Over the past 7 years working as a midwife and childbirth educator I have worked with hundreds of families as they prepare for the arrival of their baby. I am passionate about helping women to feel confident and excited about their parenting journey, so thought I would share my answers to the top questions I get asked as a midwife.
What is the difference between early and active labour?
Early Labour is where the contractions are irregular with no pattern. This stage can last hours or even days - but it is really normal! Stay at home as long as you can in this stage. Watching a movie or going for a walk can be a good idea. Rest if you need, stay hydrated and eat snacks to keep up your energy. Active labour is when you’re experiencing really regular contractions, 3 in every 10 minute period and they are lasting around 60 seconds per contraction.
When do I go to hospital when I am in labour?
This is sometimes a tricky decision for women. I recommend to follow your instincts – most women will reach a point where they are no longer comfortable at home and wish to go to the hospital (if this is where they are choosing to birth). Call your midwife or doctor when you're having 3 contractions in every 10 min period, and each contraction is lasting around 60 secs. Remember you can still choose to labour at home at this point if you feel comfortable, but chat with your midwife or doctor to keep them in the loop.
Why do women chose to have a water birth?
There are many benefits to choosing to labour or give birth in water including lower pain levels, less use of medical pain relief and a higher satisfaction with their birth. Often women find the warm bath very relaxing, plus it allows them to change position more freely. As a midwife I highly recommend using the bath for labour as it can have an incredibly relaxing effect, which in turn can help the labour hormones to work as they are designed to. If you would like to labour or birth in the water it is important to check that your hospital offers this as an option as not all do. There are some special circumstances where it isn’t recommended to labour or birth in the bath, so have a chat to your care providers if you’re wanting a waterbirth.
What is hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing essentially means the use of hypnosis (or deep relaxation) and birth. The Hypnobirthing Australia program that I teach is a comprehensive childbirth education course that teaches women and their partners techniques that support them to have a positive birth experience. The hypnosis that we use is all self-hypnosis, so it is 100% in your control – there’s no clucking like a chicken or swinging watches here! Although the hypnosis is an important tool for staying relaxed and releasing fears in the lead up to birth, we teach many other incredible tools for labour and birth such as breathing, massage, movement and acupressure points. We also provide women with lots of information on how to navigate different situations that may arise so that they can have a positive experience no matter what turn their birth takes. There are Hypnobirthing Australia practitioners all across Australia so I encourage you to get in touch with them if this is something you are interested in.
How will I know how to push my baby out?
Pushing is instinctual, just like how your body knows what to do when you go to the toilet, your body also knows how to birth your baby. As women reach this stage of labour, they will usually start to feel pressure or a sensation like the need to do a poo with their contractions. I suggest to breathe through this sensation to allow it to build, then when the intensity increases and your body takes over to go with those urges and move your baby down. This is called spontaneous pushing. Directed pushing is where your midwife or doctor tells you to push a certain way. The World Health Organisation recommends that caregivers should encourage women to follow their own urges to push, however sometimes if a woman has an epidural she may need some support with pushing her baby out.
Will I be able to breastfeed?
Most likely, yes! The vast majority of women can breastfeed their baby if they choose so. Learning as much as you can about breastfeeding before your baby is born can help. Many women experience challenges with breastfeeding in the first few weeks, but this doesn’t mean you won’t be able to breastfeed - it may just require some support from a midwife or lactation consultant to help you get back on track. One of the most common reasons a woman will stop breastfeeding is feeling as though she is not making enough milk, however the reality is that there are only a small number of women who will not be able to make enough milk for their baby. This is why getting support is so important in those crucial first few weeks.
I hope these tips help you on your journey, and I look forward to seeing you at expo!
Article written by PBC Expo Midwife Hannah