Navigating the complexities of childbirth well requires informed decisions and an understanding of the options available to you. To do that, you need some direction. Dive into our comprehensive guide to gain insights into birth locations, pain relief methods, creating a birth plan, and deciphering medical jargon. Whether you're anticipating the arrival of your baby or merely seeking knowledge, these articles aim to empower and reassure you on this transformative journey.
This decision where to birth your baby (or babies) is personal and one that requires you to be very honest with yourself. Where will you feel most safe, most comfortable and most positive? For now however, a summary of ‘top line’ considerations regarding the choice between Private, Public and Home births is below.
A private hospital may be the best option for you if;
*Prior to choosing a private hospital, it is very important to check that Pregnancy & Birth is covered within your package. It’s also important to understand exactly what is covered, how much you’re likely to be out of pocket and if there are any lead times to consider. For example most health providers have a 12 month lead time before you gain access to the cover. If you fall pregnant before you add Pregnancy & Birth to your insurance, or if you add it during your pregnancy, your options will be compromised.
A public hospital may be the best option for you if;
A home birth may be an option for you if;
Get prepared. Have your hospital bag by the door.
A vaginal delivery means bypassing major surgery. Generally speaking, the recovery time following a vaginal delivery will be shorter and less challenging on the body. With the exception of women who experience a 3rd or 4th degree tear or other complications during birth, you should be able to go home sooner than if you were to have a caesarean (i.e. after 1-2 days, as opposed to 3-6).
Another benefit of a vaginal delivery, is that when the baby is squeezed down the birth canal, most of the fluid in their lungs will be squeezed out via their mouth, making them more comfortable after birth.
Babies born via caesarean need help ridding this fluid and are therefore at a higher risk of transient tachypnea (TTN).
Lastly, when it comes to breastfeeding, your milk may arrive a little sooner that what it would after a caesarean, and feeding may feel slightly less painful as you won't have a wound in your abdomen.
Delivering vaginally can include pelvic floor damage such as prolapse and incontinence. To prevent these outcomes it’s highly advised to work with a women’s health physio in the lead up to the birth. They’ll be able to walk you through some exercises and provide direct feedback as to areas you may need to work on.
Other risks include but are not limited to postpartum haemorrhage (drastic loss of blood), vaginal tears (tears in the perineum tissue which rests your vagina and anus), and postpartum preeclampsia (excessively high blood pressure).
If within the first 6 weeks post delivery you’re dizzy, lightheaded, nauseated or you’re seeing spots or flashing lights, make contact with your health practitioner asap for urgent treatment.
To mitigate risk during your delivery, make sure you remain open and honest with your midwife, obstetrician or GP throughout your pregnancy. While not everything can be controlled or predicted, keeping a close eye on your pregnancy can help to prevent unforeseen issues during labour.
So... What Actually Happens
A vaginal birth is a natural and primal experience. On your back, your side or on all fours, your body will know what to do - trust us. Here are some things to know.
Contractions occur when the uterine muscles tighten and relax in a continuous motion as your body prepares to birth your baby. In the earlier stages of labour, contractions are likely to be irregularly timed, short and sharp. They can be anywhere from 45 minutes (or less) to hours apart, each lasting around 20-30 seconds.
Generally speaking, when your contractions become strong, painful to the point you may be unable to speak, 45-60 seconds each and they've occurred five minutes apart for around an hour, it's a good sign to make contact with your birth team. Grab your hospital bag as it's likely to be 'go time'! Like everything else, if you're in doubt or confused whether to stay at home or go into hospital - always call your team to be safe.
Whether in the movies or in pregnancy books, we've all heard about the phrase '10cm dilated!" Dilation refers to the size of the cervix opening, where your baby will come out. Your cervix is continuously checked during the early stages of labour by your midwife via a vaginal examination (with your consent). The reason being; the size of the cervix opening is a good indication of the progression of your labour.
