What's going to make it easier to pop this baby out?
September 6, 2010 11:10 AM   Subscribe

What should I know / do / bring to help me make it through the pain and exhaustion of giving birth?

I'm due in two weeks, so this is last minute - meaning, getting a specialized coach or learning a complex technique that requires much practice is not on the table. That's not really my style anyways. I'm kind of stubbornly independent about these sorts of things.

Instead, I'm looking for your simple, down-to-earth tips, props or hacks to help me get through labour. What helped most with the pain? What made you feel happy and comfortable? What made things worse? I'm going to try to get through without an epidural for numerous reasons, but the main one is that I'm afraid it could increase the chances of me having a C section that could have been avoided (my hospital's number for them is about 40%). I'm all for narcotics and laughing gas, though. I've had a healthy pregnancy and the baby is presumably of average size. My husband will be with me during delivery and we've taken prenatal classes. What I know about labour can be summed up as follows:

- It's probably going to hurt a lot
- I should preserve my strength for the final stages and the pushing and sleep whenever possible
- I can only have certain drugs up to certain points, and laughing gas is an option until quite late in the game, while morphine or demerol are not
- I probably won't feel much like eating or even talking when the pain is at its worst

Thanks in advance for your advice. Also, I'm in Canada, so references to the American health care system (at least in terms of administration) won't make sense to me. But in terms of patient care, I'm pretty sure things are done almost identically.
posted by kitcat to Health & Fitness (44 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
(From a father who was present for two unmedicated births), two tips unrelated to each other:

1) One thing that helped with the pain for my wife was me applying pressure during contractions (squeezing the hand or even squeezing the head). The harder the better, but for some reason it really seemed to help.

2) Have your husband bring a toothbrush and keep his teeth brushed.

I'm sure you'll get a lot of people weighing in, so I'll keep it at that. Good Luck!
posted by true at 11:17 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

"(my hospital's number for them is about 40%)"

Is this because your hospital loves it some C-sections, or because it is the choice of women with high-risk pregnancies? It makes a BIG difference. One of the hospitals near me has a VERY high C-section rate ... because it's the only NICU and Level I Trauma Center for the surrounding 28 counties. Not only does every woman with a high-risk pregnancy who has a CHOICE deliver there from the surrounding 28 counties, every woman who ends up getting life-flighted, or is in an accident, or has an emergency delivers there too!

The nearby hospital I delivered at has a much lower rate of C-sections ... because everyone who's high-risk (and therefore more likely to have a C-section) is at the big hospital with the specialized care.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:22 AM on September 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

Congratulations! I'm in a similar situation but using a Canadian midwife to deliver. I read a few books on this, namely "Birthing from Within" and "Ina May's Childbirth". This in combination with advice from my midwife and other friends have given me a couple tips:

Avoid anything to do with "pain scales" but don't be a hero and if they ask you to rate your pain say 10.

Don't try to do pregnancy math thinking "it took 5 hours to get dialated 5 centimeters, so I have 5 hours to go". There's no correlation.

Don't bother with pain medication once you get to 8, 9, 10 centimeters dialated. It's too late even though that's when most people crack and start asking for it.

Take a hot shower.

Don't go to the hospital until your contractions are regular and strong (my midwife suggests the 511 rule).
posted by pick_the_flowers at 11:27 AM on September 6, 2010

Congrats kitcat! What an exciting time for you :) I've given birth twice - first time without any drugs, second time with an epidural - both by choice. You already sound really well-prepared. I think a lot of what it comes down to is luck, really. With my first pregnancy, I was pretty much exactly where you are (in terms of knowledge and prep), and I was lucky to have a smooth, slow-progressing labour. It started around 6 in the morning which was convenient. I walked off and on throughout the day, rested otherwise, took a long hot shower, did my deep breathing during contractions, and ate pretty well. When I finally decided to head in to the hospital around 7 pm, I had progressed well - I was 8 cm dilated by the time the midwife checked me! Pushing was HARD and HURT - the delivery itself was much harder for me than any of the 18-hr labour. But it was pretty quick, thankfully - about a half hour.

With my 2nd, labour started at 3 am and progressed FAST. We headed to the hospital right away and my contractions were MUCH more intense. I had planned for a natural birth again but couldn't bear the pain of the contractions. I was tired too (it was the middle of the night). So I took the epidural and it was fantastic. I was really able to enjoy the delivery the second time around.

I wouldn't change either of my experiences. I share thim with you to show you that even with the best of prep, a lot of it comes down to luck. Timing, progression, intensity...these aren't really things you can control. It sounds like you will do great! Oh one piece of advice I will give you - trust your body! With my first, while I was waiting to get checked, the nurses kept telling me, "oh you're so relaxed - you're probably a couple cm dilated. You'll probably get sent home". I felt pretty triumphant when it turned out I was 8 cm :)
posted by yawper at 11:27 AM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Water! I used a fancy hydrotherapy tub and a regular shower when I was in labor with my son, and it was amazing. The pain was almost completely gone, even though I was having hard back labor. It was wonderful.
posted by christinetheslp at 11:29 AM on September 6, 2010

I managed to arrive at my birth center at 9 cm. What helped me get through so much of the work at home was standing in the shower, leaning over with the hot water directed at my back. It practically made it feel like the contractions were gone (though they weren't). But it just worked that well for me. I drained the hot water tank at home, and again at the birth center. I'm convinced that helped me get through centimeters 1-9 without much trouble.

