This is one of the most important questions to ask yourself when you become pregnant. I know the birth can sometimes seem like something far in the future, but many of the choices that you make in early pregnancy may impact your birth experience. While there are many aspects of birth that we can’t control, there is a lot that we can control. It is important to get clear on the type of birth you would like so that you can work towards this.
Often women tell me that they are going to ‘go with the flow’ during their birth. While this may seem like a good idea, its can sometimes leave women feeling like they didn’t understand their options, and were encouraged into interventions that they did not really want.
I do believe in working with the turns that your labour takes, but it is important to get clear on your ideal birth and to build knowledge during your pregnancy too. Often we focus on a healthy mum and baby, which is of course important, but it is important to consider what else would make your birth experience a positive one.
Some important questions to ask yourself:
• How do I see pregnancy and birth? A natural process? Or something to be medically managed?
• Do I have any thoughts on the type of birth I would like? Natural, or low intervention birth? Waterbirth? Epidural? Caesarean?
• What kind of support do I think I would benefit from? How do I want to feel during your pregnancy, birth and postnatal period?
• Who do I want there with me during my birth?
The answers to these questions will help to guide you as you prepare for your birth and choose your care provider.
I really encourage you to research the options in your area to see what is available and what might suit you best. In Australia you can choose to see a midwife or doctor, or a combination of both providers.
Midwifery continuity of care means knowing your midwife - being cared for by, and able to build a relationship with the same midwife or group of midwives during pregnancy through labour and birth, and into the early weeks of parenting. A woman who receives care from a known midwife is more likely to have a normal birth, have a more positive experience of labour and birth, successfully breastfeed her baby and carry her baby to full term. There are many ways to access midwifery continuity of care – through a midwifery group practice or caseload program through your public hospital, a private midwife, or perhaps a birth centre where midwives work in a team.
You also have the option of your care being provided by an obstetrician or doctor. An obstetrician is a doctor who is specifically trained to provide medical care during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. You may have one obstetrician providing your care, or you may see different doctors. If you are wanting an elective caesarean birth you may find that an obstetrician is the best care provider for you.
Remember to consider what is offered at your local hospitals and birth centres – are you able to labour and birth in the bath if you choose? Do they have private showers to use in labour? What kind of support do they offer after your baby is born? These questions can all aid in your decision of which hospital to choose.
There is no one perfect provider option for everyone. Do your research and make a decision that is right for you. When you meet your provider tell them about your views on birth and the type of birth you want, then ask them about their own philosophy on pregnancy and birth. Ensure you are both on the same page, and if not remember you can change provider at any time.
Knowledge really is power when it comes to pregnancy and birth! My biggest tip is to gain as much knowledge about birth and the postnatal period during your pregnancy as you can. It is really hard to relax in labour and to work with your body when you don’t know what is going on! I encourage all women to look into Independent Childbirth Education classes to help them and their birth partner prepare for both. Research from Western Sydney University shows antenatal education classes focussing on pain relief techniques dramatically reduced the rate of medical interventions during childbirth, such as epidural use and caesarean section. Definitely worth considering, especially if you’re hoping for a natural birth.
Thinking about the kind of birth that you want is so important in achieving a positive experience. This is a really personal decision, and I encourage you to explore your options and discuss your wishes with your birth partner so that you can be in the best position possible to achieve a great birth!
Article written by PBC Expo Midwife Hannah