What is the secret to a safe and healthy birth? Because every woman is different, we all know that there’s no magic bullet. However, there are many things expecting parents can do to prepare themselves and their babies. Lamaze has done the research, and boiled down the scientific facts into six essential steps to help parents achieve the best birth outcomes – Lamaze’s Six Healthy Birth Practices to be exact. Expecting parents may ask themselves, how do these birth practices relate to me? Or, why are they so important to consider throughout pregnancy, labor and birth? As a childbirth educator, this is how I best communicate the “how” and “why” to the parents-to-be that I teach:
1. Let Labor Begin on its Own:
Most of the time, your baby will trigger labor and come when (s)he is ready to. In the last few weeks of your pregnancy, your baby has very important things to do in order to stay healthy throughout his or her life. Things like lung maturity and gaining immunity from you to resist infections are just a couple. Mature babies are able to breastfeed and go home with you sooner. Babies born on their own time are vigorous, vibrant, round and healthy. Also, fewer caesarean surgeries happen when labor starts on its own.
2. Move and change positions during labor:
This secret is simple – the more your pelvis opens and changes, the easier it is for your baby to move through it. So, in labor, lay on the bed to rest for 30 minutes at a time, then get up, move those legs and open that pelvis! Climb stairs two at a time. Help your baby to move down through your pelvis.
3. Plan for labor support:
Choose someone who is going to not only support you, but someone who is going to encourage you and actually PUSH you to do what your body is capable of doing. Labor goes better when you feel supported by every member of your team. Your team may include your husband or partner, a family member and/or your midwife or doula.
4. Avoid unnecessary interventions:
Sometimes birth interventions – such as a caesarean surgeries, inductions, and epidurals – are needed and can be life-saving. But they are not meant for everyone, especially healthy moms and babies. Interventions bring their own set of side effects and considerations. It’s important for you and your support team to learn about them before labor and birth. Voice your preferences about these interventions with your care provider and your caregivers on labor day. Find out more about childbirth challenges, by visiting the Lamaze Push for Your Baby campaign resources.
5. Avoid giving birth on your back, and follow your body’s urge to push:
Here we go with positions again… this time it’s for the second stage of labor when you push your baby out. Use gravity; forward-leaning pelvis-opening positions should do the trick. Stay off of your back. You will be surprised how these off-the-bed positions actually help to guide your brain and body to push your baby down and ease your baby out. No one has to tell you what to do – your body tells you. When contractions happen, set your diaphragm, and make low groans to help your baby move down and out. Do not allow others to coach you on holding your breath or counting to ten for pushing. You have the power to do this on your own – no one knows your body as well as you do!
6. Keep the mother and baby together – its best:
Mother nature knows best, and like all mammals once the baby is born, (s)he needs to stay with you – and actually ON you. Skin-to-skin on your chest is best. Here is where your baby smells you and hears your voice, feels your warmth and finds the milk, using their sense of smell. If you want the best start for bonding with your baby and for breastfeeding – skin-to-skin contact is the secret!
Keeping these six key birth practices in mind, and having important conversations with your care provider can go a long way to support a safe and healthy birth. Many women and their partners often find incredible value in attending an in-person, childbirth education course, as well. Lamaze certified educators walk you and your partner through the information and skills needed to keep you and your baby safe and healthy through pregnancy, labor, birth and after birth. Class is also an important time to bond with other parents to be. Find a class near you by visiting: http://www.lamaze.org/FindALamazeChildbirthClass.
Sharon Dalrymple, RN, BN, MED, LCCE, FACCE, Chair, Lamaze Institute for Safe & Healthy Birth.