Childbirth is one of the most satisfying and rewarding experiences that a woman goes through and what makes this adventure packed journey all the more exciting is the art of giving birth with confidence.
One of my anonymous friend asked me to write a detailed post on labor and childbirth, as you can clearly apprehend that she is going to be a first time mommy and hence she needs someone to ‘Tell it all,’ from what she needs to pack, to actual signs of labor and eventually on how to understand the process of a vaginal delivery. I can totally relate with her because I remember how I use to surf the internet and ask my friends. family & doctor the same question. However, being from a medical background, it helped me to understand the entire process in a much better and logical way. While it is extremely necessary to monitor your pregnancy, modify your lifestyle and regularly follow up with your gynecologist to have a smooth and healthy prepartum experience and if everything works fine and in your favor, you might well in the end stand a chance to experience a natural birth process. We will discuss the prepartum measures to a natural childbirth in a separate post, in this post I will share with you a checklist for your hospital bag and the details of the actual labor and childbirth process and will try to give this otherwise difficult and anxious experience the confidence of information and ease of choices.
By the time you are 36 week pregnant, you must have a bag packed with all the essentials that
you would need during labour & birth and after your baby is sleeping in the crib by the side of your bed. You would need 2 bags, one for you and one for the baby.
What Should You Pack For You?
● Your pregnancy record and examinations file and the record about your other medical details.
● A pack of disposable underpants and heavy flow sanitary pads. (Just wear and throw, you wouldn’t need anyone to wash them for you.)
● Drinks: Choose isotonic drinks, the one which satisfies the body’s electrolyte hunger. Keep a pack of glucose. I personally preferred coconut water, as it is natural and highly rich in minerals, antioxidants and vitamins and also boosts your immunity.
● Hair Bands: Take soft and comfortable hair bands with you if you have long hairs.
● Socks: Most of the women who had been through labour would understand the need of it; your feet gets really cold during the process.
● Multiple sets of comfortable, loose fitting clothes: You would need them during the labour (if your hospital allows) and after the birth process is over. Dresses with front buttons are a good option for breastfeeding your baby.
● Straws: These are a must to help you drink those energy giving fluids during your labour with ease (You wouldn’t want to get up during those pain sessions to take a sip).
● Mobile phones, cameras and chargers: You already know how important they are.
● Nursing Bras: Pack at least three.
● Breast pads
● Oral hygiene kit, towels, slippers and hairbrush.
● A thermos of boiled drinking water: I remember how important it is for all the Indian mom’s as in our ancient trend, it was not advisable for the mother to drink non-boiled and cold water after childbirth (at least for a couple of days).
● Travel size toiletries and lotions: Keep it all organic, limit the amount of chemical exposure to your little one.
● Earplugs: Hospitals are not always quiet and comfy, you really need a comfortable sleep after your hard work is over. (Don’t worry about the baby, they give you a day respite soon after they are born; as they are themselves tired and for just that single day you have to wake them up to feed while all the other days it’s quite the opposite.)
● Things that help you relax: A soothing music helps a lot.
What Should You Pack For The Baby?
● 3-4 baby suits and sleep wears.
● A dozen nappies.
● Napkins: You would need both disposable and muslin.
● A couple of socks pair and booties for the baby.
● Winter suit for baby if it’s cold and a baby blanket to hold and wrap the baby.
Now that you are ready with your bags, you must relax and keep maintaining a record of your babies movements. If you weren’t doing that yet, then it’s time that you make a habit of sitting with a paper and pen/pencil after you had your meals (at least twice a day) and count the movements in a group of five with tally marks; there are many apps to keep a record of the movements and to study the patterns. But, if you want, you can choose the age old method of maintaining a diary of records.
Keeping a record is important, as it;
● Helps you study the pattern and thus alarms you whenever there is a change. For example, your average count was 15 movements in 30 minutes and suddenly there is not even 10 movements in two hours.
● You will be able to act faster in case of any risk.
How To Record Movements?
● Choose preferably the same time daily.
