What do you know about giving birth, mama? An experienced midwife is here with her top 6 tips for having an empowering, happy and intervention-free birth in Singapore!
Natural Birth, Gentle Birth, Active Birth…what do they all mean? Please welcome experienced midwife and birthing instructor Red Miller of Love Based Birth to let you know about medical interventions and when they are and are not necessary in the birthing process. In this 3-part series Red also presents her top tips on the importance of self-care during pregnancy along with Top 8 tips for intervention-free labour. But first, it’s important to find out what a medical intervention actually is!
As ever, we want to let you know that Sassy Mama supports every kind of birth, and respects every woman’s decision around what to do with her body. We just want to help you get informed! For even more on giving birth in Singapore, be sure to check out our Ultimate C-Section Guide and Guide to Natural Birth in Singapore. Now take it away, Red!
Interventions in birth are skyrocketing all around the world including Singapore. Meanwhile, more research than ever is pointing to the lifelong benefits for women and babies having the exact opposite – gentle, non-interventive birth.
Access to birth interventions can be lifesaving; it is their overuse that has many professionals, educators and parents concerned. For example, the World Health Organization states that when Cesarean sections are used appropriately they would occur in roughly 10% of births, the remaining 90% of babies would be born vaginally. However many hospitals have Caesarean rates of 30% and upwards.
The passive approach of ‘I’ll leave all the decisions up to my doctor’ will not automatically result in a gentle, intervention-free birth. So if that is what you are looking for, you’ll need a game plan.
The best outcomes are born from parents taking a lead role, actively participating in the care they receive.
It is my goal to educate parents to become informed consumers, to understand their rights and inspire them to commit to the process. Naturally, the choices made will vary greatly, no two families or births are ever identical.
To go any further we need to get clear on the language.
Gentle birth generally is a birth without interventions, although some interventions can accompany a gentle birth.
A baby being born out the vagina does not automatically mean an intervention-free birth.
There are many forms of interventions ranging from the position a women is told to be in while giving birth, through to a Cesarean section.
Studies on this topic indicate that birth with a midwife at a birth centre or at home have the lowest rates of intervention. As independent midwives are not an integrated part of the Singapore maternal health system, let’s discuss how to work within the system available.
This is a series of 3 articles and in each we will look at 20 key points that will help you have an intervention-free birth. These first 6 points that are the foundation core for the others to follow:
1. Find an OBGYN who will support you towards your vision
Don’t underestimate the importance of this first step!
Choosing an obstetrician for pregnancy and birth is an interview process. There are many different experiences and philosophies of birth so finding a match may take several attempts.
Ask open-ended questions like: “In what instances would you see the need to cut an episiotomy?’ (The WHO advocates episiotomies be reserved for emergencies, not as a routine.) Turn on your intuition when hearing the answer. If you have ANY red flags, interview someone else.
Your goal is to find a practitioner who practices evidenced based medicine. If you are not sure what that means, fast-forward to number 5 and get enrolled in a class sooner then later.
2. Partner with your care providers
There is no such thing as mandatory tests or procedures.
Being provided with all the information you need to make an informed decision is your right: it’s called informed consent. Commit to actively partnering with your care providers, take responsibility for the outcomes of your choices, and get a second opinion if in doubt.
The journey towards parenthood is not meant to be a passive one, parenting decisions start well before your baby is in your arms. The more confident you are now, the more empowered you will feel as a result.
3. Use general language when referring to ‘due date’
Full term pregnancy is considered 37-42 weeks; that is a full 5-week time span! Some babies take longer to be ready for the world than others; the length for gestating is not an exact science.
Give yourself a few weeks’ buffer and use general rather then fixed dates in your language. While you and your OBGYNs schedules are important, so is your baby’s.
Say, ‘My baby will be born sometime at the end of April’ rather than ‘My due date’ is April 15th ’.
You might decide to tell your family, friends and colleagues your ‘due date’ is 2 weeks later than it actually is. This approach will help you avoid the pressure put at the end of the third trimester when well-meaning friends and family start calling and asking: ‘Are you STILL pregnant?’
Remember, avoiding labour induction is a key to an intervention-free birth; 40 weeks is not an expiration date.
4. Fill your mind, body and spirit with positive birth images and stories
‘Birth is excruciating’. We are bombarded with and have been absorbing negative images, stories and commentary throughout our lives. It is now your mission to find positive stories.
When people want to tell you the details of their difficult birth, give yourself permission to lovingly stop them mid-sentence. Start building a protective bubble around yourself and only fill it with positive birth images and stories. Believe and own in every cell of your body that you were made to give birth and your body and baby know what to do is essential.
Cruising YouTube is not the safest mode, I have a dedicated section on my website of great birth videos, watch them often!
5. Enrol in a birth preparation class by an independent educator
Most hospital classes will prep you to be a good patient; you will learn all about the routine interventions and why they are important.
An independent educator, on the other hand, will help you understand your options, your rights, how to work with your body and navigate the system. Partners also attend the class; you’ll get on the same page, which will be invaluable on your birthing day.
6. Learn to breathe
Your breath will be your best friend in birth. It is the one and only thing in the process you can truly control.
It is the ultimate focus point, oxygenating your muscles (the uterus is a muscle remember) and helping your body to relax and open with ease. Spend at least 5 minutes every day focusing on your breath. There are many easy-to-learn breathing techniques.
With these foundation tips you’re already well on your way to giving your baby the gift of a gentle start. In the next article I’ll cover the benefits of actively practicing relaxation, how to include baby in your birth plans and more.