I recently received an email from one of our students, fresh from the birth of her beautiful daughter. Her birth story was truly amazing and special, and I felt honored that she included me in the circle of people with whom she shared it. At the end of her story, she passed on advice she feels is valuable for other pregnant women. I think it is particularly important to share ideas, suggestions and thoughts from other women in our birthing community. You do not need to be an “expert” to be of value to your fellow birthing mamas.
Advice for other moms to think about:
Arm yourself with knowledge so you can make informed decisions when options are presented to you.
Even though fear and being overwhelmed by the birth process may sway you into not wanting to learn about interventions and complications that may occur, you will be able to make intelligent, empowered and informed decisions if you take the time to educate yourself.
In recent years, there has been a trend in women not attending childbirth education classes. The Listening to Mothers II survey found that just 56% of first-time mothers attended childbirth education classes in 2005, compared with 70% of first-time mothers in 2001-2002 (Declercq et al., 2006)(1). One could argue with the drop in formal CBE classes and the varied sources of information available, women may be feeling less confident in their abilities to make informed decisions, which can lead to less satisfaction and higher incidents of unwanted interventions.
Education equips women with communication and decision making skills that allow them to feel more involved in their birth experience, and therefore more empowered and satisfied with the outcome – even if the scenario unfolds differently than expected.
Do not be disappointed in yourself if you digress from a birth plan or end up with something less than 100% of what you envisioned. Listen to your body and be honest if you feel you need help – there are no medals afterward.
My student really nailed this one on the head. No matter how much preparation you do, or planned pain management techniques you have at your ready, you may find yourself looking down a path that you did not expect.
Please never beat yourself up for being honest and knowing what is best for you. It is not right for anyone to judge your birth choices.
Have a great doctor!
It is vital to find a care provider whose birth philosophy and practice aligns with your vision and needs for your birth. Many times, women stay with the same care provider they had been using for yearly well-women check ups, but never inquired about how that particular doctor practices obstetrics. Are you low risk or high risk? Do you want a more conservative approach or someone more lenient? Are you OK with the possibility of not having your care provider if he/she is part of a big practice or do you prefer a solo or small group practice?
There was a study published in Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 28(4), 390–393, which looked at how individual obstetrician’s anxiety level affects his or her likelihood of performing unplanned cesarean surgery. The study concluded, “Statistical analysis revealed that the doctors’ trait anxiety levels were highly correlated with cesarean rates. The obstetricians with the least anxiety had the lowest emergency cesarean rates, while those with the most anxiety had the highest rates”(2). So, the bottom line is, get a great care provider!
Get to know some of the yoga moms and exchange numbers – you will need friends after the birth, especially if you are new to a city.
Never underestimate the importance of support and community! A study from Canadian Medical Association Journal explores the correlation between urban dwelling mothers and rural or semi-rural mothers and postpartum depression. “The prevalence of postpartum depression was higher among women living in urban areas than among those living in rural, semi-rural or semi-urban areas,” the team noted, adding that “in rural areas, there was a non-significant gradient of risk: women with less connection to larger urban centers were at greater risk of postpartum depression than women in areas with greater connection.
Perhaps the strongest risk factor among city-dwelling mothers is a lack of social support. Cities tend to be more isolated and individualized than rural areas, where community plays a much larger role in raising children. Mothers who would normally have extended family offering help are forced to be self-reliant.(3) So, for us city-mamas, taking the time to connect with like-mind mothers can be a real saving grace during the long, cold winter days when you feel stuck inside and isolated. Make the effort to befriend the lady on the yoga mat next to you and set up a play date with your new babies. It can be a highlight in your day just to connect with someone other than your child or partner.
I hope these wise words have brought you some insight and comfort as you journey into motherhood.
Debra Flashenberg, CD(DONA), LCCE, E-RYT 500 is the director of the Prenatal Yoga Center. After several years as a yoga student, she decided to continue her education and became certified as a Bikram Yoga instructor. In 2006, Debra received her certification as a Lamaze® Certified Childbirth Educator. In September of 2007, Debra completed a Midwife Assistant Program with Ina May Gaskin, Pamela Hunt and many of the other Farm Midwives at The Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee. Drawing on her experience as a prenatal yoga teacher, labor support doula and childbirth educator, Debra looks to establish safe and effective classes for pregnancy and beyond.
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