Decide before hand how you want to have your baby, then arm yourself with the knowledge you need.
Whether you’re a first-time expectant parent or have experienced childbirth before, it’s good to know what your options are – and they’re growing all the time! Childbirth classes offered at area birthing facilities are one way to learn more about the various techniques; these classes cover the basics and provide emotional support for parents-to-be. The following is a brief overview of various techniques and resources available for giving birth.
The Bradley Method
In 1947, Robert Bradley, M.D., developed this method of childbirth after observing the way animals go into an extremely relaxed state – a state similar to sleeping – when they give birth. In the ’60s, Bradley’s idea of a natural, drug-free and husband-coached childbirth picked up momentum. Classes generally last about 12 weeks and are held for the mother and father (or other birthing partner). Both participants learn the deep breathing abdominal methods specific to the Bradley Method. Mothers learn deep relaxation skills to use during labor as well as various comfort positions for labor and birth.
Bradley instructors encourage open and positive communication with all participants in the child birthing process. For more information about the Bradley method, visit the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth website at bradleybirth.com.
Certified Nurse Midwives
Recent data recorded by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) shows that the number of midwives attending births nationwide has increased dramatically in the past few decades. A study of trends in the attendant, place and timing of births in the United States from 1989 – 97 showed that seven percent of births were attended by midwives rather than doctors – up from 3.7 percent in 1989.
According to the NCHS, 95 percent of midwife-attended births involve a certified nurse midwife (CNM) rather than a lay midwife. CNMs provide the same prenatal care as physicians, developing prenatal profiles and providing urinalysis as well as any necessary cultures. They most often attend births in a hospital or birthing center.
Lay midwives typically have no formal medical training, but often apprentice with an experienced midwife for a number of years. Lay midwives attend births at home or in a birthing center. All midwives work to develop a relationship with the mother-to-be and ensure that she has the birth experience she desires.
To further your support base during your birth experience, you may choose to employ the assistance of a doula.
“Doula” is a greek term that means “mothering the mother.” The three terms “doula,” “childbirth assistant” and “labor assistant” are used interchangeably to describe the types of services doulas provide.
In the belief that the way you give birth affects the rest of your life, the doula’s goal is to support both parents at each of their own comfort levels. A recent study published in The American Medical Journal suggests there are substantial benefits to including the assistance of a knowledgeable labor support person during birth. According to the study, labor is often less complicated, less painful and of a shorter duration when a labor assistant is present.
Doulas are typically certified by Doulas of North America (DONA) or the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA). For more information, call DONA at 888-788-DONA or the ICEA at 952-854-8660; or visit dona.org or icea.org.
The most common option for expectant women, an epidural numbs the pain of childbirth via anesthesia. An epidural is usually administered once the mother has achieved “active labor” (about three to four centimeters dilated). The anesthesiologist asks the mother to lie on her side or sit up in a hunched position, and a local anesthetic is used to numb the area before a medium gauge needle is placed between the spinal cord and the outer membrane of the back. Once the needle is in, a thin catheter tube is threaded through the needle and the needle is removed. The anesthesia takes about 10 minutes to work, pain relief is substantial.
How each woman “takes” to her epidural varies. In the optimum situation, you will still be able to control your legs and be able to “push” effectively. Be sure to discuss the epidural with your obstetrician beforehand. The medication can sometimes be quite strong, resulting in a complete loss of sensation in the lower part of your body. Should this occur, forceps or a vacuum may be required to help birth the baby.
Based on research by Grantly Dick-Read, M.D. in the first half of the 20th century, hypnobirthing involves self-hypnosis during labor to eliminate what Dick-Read called the “Fear-Tension-Pain Syndrome.” A woman in labor learns to enter a state of deep calm, reducing anxiety and pain while staying alert and awake for her child’s birth.
“People think hypnosis is some kind of mind control,” says hypnobirthing and Bradley method instructor Jeannie Casey, “But it’s really a lot like the Bradley method. There’s a similar deep level of self-relaxation.”
Hypnobirthing is typically taught as a four-week course; both the mother and the birth partner attend. The main benefits, Casey says, are a faster labor and less pain. “It makes the contractions manageable. The beauty of it is, the more you practice, the deeper you can go faster – and the longer you can stay there.”
Introduced in the early 1950s by French obstetrician Fernand Lamaze, this very popular method of natural childbirth employs the use of controlled rhythmic breathing, progressive relaxation techniques and concentrating on specific distracting stimuli (focus points) to block sensations of pain.
The main objective of Lamaze is to teach new moms that birth is a normal human process that need not be feared. Women and their birthing partner(s) are taught that they can have a direct impact on how they deal with the pain and discomfort of childbirth. By learning what to expect, they are able to build confidence in their abilities and in their bodies.
Usually started in the seventh month of pregnancy, Lamaze classes are scheduled in six-week sessions, concluding a few weeks before the due date. For more information and a list of local instructors, visit lamaze.org.
Though still outside the “mainstream” of birthing methods, water birthing has become an increasingly popular alternative to conventional childbirth methods. Instead of a bed, you give birth in a tub, whether it be one specially made for birthing, your own bathtub or even a child’s wading pool.
Advocates say water birthing helps ease the pain of childbirth, relaxing muscles and lessening stress and anxiety. Water births typically take place at home or at a birthing center such as the East End Women’s Health and Birth Center in Nashville. For more information about water birthing, visit waterbirth.org.
Janet Pinkerton is a freelance writer. She resides in Nashville.
The Birth Book:
Everything You Need to Know to
Have a Satisfying Birth
by Martha Sears
Birthing From Within
An Extra-Ordinary Guide to
by Pam England
(Independent Publisher’s Group)
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
by Ina May Gaskin
The Thinking Woman’s Guide
to a Better Birth
by Henci Goer and Rhonda Wheeler