Pushing, when the time came for it, was another story. That I just had to get through.
posted by kirst27 at 11:36 AM on September 6, 2010

If you can score a big hot bath, that was amazing during my longish labor with my first daughter. Also, apple juice tasted fantastic.

(I did two births without drugs, the first because it didn't occur to me--no one really asked, but i was working with a midwife who was running interference--and the second because by the time I got to the hospital, we were lucky I didn't have the baby in the car!)
posted by leahwrenn at 11:36 AM on September 6, 2010

I gave birth a month ago, with pain relief during the first stage and then nothing (ie also no epidural) during the third stage. It was really, really painful (not trying to scare you - the midwife warned me of this, saying, "Make no mistake, this is really going to hurt" and I think it's really important to accept it in advance!) Just to give you a vague idea: I got a cramp in my calf at one stage, and it was mildly annoying in comparison to the pain of labour.

I highly recommend Ina May Gaskin's book. Read or learn as much as you can about the process of labour (I used books in Dutch for this so unfortunately can't recommend anything here). It helped so much to know exactly what the baby was doing at different stages of the pushing phase - eg when he was turning, which directions he had to go in - and how long I could expect each stage to last.

If you are worried about being high-risk for a Caesarean and that your hospital might be a bit trigger-happy in this regard, make sure that your husband is ready to advocate for you. I was begging for a Caesarean because I couldn't cope with the pain (or rather, I thought I couldn't - obviously I could!!!) Luckily the midwives ignored me!

Another common recommendation is to remind yourself that every contraction is bringing you closer to meeting your baby. And of course you get breaks between each contraction (there are occasional exceptions to this) during which most women find that they feel just fine, though probably absolutely and totally exhausted!

You probably also know that the moment the baby is born, the pain pretty much disappears. Not having an epidural generally makes for a much faster recovery, too.

YMMV of course, every labour is different. But if I can do it, anyone can!

Wishing you a happy and healthy birth for mama and baby.
posted by rubbish bin night at 11:45 AM on September 6, 2010

Best answer: Have you looked into a doula? Even two weeks isn't too late to hire a doula--she will know all about this stuff and you won't have to be "coached" just let her guide you. And it will let your husband off the hook in many ways, allowing him to be strictly emotional support. If any of your friends have used one, ask for recommendations. Or contact the Doula Association of Edmonton.

As you are in Canada, my US-centric post on your legal rights in labor all drawn up, but it won't apply. So here's my general recs:

1. Avoid induction and Pitocin. While it can be a good tool in certain situations, it will increase the intensity and speed of your contractions by a lot. Hospitals have been known to get a little happy on using it to keep labor moving faster than it would naturally, even though this increases the c/sec rate, I'm sorry to say.

It ups your chances of c/sec by making labor so much harder to bear, thus making you desperate for an epidural. Then the epidural makes it impossible for you to stand up, and laying flat on your back is the worst posture for labor. Then everything slows down, and "c-section".

2. Avoid letting anyone break your water to "Hurry things along" for the same reason.

3. MOVE. Movement helps the baby move down and it helps relieve pain. If you have to take off the monitor belt to do so, then demand that they let you do so. They can monitor you intermittently.

Print out and take w/you diagrams of positions like the ones on this page. There are also videos re labor movement and managing pain on that site.

4. Eat and drink, if you need to. I don't know re Canadian hospitals but US ones have this asinine rule re only allowing you ice chips. So bring your own food if need be (also for after, you may be super hungry). And don't let anyone tell you you can't nourish yourself to keep up your strength.

5. Do you have access to a birthing tub or even a shower? Use it for pain relief. Tub to float, shower to spray your back during contractions.

6. Don't hurry to the hospital if you don't have to. Let yourself enjoy the early stages when it's milder and you're simply excited; try to stay calm and focused.

7. ...which ties to, don't let yourself be rushed. Insist on going at your own pace, on privacy if you need it, on quiet and dark if you need them. Again, not sure how cooperative Canadian hospitals are vs. US (which are hostile to this).

8. Remember, every labor is different. If you are ok and the baby is ok per the monitors, then it doesn't matter how "long" everything is taking, other than trying to keep up your strength.

9. You will reach a point at which you are sure you can't go on, and you may even demand a c/section. This is usually right before you start pushing. Once again, if everyone appears ok, you can go on, and it will be over. You may not be capable of talking yourself through this, but your husband needs to understand that this stage happens to most women.

But again, a doula would be even better at helping you manage this part. Get one, if you can.
posted by emjaybee at 11:48 AM on September 6, 2010 [15 favorites]

And to add...ooh, didn't see the 40% rate for your hospital. That's a bit worrying.

