5 Things Your OBGYN Won’t Tell You
About How to Have a Better Birth and Postpartum
When I was using an OBGYN for my pregnancies our visits were short and rushed. I typically spent more time waiting for my appointment than in my actual appointment. Even though the staff was friendly and helpful, I felt like just a number.
Despite many good intentions, the way prenatal care is today, leaves much to be desired.
Here are 5 things your OBGYN won’t tell you about how to have a better birth and postpartum.
1. Stay Healthy and Low Risk
One of the most powerful things a woman can do to help have a better birth and postpartum is to be healthy and to stay low risk throughout pregnancy.
Some complications are out of our control, but many are not.
Gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), for example, are three common pregnancy complications that can turn a healthy pregnancy into a more complicated fiasco, all increasing the chance of cesarean, induction and sick babies (which obviously make for a more difficult birth and postpartum).
Did you know that these three pregnancy complications do not necessarily happen by chance? There are simple things you can do to decrease your risk.
For example, by simply eating probiotic rich food or taking a probiotic daily, you can reduce the chance of ALL the pregnancy complications listed above.
All of them.
Did you read that?
If you drink one delicious smoothie (like the one above) every day during your pregnancy, you can help stay low risk and have a better birth and postpartum. Amazing.
(PLEASE click through the link above, read it and check my sources before commenting below.)
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, you’ll love my natural pregnancy resource list. It’s free!
2. A Less Painful and Shorter Labor is Possible
Baby needs to be facing mom’s back (which is called the anterior position) and also their chin needs to be tucked down.
When baby is not in an idea position, mom’s body will spend the majority of labor attempting to reposition the baby. Once baby is lined up, things progress normally.
Now that we know what we know, doesn’t it make sense to start working on an optimal fetal position during pregnancy instead of waiting until labor?
Spinning Babies created an amazing video about how to align our bodies in a way which will encourage baby to move into a more favorable birthing position. I can’t tell you how many times I have helped babies move to a better position prenatally or in labor and subsequently had relatively fast and straight forward labors. Knowledge is power!
3. Epidurals Come at a Cost
The one thing I remember from my college economics class is that “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Basically, what my professor was saying was that there is a cost for everything. There’s always a catch.
This idea is true for the epidural in labor.
When you get an epidural, there is a cost or a trade-off to that decision.
- The risk of cesarean has increased.
- The risk of distress to baby has increased.
- The chance of having to use a vacuum to get baby out has increased.
- Your chance of perineal tearing has increased.
- You are now confined to your bed, and cannot eat or drink.
- Your baby has a lower chance of moving to the optimal fetal position which can make your labor longer (see above).
- Sometimes an epidural doesn’t work, or only works partially on one side.
I am not against epidurals, and have seen them used wisely and compassionately.
My problem with epidurals is that women don’t know to weigh the benefits and the cost of such a tool (and nobody is telling them that there is a cost).
For a normally progressing labor, the cost of an epidural is greater than the benefit.
If you are preparing to have a natural birth in the hospital and would like to avoid an epidural you must hire a doula.
The current medical model is not set up to fully support a woman having a natural childbirth. Sometimes all that a nurse can do (because of her high patient load and paperwork) to help is to offer you drugs and epidurals.
4. Lower the Risk of Cesarean
Here are 5 ways to lower the risks of cesarean.
1. Consider a homebirth.
Yeah, I know this sounds so completely out of the box, but is a valid option to consider. I have personally witnessed some of the lowest cesarean rates in low risk, healthy women in a local homebirth practice. Believe it or not, research studies back me up on this.
There is something to be said about giving birth in your own home, not having to leave your home in the middle of labor (disrupting the flow of oxytocin), and having the extraordinary care from a competent and educated licensed midwife. The one-on-one care you receive via a homebirth midwife is incomparable to even a hospital midwife. The time, the relationship developed and the access to the midwife sets a mom up for success.
2. Hire a doula.
By having a doula present at your birth you will be more likely to have a vaginal birth (source) and less likely to need extras like epidurals and vacuum assisted births. Doulas lower the chance of having a cesarean birth. Amazing!
