Friday, October 30, 2009

The Value of Water

Water is such an important component of labor support. This will not be a statistical/medical discussion, just my observations.  Hydration is extremely important  during labor, so coaches need to be vigilant about encouraging the laboring mom to consume lots of liquids.  Unfortunately, labor also brings on nausea so there are definitely times only ice chips or IV fluids are invaluable.

Water is an important component to getting an epidural.  By flooding the system with fluids, it can benefit blood pressure level.  And it is really amazing how much hydration is needed during labor - the body is working so hard!

But what I love about water in labor is the use of a tub or shower.  Imagine the sense of warmth and privacy a shower can provide. I really like to keep lights low in the bathroom and with dad supporting through either physically holding the shower head, pressure on the back, verbal coaching, moms can let go in a shower.  As the steam builds a mom can feel warm and fuzzy and relaxed and contractions feel less intense. Gravity, if she is standing, can help move babies down while moms are more relaxed. If there is back labor, having the warm water on her back can provide relief through the water temperature or just the feel of the water on her lower back.  And if a mom's water bag is ruptured or she is bleeding a little, hopping in the shower can give her a sense of cleanness.  When a mom has worked through the night of labor, getting a shower at the beginning of morning just gives her a sense of renewed commitment.

If a family is home, using a shower to relax a mom for sleep or to help her regroup from feeling overwhelmed is a wonderful support tool. Many moms have had several showers during labor because they loved the result.

I have always felt that a shower is a great exchange for a narcotic - same effect of relief but no side effects. There have been so many times a mom has used the shower only to see amazing results in dialation or progress.

But many times it is still a struggle to get a laboring mom is be open to the idea of a shower in labor. She is not sure her ability to cope with labor will continue if she is getting up, undressed, etc.  I can only say in 99% of the cases, moms have said it was wonderful, and we have a harder time getting them out of the shower, than we did getting them into the shower.  So next time a doula suggests a shower, don't be afraid to try it.  You'll be so glad you did.

Stay tuned for a blog on waterbirths - another great use of water.

Monday, October 26, 2009

First birth - Experience

When first time parents are facing their birth,some have found the support of a doula to be a nice addition to their team. This first time birthing couple had plans to go unmedicated, feeling it would be a safer birth for mom and baby.  When labor began, dad did a great job of coaching mom through positions and breathing at home.  Doula was able to give suggestions by phone and with labor going fairly quickly, the team regrouped at the hospital.  Mom arrived already dialated to 7cm which was exciting.  In the hospital room, dad and doula helped mom try different positions including using the birth ball and within 3 hours mom was ready to push.  Different positions were tried for pushing and their baby girl arrived safely in less than 2 hours of pushing.  This unmedicated vaginal birth was an exciting ending to their pregnancy journey.

There was a downside to this birth - having personality issues with the first nurse who was there the first 3 hours.  You never know in labor whom your medical staff will be  - having a continuous labor support person in the room can make a difference to having a calm labor room for mom and dad to enjoy the birth.

The mom made this comment after the birth : 
I concentrated on getting through each contraction rather then the entire process and what was going on around me, or what was going to happen next.  I stayed in the moment of each contraction.

This birth will be a great memory to myself and the parents!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Do we need to  rid ourselves totally of all fear of labor?  Realistically this is probably not going to happen.  But we can reduce the fear.  Knowledge helps us reduce fear - if I know that babies actually do emerge from moms' bodies all the time, it really does work, I have seen it over and over in videos and talked to other moms, then that knowledge should work in my favor when I suddenly face fear in pushing. When my mind is suddenly saying, "How am I going to get this baby out?"  If I tell myself with each pushing contraction, "I can do this" or "This is working", I will be working with the natural forces inside of me to produce the baby and pushing the fear aside.

If I know in advance that there will be sensations that are normal to labor - nausea - shakiness - hot/cold flashes - then could I use that information to remind myself that these "normal labor" sensations are telling me that labor is progressing, that my body is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing to complete this task? 

So knowledge is one way to reduce the fear.  What doesn't help is hearing numerous negative birth stories from everyone we meet.  A mom's memory of her birth is her own - good or bad.  But we need to remind ourselves that each of us will uniquely experience this journey and that others' experiences are their own - not ours - this knowledge can help us to move forward to build our own birth story, hopefully with less fear and more determination of the job ahead.