Giving birth draws you deep into your body, yet you’ll depend on others to get through it. Whether you have a brief labor eased by an epidural, deliver on all fours in your own living room or have an unplanned C-section, what matters most is how you are cared for and if you are listened to by your providers. The best way to advocate for yourself in the delivery room is to begin the process well before your swollen feet ever step into the space itself.
It is possible to get compassionate, respectful care from many kinds of providers — midwives, obstetricians, family physicians and nurses — and in settings including hospitals, birth centers and your home. But, according to a recent international survey, up toone third of womenexperience some trauma during birth, which means that at some point during labor, they felt that their emotional well-being or even their — or their babies’ — lives were under threat. And according to the latestListening to Mothersreport, one in four American women who underwent either labor induction or a C-section reported experiencing pressure from a health professional to do so.
(Click to read this great piece by Angela Garbes on nytimes.com)
Any woman who has ever carried and birthed a child, in whatever fashion, deserves her own ESPN highlight reel — blood, sweat, tears and the eventual triumph of holding her newborn baby. To be clear, childbirth isn’t a game. You can’t plead with the referee when you don’t like a call or leave the field when you’re tired.
Still, as a lifelong athlete, I saw childbirth, especially an unmedicated one, as the ultimate challenge of physical endurance, mental stamina and my ability to handle pain.
When I became pregnant in January 2018 and set about preparing for the monumental task of birthing a human, I loaded up on prenatal vitamins, kept a daily routine of birthing stretches and exercises, and endured an eight-week birthing course. An image of the lead female competitors in the New York City Marathon, who bring me to tears when they run past my Brooklyn apartment each year, filled me with confidence for labor. Washboard-like abs. Lean legs showing off every strand of muscle. Calm, focused and confident expressions on their faces.
However, as my due date came near, I clung to a fear of pain and the unknowns out of my control. How long would my labor be? Would my mind fall apart? What if my pelvis wasn’t the optimal shape or I stopped dilating?
A powerful series of birth photos is highlighting the beauty of sibling love.
Paulina Splechta has been documenting childbirth as an on-call photographer for four and a half years. Last month, she had the opportunity to capture a very special moment for the Cook family in Boca Raton, Florida.
When Catherine Cook prepared to deliver her third child, she invited her 10-year-old daughter, Kayla, to be present at the birth and catch the baby. The big sister happily agreed, leading to an emotional experience that Splechta photographed.
OBs play very influential roles in women’s lives during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. Having the right or wrong person at your birth can make or break your vagina. Literally. Unfortunately, sometimes the doctor or midwife a woman chooses in thefirst trimesterturns out not to be such a great fit as pregnancy progresses. But how should you know when it’s time to fire your OB or midwife? Glad you asked.
I gave birth seven years ago in a Boston-area hospital where I generally consider the care to be excellent. I arrived near the end of my labor, my cervix almost fully dilated. After an hour of moving freely around my hospital room, my midwife and labor nurse said, “It’s time for you to get into bed now.” And then they said, “Let’s have you get onto your back.”
Even though I had read the medical research that found that lying supine carries risks to a fetus — which is why pregnant women are advised not to sleep on their backs — I behaved like any woman in the suggestible state of labor: I did what I was told, though it went against my instincts and my preference.
(click link at top to read the blog post on wbur.org)
“The birthing plan: Whether it’s set at home with a doula or in a hospital surrounded by family members, many expecting women have their perfect version in mind. And the location and company one keeps during delivery are just the beginning—with highly curated extras like pressure-relieving birthing balls and soothing “push playlists” growing in popularity. But the reality is that when it comes to child birth, there’s only so much you can control.”
For more than 60 years, it has been the standard of care to try to speed up childbirth with drugs, or to perform a cesarean section if labor was seen as progressing too slowly.
Now a new set of recommendations is changing the game.
In February, the World Health Organization released a set of 56 recommendations in a report called Intrapartum Care for a Positive Childbirth Experience. One key recommendation is to allow a slow labor to continue without trying to hurry the birth along with drugs or other medical interventions. The paper cites studies showing that a long, slow labor — when the mother and baby are doing well — is not necessarily dangerous.
A little history is required to understand the importance of that one recommendation, says Dr. Aaron Caughey, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University, who did not work on the report. In 1955, Dr. Emanuel Friedman studied 500 women and concluded that labor is normal when, during the intense phase of contractions, the cervix opens at a rate of at least one centimeter (about 0.4 inches) an hour. “Dr. Friedman showed that 95 percent of women progressed” at this rate, says Caughey. “And that became the standard of care.”