Preparing For Birth Beyond Setting Up The Perfect Nursery

When many women think of the preparation during pregnancy for birth, they think of the classic milestones such as setting up the perfect nursery, posting a creative gender reveal, sending out the registry, planning the baby shower, or doing a maternity photo shoot.

By Ella McFarland4 min read
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Our culture has limited the activities around prepping for birth to things requiring us to open our pocketbooks instead of emphasizing the fundamental components needed to prepare your body and mind for the birth itself. 

Looking back, I realized everything I knew about birth until recently was from popular movies and TV shows. My knowledge of birth began and ended with images of a woman's water dramatically breaking, her being rushed to the hospital, and then delivering the baby on her back in a stressful, often painful way. It always left me feeling scared of the entire birth process and made birth something I wasn’t looking forward to later in life. With dramatic movies being most women's initial exposure to birth, it's no wonder we want to focus on fun things like baby showers and setting up the perfect nursery instead of researching the birth itself. 

I remember coming across videos of physiological births on Instagram for the first time. I was amazed at how different this looked from the medicalized, structured version I had seen in the movies. For the first time, I saw birth in a positive light and heard words like "divine, spiritual, empowering, transformative" used to describe birth. And immediately, it clicked that birth is supposed to be the most powerful thing in the natural world a woman can experience since we are quite literally the only vessel built to give life to humans. Yet many modern women, even mothers, are entirely removed from that knowledge and the power that comes with it. 

Because of that initial exposure to physiological birth, when I became pregnant, I knew I wanted to dedicate time during my pregnancy to research the following and make the best-informed decisions for myself and my baby.

  • Physiological birth

  • Provider's c-section and interventions rates

  • Pain management techniques

  • Delayed cord clamping

  • Skin to skin

  • Advocating for yourself

First Off, What Is a Physiological Birth? 

The Journal of Perinatal Education states that "A normal physiologic labor and birth is one that is powered by the innate human capacity of the woman and fetus. This birth is more likely to be safe and healthy because there is no unnecessary intervention that disrupts normal physiologic processes." 

Women's bodies are designed to give birth. Contractions are actually a good thing. They are the tool women's bodies use to move the baby down the birth canal and welcome them into the world. Then there are hormones such as endorphins that relieve the pain or stress of labor: “High endorphin levels during labor and birth can produce an altered state of consciousness that can help the laboring mom deal with the process of giving birth, even if it is long and challenging.” Oxytocin is also released to make us feel good and triggers nurturing feelings and behaviors. Oxytocin “stimulates powerful contractions that help to thin and open the cervix, move the baby down and out of the birth canal, push out the placenta, and limit bleeding at the site of the placenta.”

The Cascade of Interventions 

Medical interventions such as an epidural or induction (like Pitocin) can work against the natural process of physiological birth and lead to a cascade of more interventions. For example, "Those (women) who had an induction and epidural were 6 times more likely (a 31% chance) to have a c-section than those who had neither." These interventions break off a woman's connection to the natural birthing process and sometimes work against how a woman's body is built for birth.

I’m not saying that women shouldn't use or even elect for medical interventions, such as an epidural, induction, or c-section. I’m grateful those interventions exist, especially in medical emergencies. However, most women lack knowledge about what birth can actually look like and what their bodies are capable of on their own. Therefore, they feel pressured by providers to elect to do things such as a scheduled induction as early as 39 or 38 weeks along. And a lot of the time, these interventions are done for the convenience of the provider, not the medical necessity of the laboring mom or the health of her baby.

Every woman should be educated about what her body is capable of and all her options regarding birth.

Every woman should be educated about what her body is capable of and all her options regarding birth, so she feels empowered to make the best medical decisions for her and her baby's particular health situation. After deciding what kind of birth a woman wants, it’s important to research where she can give birth in order to receive the support for that desired birth. Once I knew I wanted a natural birth with as few interventions as possible, I investigated different birth providers with low intervention and c-section rates. Expecting moms can do this by researching various hospitals, seeing their c-section and intervention rates, and looking at the birth center's transfer rates to hospitals for additional interventions. From there, they can have conversations with specific OB/GYNs and midwives to find one whose philosophy matches the mother’s birth plan.

Within that birth plan, women may also want to go over what type of pain techniques they wish to use and access. Some women know they want an epidural, so finding a facility and provider to administer it is vital. Some women prefer to focus on setting up a calm, dark environment with access to a birthing tub or shower as a method of pain reduction. Or maybe looking into a birth center or home birth that would provide an environment to allow the laboring mom to be mobile during labor is best. Whatever an expecting mother's specific dream birth looks like, it’s important to find a team and place that aligns with that plan so that she can significantly increase her chances of her birth going closer to her desired plan.

Then, once the research and birth plan decisions have been made, mothers can also learn about their options regarding their newborn’s health decisions. Health decisions can include things such as skin-to-skin or delayed cord clamping. For example, "Evidence supports immediate, uninterrupted skin-to-skin care after vaginal birth and during and after cesarean surgery for all stable mothers and babies, regardless of feeding preference.” And delaying the cord clamping until the umbilical cord goes white "is associated with improved transitional circulation, better establishment of red blood cell volume, decreased need for blood transfusion, and lower incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis and intraventricular hemorrhage.” 

This only scratches the surface, but it's best not to assume that giving birth is automatically going to include the best protocols for what is best for the health of each specific newborn baby. The more an expecting mother can know on the front end, the clearer she can be with her provider and birth facility on what medical directives she wants for her baby.

Closing Thoughts 

A lot of these things come down to learning to advocate for yourself. So many women are trained from a young age to trust the "experts," especially with medical-related items. So, rewiring our brains not only to learn to listen to our own motherly intuition but to trust that women’s bodies are designed for birth is challenging. Especially when we have been told our whole lives that birth is something we know nothing about. 

Yes, we want to enjoy the fun aspects of pregnancy, like the nursery and the baby shower and browsing all the cutest tiny newborn clothes. But don't we also want to get back to our roots of trusting our motherly instincts? I know all this info can be intimidating, especially with all the other fears that come with becoming a mother. But the more research that is done on the front end, the more empowered women will be in the long run. 

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