But in that situation, your best weapons are: wait to go; refuse inductions/pitocin/water breaking; don't be afraid to insist that you will move, roar, sing, or shout if you need to; eat if you need to; use the shower if you need to; make them take off the monitors so you can move if you need to.

This is one time in your life when you are justified in being a complete asshole to do anything you need to to labor in the way that works for you.

Look at it this way: Learning to stand up to institutions for the good of your child and yourself is a pretty good introduction to parenting. It won't be the last time.
posted by emjaybee at 11:54 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

My attitude before going into labour the first time was that I could survive 24 hours of pretty much anything in order for someone else to live, to come into existence. And that I would be very unlucky if it was anything as long as 24 hours. And that it was highly unlikely to kill me. Bit melodramatic but it helped me.
I also really read up on what would probably happen in my body.
Other than that I had no great plan. I took one breath of "gas and air" (laughing gas?) and decided that I hated it. What went through my mind was "I can't cope with this and feeling drunk!" So had no pain relief. Some breathing exercises but nothing very structured.
And went on to have two more children.
All the best - as a 50 year old grandmother I feel quite jealous!
posted by sianifach at 12:01 PM on September 6, 2010

This is one time in your life when you are justified in being a complete asshole to do anything you need to to labor in the way that works for you.

Warn your husband in advance that you might turn into an asshole, and ask him to be as patient and kind as possible.

Speaking of husbands, if he is normally not the calm, serene kind of person in stressful situations, it's not a horrible thing to ask a friend who is to come by and stay with you during labor. My husband gets a little worked up himself when under stress, and it didn't help matters to have both of us freaking out at the same time. Plus, having a friend visit can give him a break to go get some food or whatever.

You might consider bringing your favorite music along, or a laptop with a supply of stupid tv/movies (nothing that requires concentration). The hours while you're in labor can be looong and borrrrring.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:07 PM on September 6, 2010

I've had two unmedicated births, both induced with pitocin. There will come a point when you know you can't do it. Not just, "Oh, this hurts, I don't think I can do it." You will know deep in your bones and soul that there is no way you can possibly bear another contraction or another 15 minutes of that crushing pain. There will be a tremendous fear that you will never feel anything but pain again for the rest of your life, and you will agree to most anything to make it stop. That's when you are in or close to transition, and the hard part is almost over. Pushing, for me at least, was a lot easier and more comfortable.

Right now, compose something for your partner to say when you reach that point. Give him the words that you think you will want to hear and that will help you most when you are trying to get through the worst of the pain and fear. Don't make him come up with something on the fly. I also love the idea of a toothbrush for him.

And don't eat anything you don't want to see come back up.
posted by Hushpuppy at 12:08 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've had three kids. I had the epidural with each, but with my last they dawdled around and didn't give it to me in time for it to help with anything more than just the pushing.

One thing I noticed was that the pain made me stupid. I was laying there, on my side clutching the bar on the bed like it was some kind of life rope. I was confused as to why it hurt so bad. By the time I was in active labor there was only about 15 seconds between contractions, so I didn't have enough time to really have a coherent thought between the pain. I was beyond speaking, and for me that's just about impossible.

I really, really recommend the epidural. It made me a participant in the birth of my children as opposed to somebody that this was just happening to. I was able to nap with the epidural and I was able to eat which helped me have the strength I needed when it came time to push.

Also, if you can avoid an episiotomy I really recommend skipping it. My smallest baby was 6lbs. 10 oz. and I was able to deliver him without the cut and without tearing and my recovery was much shorter.

Don't wear your own clothes or a fancy new gown you got especially for the birth. You'll have enough laundry with a newborn that you don't want to have to worry about getting stains out of your clothes too. Save the fun stuff for while you're sitting in your hospital room holding your newborn.

If you want pictures or video bring somebody else so that the daddy can be there to hold your hand instead of playing Spielberg. In fact having somebody else there just to fetch drinks and food is a good thing. I didn't want my husband to leave me at all, so it was wrenching for me when he had to go refill my drink or get us food. The time I had my mom with us was much easier because she could play gofer and my husband was free to stay with me.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:08 PM on September 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: This is all really spectacular advice :)

I want to ask - for real, I'm going to get bored? If so, I'll bring some knitting and whatever else to amuse us both.

Also - luckily, the birthing room does have a tub and shower, but in case my water has broken and I'm not allowed to bathe, or in case the nurses won't let me make the shower / bath water hot enough (I like it HOT), would a magic bag (microwavable heating bag) do the trick too?
posted by kitcat at 12:22 PM on September 6, 2010

I did not take any labor/delivery classes and had a completely unmedicated delivery of my son. I, too, am "stubbornly independent", so I hope my experience may provide some inspiration for you.

I read many books (many were "hippie" type) about natural unmedicated birth. But even the books were not the main thing that helped me through it.

What I came to understand is that childbirth (barring clinical complications) is not a medical problem, and not an injury to the body -- that it is more like working out in a gym, except you're not allowed to stop for many hours.