The time it takes to dilate will differ for all women. You might arrive at the birth ward all excited and ready to go at 6cm, only to find that it takes hours and hours to get to 10cm. You will get there! Deep breaths.
Bring in pain relief
Aside from the pain relief offered by your birthing team (for example the gas, epidural, spinal block etc), you may like to consider bringing in some other pain relief options from home. These may include;
- A heat pack for your lower back
- A TENS machine. A TENS machine is attached to your back with sticky pads and its job is to send electrical impulses to certain parts of the body to block pain signals.
- Soothing music for distraction
- Magnesium oil to rub into your lower back, helping any strained muscles to relax
- Your partner or doula for massage
- Pushing or bearing down
As your labour progresses and your baby's head lowers, this will place pressure on your lower pelvis. At this point, many women feel a very strong urge to push or poo. The latter is totally normal, it's a common sign of birth approaching! Despite your body's instinctive response (to push), it's important to communicate with your birthing team before doing so.
The reason for this is that you might not actually be 10cm dilated yet and as your body is still contracting, there are certain times when pushing is optimal and certain times when pushing is not. Follow the guidance from your birth team to help you find a nice rhythm while also lowering the risk of tearing or other pelvic floor damage.
Bring in assistance
Forceps and a ventouse are instruments that protectively hold or suck onto the baby’s head, allowing the birth team to gently (and safely) pull and assist your baby through the birth canal and then through the vagina.
Examples of when your birth team may opt to use either of these tools for assistance include (but are not limited to);
- If after a certain duration of pushing, the baby is having trouble coming through the birth canal
- If there are concerns for the baby's heart rate or if the baby is showing signs of fatigue or distress
- If the baby has wriggled or turned into an 'awkward' potion making it harder for you to push them out
- If you are showing signs of fatigue or;
- If you have pre-existing medical conditions that have to be considered (i.e. previous heart issues)
A caesarean is the surgical delivery of a baby through an incision in the mother's abdominal wall and their uterus. When your baby is gently pulled out by the obstetrician, the umbilical cord will be clamped and cut. Your baby will then be checked over by a paediatrician, before hopefully coming to you to start skin-to-skin on your chest. We suggest having a conversation with your obstetrician in the lead up to your birth, to let them know you want to start skin to skin as soon as possible, after birthing your baby.
While you’re enjoying this special moment, the obstetrician will remove your placenta (through the same incision) and stitch you up. As a caesarean is a major surgery, you will experience some pain and discomfort for a period of time, as the wound heals. For this reason, your hospital stay post birth may be up around 5 days.
If you’re a planner, in the case of an elected caesarean, what an advantage to know exactly when your baby will greet you!. On a more serious note, the benefits of a caesarean include less trauma endured by the vagina and reduced risk of postpartum incontinence and/or pelvic floor damage such as prolapse.
If you’re planning an elected caesarean, like all births there are some elements to consider. Some of the reasons a caesarean may be a good birth option for you include:
A caesarean is the surgical delivery of a baby through an incision in the mother's abdominal wall and their uterus. Like all things in life, there are both pros and cons to having a caesarean, but it is major surgery and as such, carries certain risks. These should be spoken about with your obstetrician as they will vary with every woman and every pregnancy.
Risks to consider include (but are not limited to); pain, the risk of an infection in the uterus lining or at the incision site, greater loss of blood, the development of blood clots (hence the compression socks you’ll be asked to wear), a longer recovery time (both in hospital and potentially when you return home) and a reaction to the anaesthetic. Talk to your medical practitioner to learn more.
Unlike an elected caesarean, an emergency caesarean is not scheduled but required as a matter of urgency due to reasons including (but not limited to);
Keep in mind that while a caesarean is a common method of delivery, it is also a major abdominal surgery meaning you’ll be in an operating theatre rather than a birth suite. It may feel and look a lot more clinical, however rest assured you’re in safe hands.
So how will it all unfold?
Everything else you need to know
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