● Sit with your feet up or lie on your side (try lying on your left, as it increases the blood flow and helps to get your baby moving.)
● Count each movement as one and record it in batches of five for 20-30 minutes. Towards the end of pregnancy the womb space shrinks as the baby grows and so you won’t feel intense actions like somersaults and movements will be limited to small kicks and shoulder rolls.
How To Recognize Contractions?
Some of the early signs of labour are;
● The mucous plus which looks like a pinkish or brownish jelly comes out. (Remember to always wear a light colored panty to identify any such changes.)
● The contractions always starts with period like pain which comes in bouts and keeps on increasing in intensity (when the pain pattern is like: Contractions every five minutes that
lasts for 30-60 seconds, then it’s time for you to take your bags and leave for the hospital or call your midwife).
● The pain waves starts to hit your lower back.
● Your water breaks: You would feel the liquid tickling or gushing out of your vagina, however sometimes if the amniotic fluid level is low then you might not notice the little water which comes out, so even a little wetting should be considered as a water break.
How To Manage Labour?
Now that you are in the process of having a natural childbirth, it’s equally important to keep
yourself relaxed and undisturbed to endure those agonizing contractions. Remember, the more you alleviate stress, discomfort & anxiety the more easy the birth process gets. When you remain calm, the uterine muscle relaxes and body releases oxytocin and endorphins which are natural pain relievers. The recent example of such a calm, confident and relaxed mom is Kate Middleton, whose postpartum pictures were breaking the internet and astonishing the mommies all across the globe.
There are a few ways by which you can help reduce your labour pains, can shorten the first stage of your labour and will help to reduce your stress and anxiety while going through the process:
● Abdominal breathing: Trust me, if anything at all can help you ease those difficult contractions (apart from what your doctor or hospital can offer, like epidural, medicines and gas) then it has to be this. Bring your awareness to your breath, stop any anxious thoughts and stress from affecting you and as the contraction starts, take a deep breath to fill your abdomen with air, this relaxes your muscles and thus makes the contractions less painful. Keep breathing rhythmically and exhale from your mouth.
● Stay relaxed: Its very important to stay relaxed even while those toughest pains; as I had explained earlier, being calm not only relaxes your uterine muscles but it also helps relieve pain by releasing natural pain reducing chemicals in the body. Listen to soothing music, advise the people assisting you during childbirth to stay relaxed themselves and to always communicate with you in a positive manner. Sometimes a relaxing foot massage also helps to relieve those initial contractions. Visuals of a calming childbirth, a happy baby and mother and of natural scenery also helps mothers relax.
● Keep sipping on those isotonic fluids to help give you the needed reserve of energy and to maintain your fluid levels.
● Know when is the right time to start pushing: This is perhaps one of the most important steps as pushing early will not only drain away your reserved strength and exhaust you but it will also increase your chances of finally resorting to an epidural or assisted delivery. While the contractions might appear to be unbearable you can always ask your doctor or midwife to explain to you how to recognize the one when you must start pushing. I believe that your body tells you very clearly when to push, a sudden wave of heavy contraction (feels like almost a current) runs through your entire spine and the level of which is so severe that your body tells you clearly that I cannot bear it anymore (again, the individual threshold is different for everyone and thus your doctor is the right person to advise you depending upon your state and condition during that time). This is the time when you must start pushing.
● Try alternate positions: Sometimes an alternate position takes the pressure off your spine and can help encourage dilation and move baby deeper into the pelvis. You can ask your doctor or midwife to instruct and assist you choose an alternate position that might help you, especially if the baby isn’t in the best spot.
Now that you know the process of natural birth; stay confident, relaxed and calm because as I said this is going to be one of the most satisfying experiences throughout your entire parenting journey. Your belief in yourself and your ability will not only make the entire process fairly positive for you but will also make a huge difference in how you cope up with it.
“Don’t let the labor challenges to eat up your confidence, only your mental resilience and courage will keep you going. It’s God’s way of training you to eventually start your journey as a mother, where he will give you many such moments. So don’t doubt yourself, stay positive and enjoy these precious experiences.”