Yes, it's a muscular workout, nothing more. And if you fight against the muscles as they do their work -- if you tense AGAINST the muscular action, from being scared, or whatever -- THAT's when it will hurt. And so, what helped me the most was visualizing what my muscles were doing, and willing it along.

The "lengthwise" muscles of the uterus contract periodically, so that the "crosswise" muscles can expand, so that your cervix can open up and allow the baby to come out. I kept thinking about a flower opening up, and about how wonderful the physics of the contraction and expansion was, and breathed with it, and let it happen.

At one point, a doctor came in the room and started arguing with me about my refusal of an IV line (I refused it on two grounds, one, that I had no intention of taking any medication, and two, that it would have hindered my sitting up and moving around and that sort of thing), and began insisting that I have to sign a paper that I was "refusing medical treatment" or some such nonsense. While arguing with him, and for some minutes afterwards, my contractions damn well hurt. I KNEW it was from the emotional tension thwarting my "relax and let my muscles do their thing" approach. Eventually I calmed again, and although my contractions were at their strongest by that point, and pretty much reduced me to a grunting animal state, I stayed with it and was not overwhelmed by pain. You are very lucky to have a husband/partner to be there with you; he can encourage you in the "relax and let it happen" mindset, especially when you enter the "grunting animal" phase. Which WILL happen.

Pushing involves no pain whatsoever. The cervix is completely open. You just make like you're having a giant bowel movement, and out comes the baby. When you've had no medication, you can FEEL your precious child coming out and entering the world. It is indescribably beautiful.

My son was the most alert newborn on the floor. All the neonatal nurses told me so. ALL medications given to the mother enter the baby's system, even epidurals, to a small degree. That is something to consider.

Alert babies nurse better. I never had any difficulties nursing him. The biggest difficulty was fighting with the nurses to NOT under ANY circumstances give him a bottle, to bring him to me EVERY time he was hungry.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I never had another baby, and I'm now past the age for that. And I am SO glad I had the birthing experience I did, wouldn't change it for the world.

Best of luck to you! and I hope you have a good delivery and a healthy, happy baby.
posted by RRgal at 12:38 PM on September 6, 2010 [17 favorites]

Love emjaybee's recommendations on avoiding pitocin and hiring a doula -- I wish I'd done those for my first. I was with a great OB practice that had a midwife track, and everything felt great and warm and loving -- until I started pushing. My midwife disappeared, my nice nurse went off shift and a new nurse came on who didn't even touch me. She literally stood by the door and never said one word to me. I was trying to push out a ten-pound baby with just my husband holding one leg. The pain was quite frankly, unimaginable -- I was literally blind with pain. Needless to say, the baby got stuck and I ended up with a C-section.

The problem for me was that the pitocin just jacks you into these hard, no-resting contractions that just come and come and KEEP COMING -- no natural ebb and flow that you work up to. No listening to your body. The midwife just disappeared for hours. Literally: hours. That plus the crappy new nurse... it was nowhere close to the birth I wanted, and I could deal with that because Hey, That's Life, but it was also nowhere close to the warm, caring environment I'd been reading about in all the practice and hospital literature, either.

So I would say, hire a doula, or if you can't, make sure your partner/husband is someone who will be the raging bear on your behalf. Nurse neglects you? Get him to demand another, right now. Doctor treats you like you're wimping out from the pain? My female OB with my 3rd baby told me to "man up" regarding the post-op pain, if you can believe it, and conveniently forgot to check my chart that listed the bad complications I'd had during surgery. Thank God for the pediatrician, who checked on me, sat down and listened, and got the charge nurse to come in so I could talk about it. (If things get really bad, ask or get your partner to ask for a Patient Advocate and watch everyone suddenly start caring for you like you're having baby Jesus.)

Sorry if this is long -- all I'm saying is that you may not get the birth you want in terms of drug/drug-free or even natural vs C-section...and that's just how it rolls. But it makes a world of difference when someone is actively there on your behalf, keeping people from taking your birth experience for granted just because they think they've seen it all before. A doula can help, but get your partner to be The One.

Blessings for a good experience and wonderful entrance to motherhood. It's utterly amazing, and despite my rough births I thank God every single day for my 3 little kids.
posted by mdiskin at 12:40 PM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding doula! Or any trusted woman friend/relative who has had drug-free childbirth. I had one in the hospital with epidural. I remember becoming furious when my male partner told me to breathe, etc. I told him to fuck off, no way he knew what I was going through. They only gave the epidural when I was ready to push and then couldn't because of the epidural. Fortunately, I'm apparently built in such a way that 8+lb. baby came out with no pushing. Moral of this story, they offer you the epidural when you don't need it anymore. That baby is 37 now.

Second one I had at home, no drugs whatsoever, midwife, same partner, and some women friends. Pushed twice, 9 lb. baby, now 34 yrs old.

Everyone is different, you might have an easy labor, you might not. Once the babe is in your arms it won't really matter. Good luck.
posted by mareli at 12:51 PM on September 6, 2010

This is maybe an "afterwards" kind of thing...but just keep in mind that birth IS NOT A COMPETITION.

