusal. You may not want every procedure that is offered as routine and that is OK. Don’t be afraid to be different from those you love. Just because your mom didn’t breastfeed, your best friend doesn’t cloth diaper, your neighbor gave birth in a hospital, your sister chose to immunize or your parents-in-law chose to circumcise, does not mean you should make those same choices for your child. Don’t be afraid to do what you believe is right for your family.

  8. Hire a doula! For many women and their partners, a doula can be a tremendous asset. Most choose to have a birth doula with them for labor and birth, others opt for the help of a postpartum doula. I offer birth doula services with a postpartum home visit. Not sure what a doula is? Check out my posts on What is a Doula? and Interviewing a Birth Doula. If cost is a factor, read some ideas on How to Pay for Doula Services. (Hint: shower gift!)

  9. Have a birth plan. A birth plan is a way for you to effectively communicate your preferences for your birth with your practitioner, the nurses or assistants caring for you during labor and your birth team. Creating a birth plan together with your partner is a good way to think about your options and preferences in advance so that you are both on the same page and your partner knows what to advocate for and what your wishes are when you’re in the throes of labor. You also have a lot of decisions to make once your baby is born, starting with the immediate ones about vitamin K shots and erythromycin eye ointment, and these should be included. Note: A birth plan is a guideline – not a script.

  10. Be ready to roll with it. Birth is unpredictable. You have to be prepared and you have to be flexible. Don’t be too rigid in your plans and expectations because your child may have other ideas. I often feel this is lesson number one in parenting. You never know what your child is going to come up with next. They will surprise and delight you and sometimes throw you for a loop. There will be twists and turns on the whole parenting journey, but the ride is worth every minute!

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