3. Avoid an induction.
In a nut shell, an induction increases the risk of a cesarean birth. (source)
“One-quarter of those who had a labor induction ended up needing a C-section, versus 14 percent of those who had a natural labor.”(source)
Familiarize yourself with common reasons for induction like low amniotic fluid and going past 40 weeks beforehand so you have an answer when the induction conversation happens.
4. Labor at home if possible.
In my experience, the further along a woman is in the labor process, the harder it is to disrupt the flow of oxytocin, which is the hormone that causes contractions. If a woman shows up at the hospital 1-5 cm, her labor pattern is more vulnerable to influences like adrenaline, which slows labor. If a woman shows up at the hospital 6 cm and up, her labor pattern is typically strong and resilient to any influences like adrenaline.
5. Plan for a natural birth.
Things like an epidural and pitocin greatly increase the risk of cesarean. Planning for a natural birth will help decrease the risk of cesarean. This is where childbirth education and hiring a doula are mandatory. You cannot simply hope for a natural birth, you must plan for one.
I once heard an OB ask their patient if she had taken a childbirth class. Mama answered no, to which the OB said, “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll walk you through it.”
Yeah… that won’t ever happen.
Maybe she’ll walk you through the pushing stage, but she sure isn’t going to walk you through pain coping techniques, how to labor at home, how to lower your chances of surgery and other interventions, etc.
You might think that women have been giving birth for eons and eons, so you’ll get through it just fine, right?
Here’s the thing – until recently, women have not had to give birth in the medical system that modern women do. Women used to attend each other’s births and gain knowledge and wisdom from each other.
Since birth switched from home to hospital, women have lost the wisdom gained from one another. Birth became something unseen. This then left the modern woman ignorant – navigating pregnancy, birth and the medical model. What a mess.
Birthing From Within childbirth classes, for an example, are an excellent mix of information learned and at the same time addressing the mother as a person, and how she can prepare for childbirth as a mother.
Whatever you do, find a good childbirth class to plug into. A good way to find a class is to send an email to a few local doulas asking their opinions on classes. Doulas are the information keepers of birth communities.
5. Breastfeeding Preparation is a Must
Women have been breastfeeding their babies for eons and eons, so breastfeeding books and classes are a waste of time, right? Nope.
The same reason childbirth preparation is a must can be applied to why breastfeeding preparation is a must. For awhile in the 1900s, breastfeeding almost went extinct (in America). Formula companies told doctors that their product was better than breast milk, formula was marketed to moms and everybody believed the lie.
The result was the loss of breastfeeding knowledge that was typically passed down from generation to generation. Ideas like how to get a good latch, how to know if your baby is getting enough and how to increase milk supply were lost. The profession of lactation consultant was born, and boy am I thankful. Contact a doula or a midwife to get a good referral if you end up needing some extra help.
Luckily, new moms today have more breastfeeding support than their mothers and grandmothers did, but we’re still not back to where we used to be. I highly recommend taking a prenatal breastfeeding class. Read great breastfeeding books like The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. Educate yourself and figure out what resources are in your community.
BONUS: Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) Is an Option
Because I love VBACs and because I had a hard time stopping at 5, add this to the list of things your OBGYN won’t tell you about how to have a better birth and postpartum.
For many women, a vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC) is a reasonable and safe choice. Many OBGYNs, at least where I live, do not tell women this. In fact, they often say that VBACs are dangerous and no doctor will do one. This is simply not true!
Recovering from a vaginal birth and caring for a newborn is much easier than recovering from a cesarean and caring for a newborn. I’ve experienced abdominal surgery 2 weeks postpartum and it was no picnic. Discharge instructions were to not pick up anything heavier than 5 pounds. Exactly how is a new mom supposed to comply with that?
And don’t get me started on the risks of repeated surgery.
Do Your Own Research
The one thing I hope you gleaned from this article is that you need to do your own research and advocate for yourself to achieve a better birth.
You are your advocate, and you will find nobody advocating for yourself like you would.
Speak up and let your voice be heard!