I would like to start this piece off with a quote that I gleaned from Talk Birth. Thank you Molly. 🙂
Labor is like mothering: you prepare and do the best you can, but finally, most of it is out of your hands. Birth is a great mystery. Yet, we live in a rational, scientific world that doesn’t allow for mystery.
– Jennifer Louden
This information isn’t a prescription to avoid cesarean surgery nor is it step by step to a successful VBAC. It is about doing the best we can. It is about trusting our bodies to do the work of labor and birth. It is about celebrating our efforts, and learning to love or embracing pregnancy and birth in all its mystery, and being supported through that process. It is about using what we have learned through trial and error, modern medicine, and our own intuition to bring about the best possible outcome in our unique pregnancies and birth stories. It is about placing our bodies, our births, and our babies in our hands in whatever ways the mystery will allow.
The first thing you can actively do to avoid a c-section whether you are planning your first vaginal birth or looking to do everything you can to VBAC is to keep your healthy pregnancy healthy and low risk. Even before pregnancy (if you are trying to conceive) or as soon as you get the positive results from your pregnancy test, begin looking at your diet. Is it sound, with all the food groups represented in the quantities recommended by pregnancy nutrition specialists? If it isn’t, is it possible for you to work toward that and/or begin to take a quality prenatal vitamin? There are so many different recommendations out there for pregnant women to follow. It is best to take a look at a few, talk it over with your healthcare provider, and choose the one that is doable for your lifestyle and budget. The nutrients/vitamins/minerals to focus on are protein (the building blocks of life), complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, folic acid, iron, B vitamins, and plenty of water. The following websites will give you some dietary guidelines to consider beginning with the most basic.
- The March of Dimes – Dietary Recommendations
- Nina Planck – Real Food for Mothers and Babies
- The Brewer Diet – Doctor developed through research specifically for pregnancy
Poor nutrition can cause or aggravate conditions in pregnancy that can result in high risk situations, including pre-eclampsia and birth defects. So, be proactive with your diet! 🙂
Another aspect of keeping your pregnancy low risk is staying active. Listen to your body and do what you can to stay fit through your pregnancy. Don’t push exercise on yourself. Women who exercise during pregnancy often find labor and delivery to be easier in part because they are strong and able to be active throughout their labors. The following are some simple ways to get in some daily exercise comfortably in pregnancy:
- Walking – It’s easy and doesn’t have to be fast paced to be beneficial. Anywhere from 1 – 5 miles is a good walk.
- Pregnancy Yoga – You don’t have to have been a yogini before pregnancy to practice during. Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa and Shiva Rea offer DVDs with excellent prenatal practices. Join a local prenatal yoga class to have a professional answer questions and have camaraderie with other expecting mamas. (North Fork Yoga will soon be offering prenatal classes in Whitesburg!)
- Swimming – Helps relieve you of gravity’s pull and to stay active when you otherwise might feel uncomfortable.
The next step to avoiding cesarean and planning VBAC is to find a supportive care provider. I wrote about choosing a care provider recently. It is of utmost importance to choose a provider who is willing to talk with you about your unique situation and to thoroughly answer your questions. When choosing a provider, it is important to do your homework. Ask other women how their births with this provider went. Are they similar to how you would like for yours to be? If you are VBACing, do you know anyone who has VBACed with your provider? How did that go for them? What about the hospital they use for their patients (if it applies)? Are they mother friendly? Without the complete support of your care provider, you might find yourself in an uncomfortable situation when you are at your most vulnerable – during labor. It is imperative to have trust in who is attending your birth.
Next, you will want to find and attend a childbirth education class. Locate an instructor who offers a complete series and is trained through one of the various certifying organizations including Lamaze, ICEA, CAPPA, Bradley, and Birthing from Within, but not limited to those. Childbirth classes such as these offer complete, current, and accurate information on many aspects of birthing and are not tied to a particular provider/facility and their preferences. Many hospitals or providers will offer free classes. These are often not as extensive as private classes (though there are exceptions) and are taught within that particular provider’s/facility’s mode of practice. Take these classes as well as a private class so that you are familiar with the way your provider and the facility they practice in views typical birth and any recommendations that are specific to them and their practice.
Taking a childbirth education class will help you also with reading and researching childbirth and/or VBAC. Your instructor should be able to offer you a reading list of recommended books/magazines that provide current and reliable information. There are so many books, magazines, and internet sites out there that it can be overwhelming at times. Try to keep it simple. It is important to educate yourself, but more importantly is learning to listen to your body, trust its design, and connecting with your baby as it grows inside you. With that in mind, I recommend reading The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence by Judith Lothian and Charlotte DeVries to begin. It is thorough yet basic and accessible to a variety of readers. If you would like to continue on with your reading, I recommend Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. This is written with natural childbirth in mind, but is applicable to a variety of labors and situations. (For more of my recommendations on books, email firstname.lastname@example.org).
The final steps are to plan your birth and share that birth plan with your provider. Yes, it is true that we can’t ultimately know for sure how things will pan out, but we can take steps to guide them toward the safest, healthiest outcome. Lamaze has developed 6 Healthy Birth Practices along with Mother’s Advocate.
- Let labor begin on its own.
- Walk, move around, and change positions throughout labor.
- Bring a loved one, friend, or doula for continuous support.
- Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary.
- Avoid giving birth on your back and follow your body’s urges to push.
- Keep your baby with you after birth. It’s better for you, your baby, and breastfeeding.
On the Mother’s Advocate website, you can view videos on each practice as well as download handouts for each to help you explore them. There is also a birth plan outline you can fill out to take to your healthcare provider. Childbirth classes will also provide you with more information on each of these practices.
In the coming days, I plan to write more specifically about these practices here. If you have any questions, feel free to email.
In taking these actions, you are doing the best you can to ensure that your birth is safe for both you and your baby. How you prepare for birth are the first important decisions you will make as a mother. For some of us, our births will end in cesarean or repeat cesarean, but it will be at that time that if we are active participants and decision makers in our birth that we will be reassured in the fact that we did our best and that it ended in the safest way for us and our baby. There may still be questions and a healing process physically and emotionally, but we will know that we did our best at that particular time of our lives. Trust your body. The Mother’s Advocate website also has a series of videos you can watch online about the history of childbirth. I highly recommend those to help you in the process.
Be blessed mothers, and blessings for your babies,