Whatever helps you feel safe, in control, happy and brings a healthy mother and healthy baby home is just fine. Medicate/not medicated...doula/midwife/OB/some combination -- it's all fine when you have a team that supports you. Stubbornness is great. So is changing your mind.

As much as I truly support the advocacy of fewer birth interventions, I've had more than a few friends recently made to feel like utter failures because their un-medicated birth did not go as planned. And epidural or a C-section is not a "failure."

Some things will probably not go as expected (it never does) but just give yourself some leeway to change your mind as you go through the experience (no about the laughing gas maybe, yes on this hot bath....who knows?!). Numbers about the hospital's C-section rate or other people's birth stories should be a distant second to what you need RIGHT THEN.
posted by pantarei70 at 1:07 PM on September 6, 2010 [10 favorites]

I want to ask - for real, I'm going to get bored?

:-) I did get bored, can you believe it?? I was in labor a long time (about 25 hours), and only in the last few hours did the pain get so bad that all I could do was hold on to the bed rail. After we arrived and the novelty of the hospital wore off, I had about 15 hours of:

1) Ooh, a contraction is coming
2) GAH!!! OMFG, just shoot me already!
3) Wait, it's going away now ::whimper::
4) Aaah, I feel better, pass me an ice cube, will you dear?
5) Did I really just see Shania Twain riding a swan? (Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1995)
6) Goto #1
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:15 PM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

home birth=no boredom:

hospital birth = v few risks. but trying HARD 2 put them off intervening.

simply saying it's sooo interesting if you are confident enough................ and have an expierienced Doula
posted by Wilder at 2:30 PM on September 6, 2010

You should talk to your doctor about their strategy with pitocin. It's a drug than can be administered in a lot of different ways. Depending on the doc and institution,

It could be:
"lets start at 1 and see how you respond....you probably won't notice and we can see if we want to go to 2 in an hour and work our way up and back off as necessary"

or it could be:
"put the lady in the blue gown on 10 and I'll be back at the end of my shift to see if there's a baby".

Be assertive. If they want to do something you don't, tell them you don't want to do it unless it is necessary for your and the baby's health. Ask why it's necessary.

Other than that, make good friends with the nurses, since you want them giving their feedback on what they think of the doctor's advice. It's nice when a nurse bothers to tell you "the old doctor is the only one at this hospital that requires these tests. They don't teach new doctors that way any more."
posted by pjaust at 2:42 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have had four pregnancies, and yes I got bored and read and talked on the phone. My longest birth was twelve hours from the first twinge to the baby in my arms. The first three were painfree (I always compare them to popping a zit - pressure, then release!). The last was definitely uncomfortable, all however were without drugs. The last was uncomfortable for three reasons - it was at my house instead of my mothers against my wishes so I was stressed about cleaning and playing hostess to the three midwives and twenty or so family, after the first 30 minutes on contractions but mo progressions I decided to speed things up to avoid inconveniencing anyone so I walked around the block to the point of exhaustion and the progresson ended up being fast (less than two hours to baby). I had been at several pain-free/drug-free births so I knew what to expect and I think pain is intensified by fear.
posted by saucysault at 2:47 PM on September 6, 2010

kitcat: "I want to ask - for real, I'm going to get bored?"

Maybe! I was present for the birth of both of my children & we didn't have time to get bored. Friends of ours have had 36 hour labours. There's just no telling. For her, both times ended up being entirely unmedicated, but that was more to do with the pace of labour than anything else: by the time the midwives had arrived it was already too late for both births.

Anyway, on the pain front. My wife felt that the birth pool helped her enormously the first time around: being able to just float and completely relax made a huge difference. Second time around I didn't have time to get the pool filled up before she went into transition!

Pain is ultimately a mental construct. This doesn't make it any less real, but does mean that your attitude to it and how you process it can make a huge difference. The less stressed you are, the better you're likely to feel about the whole process. My wife described it as being like riding a succession of waves: ideally you feel able to stay on top of the metaphorical water and ride each wave as it comes as they push you towards birth. (Hopefully this isn't sounding like: "pain is all in the mind, therefore if it hurts it's your own fault", because that's not true at all...it still hurts obviously, but if the hurt has a purpose & a goal then it doesn't have the impact that it does if you feel out of control & stressed beyond endurance.)

We found Sheila Kitzinger's books helpful, but they're probably a bit out of date now.
posted by pharm at 2:52 PM on September 6, 2010

In all seriousness, if you want to give yourself the best chance of avoiding a c-section, don't even set foot in the hospital. Find a CPM or if you're lucky enough to live in a state where CNMs are allowed to attend homebirths, do so. There's still time. And you're not overdue until two weeks after your due date. In other words, 41 weeks is not overdue (and 41.2 weeks is the average for first time moms).

Going to a hospital with 40% c-section rate, though? You may as well as be signing the consent forms for a c-section now. Hospitals with rates that high often have a trend of increasing their c-section rates each year by a greater number. (And having a level three NICU and a higher rate of high risk women does not account for a lot of that rise.)

Also, if it happens that you do end up with a c-section and you have the epidural in already (meaning, no spinal), have them put you out, which is what I wish they had done with me considering the local failed and they left me begging them to stop the surgery. Epidurals have a 15% rate of failure, and I guarantee you the anesthesiologist will fail to mention this fact.

So, honestly? Don't even use a hospital for your birth care.
posted by zizzle at 3:19 PM on September 6, 2010

I had a relatively short labor (about eight hours from when I started having contractions to the time I had him in my arms.) I did it 100% drug free, though I wasn't opposed to using some if necessary. I had done a minimal of "training", just a dvd series. What helped me:

1. The pain in labor was intense but it was temporary. A contraction would come and as it intensified I would remind myself that it was only going to last for a couple of minutes. If I stayed focused, I could get through. I lost focus only a couple of times and I started to panic because my focus became my pain. So much of it was a mind game for me.

Also, remembering that even the process of labor was temporary helped. Yes, it hurts. A lot. But at the end of the day, it was just one day out of my life. I wasn't dealing with something like chronic pain. All I had to do was get through the day.

Which leads me to something I didn't know until after...

2. That crazy intense pain you feel? Right after the baby is born, you will forget how bad it was. That part was awesome. Sure, there's a little discomfort in the days after as your bits heal but your uterus immediately forgets what happened. Oh and the adrenaline rush right after delivery was wonderful!

3. Practically speaking, I found that in back labor it was helpful if my husband applied counter-pressure. He pushed a fist or the back of his hand into my back right where the pain was.

4. I wasn't allowed to walk around too much but I got to sit on a stool. That felt so much better than lying on the bed. Experiment as much as you can. Find what works and go with it!
posted by wallaby at 3:40 PM on September 6, 2010

You get to keep the baby at the end.

I've had two kids--one 9lbs with no drugs, no epidural, no nothin' and one by C-section, and I'd sure never chose abdominal surgery again.

I had back labor and it hurt, but it's not THAT bad. Your body really knows how to react, and if you don't mind-f*ck yourself in to stressing about how much it's going to hurt, you genuinely can participate and do the pushes and breathing that work with your laboring muscles, not against them.

When my water broke, my husband and I felt like little kids who just heard the sleighbells on the rooftop. I had a glass of wine, a hot bath, and then, lost my mucus plug and we got in the car. And then, much later, a baby. My husband brought a tennis ball to rub my back for back labor but he kept dropping it, and it would bounce, and that made me laugh--I talked all the way through it. Labor hurts, but it's not a constant pain like chronic pain. It's not like the movies--I sure wasn't covered with sweat.

After I gave birth the 1st time, I got an endorphin rush about 2-3 hours later, and I felt like I could climb Mt. Everest! I talked on the phone, I ate like a horse, and then, things calmed down. That's the best part of drug free, besides the alert little beastie.

And if you have a Csection you still get to keep the baby, and then you can lay around and have people bring you stuff. Having a baby is fun, honest.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:14 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

in case my water has broken and I'm not allowed to bathe

You want to watch out for bullshit like this. I would be disturbed, but unsurprised, to find a Canadian hospital still trying to prevent labouring women from eating and drinking whatever they pleased; also disturbed but unsurprised re issues bathing w/broken water. That's fine; there's no risk. (What IS risky is hands going in there -- don't get internal exams without sound reason)

Don't assume anything about the hospital -- the one I used did not have gas.

I did not want to use a hospital -- midwife shortage here, so -- and I would not give birth in one again if paid. If you are not brain-dead you can expect to spend some of your time in labour arguing with a dipshit about whether or not you are going to stand up, or pee, or whatever, or if you want to talk to the other nice ladies on the ward because surely Dad is going to go straight home and you will want company while your baby gets a bottle in the nursery. Nursing is not exactly a profession with a high bar to entry and while at the hospital you will be "assisted" by people who may or may not be competent. You are not under any obligation to eat/not eat bathe/not bathe etcetera; keep this firmly in mind, and just repeat that you want to consult with your/a doctor if you run into hassles about your care.
posted by kmennie at 4:18 PM on September 6, 2010

3 kids here - first one a long labor (36 hours) with every intervention save an episiotomy since I ended up with a c-section, 2nd also long -( 35 hours) but at home with NO interventions or drugs, 3rd at home and ~ 5 hours. Long labor ending in a vaginal birth is a MUCH easier recovery. I opted to have second and third kids at home on the theory that if I wasn't at the hospital I wouldn't have a section. All three kids were about 8 lbs and I'm 5'1".

So my recommendations are - stay home for as long as you can, preferably give birth at home with midwives. If you decide to have a hospital birth by all means hire a doula or ask a friend who has given birth and who is assertive to come help support you. First time dads just don't know enough to be both helpful advocates against unnecessary interventions and help you with comfort measures. My husband was great but there was so much that neither of us knew the first time around and would have helped if we had had a doula.

As others have said - MOVE. If you can stay hydrated by eating ice chips, popsicles, gatorade and the like you're better off than with an IV. Back counter pressure helped me with back labor and someone pouring water over my belly helped with contractions immensely. Pushing was painful for me - exhilarating and powerful but still painful. Everyone's experience of giving birth is different. Hopefully it will be a wonderful, empowering experience and you and your baby will do fine. Congratulations and come back to tell us all how it went!
posted by leslies at 5:23 PM on September 6, 2010

Just a warning that you may have a tough time refusing induction if your water breaks and your contractions don't start. I was worried about a c section but my water broke and my contractions weren't really starting so we went for the picotin. We waited until I was just over 5 cm dilated and then I got an epidural, which at that point I felt like I really wanted. And I didn't need a cesarian, yay! So, ymmv, but if your water breaks and nothing starts happening picotin may not be your enemy. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 6:48 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just a note from an MD perspective, the reason why they recommend that you do not eat when you are in active labor is because if something went wrong, and you had to be rushed to the operating room for general anesthesia, you should not have food in your stomach because you could aspirate it into your lungs, and this could kill you. (well, this is one reason, there are others too, but this is one of the main ones).

Wanted to make sure it was clear that we in the medical field are not just trying to make people suffer needlessly by starving them. I recommend asking your doctor what the reason is if you don't understand why you're being told not to do something or to do something, because that should help improve communications and allow you to weigh the risks and benefits of whatever you decide to do.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:03 PM on September 6, 2010 [6 favorites]

And epidural or a C-section is not a "failure."

This. Anything that gets the baby out with both of you being healthy is a successful birth. Of course, less medication is a personal preference for some.

Also, an epidural is not necessarily going to prolong the process or make a C-section more likely. In our case, my wife wasn't progressing and the docs were waiting for her to dilate more before giving a epidural. When they saw no progress, they were starting to lean towards a C-section; we asked for an epidural and -- lo and behold -- she dilated the last 6-7 cm in an hour, and had a vaginal birth. As several people have said, every case is different.
posted by Simon Barclay at 7:05 PM on September 6, 2010

I would suggest that if you do end up delivering at a hospital, that you not feel like the medical staff is your adversary and that everything they want you to do should be resisted. The vast majority of medical staff will be kind, helpful, informed, and want what's best for you and your baby. Sure, there are some bad ones out there and you should be well-informed and know what your rights are, but please try to believe that they are on your side.

And the toothbrush for your partner is a great idea. My husband was munching on tortilla chips while I was in labor and whenever he would crouch down to check in on my I got a big whiff of corn and that smell still makes me wince.

I had my laptop with me and since the hospital had wi-fi, I could surf, email, and watch DVDs when I got bored but I was induced and it took a long time so I had a 2-3 days of not much going on in which having the laptop was a godsend.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 7:47 PM on September 6, 2010

Best answer: Have you read Offbeatmama.com? There are lots of great REAL birth stories there that may give you a good idea of what to expect. They feature all kinds of births I've seen hospital births, home births in a tub and one in a taxi on that site.
posted by Saminal at 9:15 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just a note from an MD perspective, the reason why they recommend that you do not eat when you are in active labor is because if something went wrong, and you had to be rushed to the operating room for general anesthesia, you should not have food in your stomach because you could aspirate it into your lungs, and this could kill you. (well, this is one reason, there are others too, but this is one of the main ones).

I know that's what the hospitals say, treehorn, but it's not backed up by data, which at least some hospitals acknowledge. It's an exceedingly small risk given the very small number of general anesthetic c/secs, even in emergencies, as well as the advances in preventing this very problem--this rule dates from decades ago when anesthesiology was not as advanced. This rule ends up replacing the tiny risk of aspiration during surgery with the much larger risk of women getting exhausted too soon, thus being more likely to need surgery--and its potential complications--as well.

And it is cruel. It is cruel to refuse an exhausted, dehydrated woman the nourishment she needs to continue the very hard, very muscular work of labor. An IV is not an adequate substitute. Ice chips are not an adequate substitute.

I don't want to turn an AskMe thread into a debate, but feel free to memail me if you want to talk more. I do think it is important for the OP to know that while some things hospitals do during birth are evidence-based, others are simply old and unquestioned. Like, until very recently, routine episiotomies, which did quite a bit of harm and lingered far longer as a practice than it should have.
posted by emjaybee at 9:23 PM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh yes, boredom is certainly possible. My hospital had WiFi, so I hung out on MetaFilter while in labor. I'm intending to do the same again this December with #2. :-)

I personally felt that the pushing stage was the best part of the whole thing -- finally, I was doing something useful and productive, rather than just anxiously lying around waiting to hear how much I had or had not dilated. 20 minutes of pushing and there he was!

And one of the worst parts of the whole thing was actually the IV they stuck in my left hand wen I first got to the hospital. The needle jabbed into me every time I flexed my wrist even a little, including when I was trying to rest, and it really hurt and distracted me. So even a "little" intervention can be a bad idea. (Although on the other hand, so to speak, I loved me my epidural.)

In the meantime, use the next two weeks to go check out YouTube -- they have a surprisingly large number of graphic birth videos online, including homebirths and even unassisted childbirths. Worth spending several hours watching out of curiosity. And I second the notion that Ina May Gaskin's book is a must-read. Her main point is that birth is a normal, natural thing that your body instinctively knows how to do -- if only the doctors and bright florescent hospital lighting and other well-meaning annoyances would get out of your way and let you do your thing!
posted by Asparagirl at 9:32 PM on September 6, 2010

I got some really great advice from my midwife as I went into my last month of pregnancy, and I'll pass it along to you, but please be aware that it comes from a good place, not a judgey-rude-snarky place... What matters is that you and your baby are healthy. The women who want to have the bizarre competitions about who had the longest and most painful labor without any intervention are focused on the birth, not the baby. These are likely the same women who focus on weddings, not marriages. Yes, giving birth is awesome and weirdly magical, but it really hurts. If you end up needing more intervention, don't internalize it as some sort of failure of your body or spirit.

Keep yourself distracted- Electronic Boggle! Seriously, it kept my mind off things better than all the other random things I tried.

Eat and drink while you're in labor if it is safe for you to do so, but stay away from anything that might cause constipation. You'll understand. I loved my balance ball, it was way more comfortable to labor on than the bed or chairs. Keep the lights off if you can. I became very light sensitive, and was annoyed by the florescent bulbs. Showering and walking around were great, too.

When its all over, utilize the hospital staff as needed. They'll do nice things like make sure your carseat is installed properly, send up a lactation consultant and set up your first pediatrician visit.

Good Luck, its going to be awesome, and life will never be the same again!
posted by Nickel Pickle at 9:35 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Regarding food: I ate a big greasy cheeseburger and fries from the diner across the street (fetched for me by my wonderful husband) both before and after delivery, and I don't think I could have gotten through it without it. Labor is exhausting and extremely physical work; of course you should be eating if you feel like it!
posted by Asparagirl at 9:35 PM on September 6, 2010

I promised myself when in labour with my youngest (10 months old) that I would remember how useful a TENS machine is. I haven't seen any mention in the thread - perhaps they're not available in Canada, which would be a shame. If you can get hold of one though, do try it. I found mine an immense help. It doesn't interfere with monitoring or stop you walking about and if you don't like it you can just take it off.
posted by tulipwool at 12:28 AM on September 7, 2010

On the other hand, my wife found a TENS machine no help at all! Which doesn't mean that they can't be helpful, just that everyone is different & you should do what works for you. Heed the wise words of Nickel Pickle: giving birth is not a competition!
posted by pharm at 12:41 AM on September 7, 2010

Teach your husband in advance to apply counterpressure to your lower back. When you start feeling the contractions in your back, this will help a lot.

Bring an ipod, food, and your own PJ's so you don't have to wear the awful hospital gowns.

Also, just be advised (this is not to scare you, but something that didn't occur to me until the crucial moment!) that no epidural means that when they sew you up afterwards (if they need to), they need to numb you up first..with injections into the vaginal area. You'll probably be somewhat numb down there immediately after birth anyway, but it's just a good thing to know.
posted by tetralix at 4:47 AM on September 7, 2010

Hi kitcat! Congratulations!

I did a natural birth, and I did not take any coaching lessons. It was actually the woman who used to own my house who gave me a piece of wisdom that helped me greatly through the whole process:

Pain has no memory.

Think about it. Times you've stubbed your toe or broken a bone: sure, you remember that they did hurt, but you don't actually experience the pain over again.

Between that thought and thinking that I was drawing strength from an ancient source of all the women who have had babies over the millennia, I got through it. The idea that my body was a machine that is supposed to work in that manner was a great comfort to me.

Don't discount your own brain's ability to pump out its own opiates. Despite the hours of labor, two minutes after my daughter was born I said, "I could do that again," to the disbelieving face of my midwife.
posted by frecklefaerie at 7:31 AM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't let other people's stories freak you out - the fear of the pain is worse than the actual pain. I had a 9 1/2 pound baby, with no meds of any kind, no breathing techniques, and up until it was time to push, I had no one in the room with me except when they came in to check how far I was dilated. (My husband was sleeping in the waiting room the whole time, and they didn't bother to wake him up until after our daughter was born.) In fact, I slept through most of labor. Even after it was time to push, I was still alone for a while, because they couldn't find my doctor, so they wheeled me into the delivery room and then all went to go look for him. For me, it really wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. Labor pains are basically just menstrual cramps somewhat intensified. Don't get yourself all psyched up about how awful it's going to be, because it probably won't be as bad as you're imagining.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:49 AM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

"Labor pains are basically just menstrual cramps somewhat intensified"

Which means that little baby is the biggest poop you'll ever make.

MexicanYenta is right.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:28 PM on September 7, 2010

« Older But I want to get taken for a ride!   |   Where do you buy dresses and skirts with pockets? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.