How To Make The Right Choices In Childbirth

By Samantha Thurlby-Brooks

Many people who are faced with birth complications will leave it up to their midwife or doctor to make decisions for them. This isn’t always a good thing to do. Why?

Your doctor or midwife may be the most dedicated natural birth advocate (or not) but they are not allowed to make choices for you. They are bound by the guidelines set out by the local health authority. These guidelines aren’t always up to date with best practise; they may treat you as a statistic rather than an individual without taking in other factors influencing your situation, and some are even there purely to make the hospital run smoother and reduce the time you are there. Many times the fear of being sued will dictate the guidelines or personal preferences of a doctor or midwife.

So, it’s down to you and your partner to get educated about your options before birth, understanding the benefits and risks of the common choices you may need to make. But what happens if there’s something unexpected? You can’t know everything there is to know (and neither can midwives or doctors), so how do you know you’re making the right choice during childbirth?

In the BirthWorks antenatal classes I teach, we encourage our students to trust their instincts when faced with something new. What does this mean? How can you listen to yourself when faced with a stressful situation? Well, check in with your body when you think of each option. Does your breathing quicken or do you hold your breath when you think about scenario one, tighten your jaw, stomach or fists? Or do you feel relieved and relaxed with scenario two? We know when we’re making our own right choice because our body screams ‘yes!’.

Take this for an example… You tell yourself you’re going to go to the gym this evening but you don’t go. How does your body feel in the evening when you don’t go? Do you feel relieved or guilty? How does this make you feel about yourself? Birth choices should be made in the same way because you’ll always know your own right answer. When you listen to your body you know you’ve done the right thing no matter what happens.

Using your body as a compass will help you make your own right choices and keep you feeling empowered through any type of birth; natural, instrumental, medicated or caesarean. I’ve had a few students faced with really serious situations. Their body told them the right answers for them in that situation, at the right time and everything turned out better than the other option would’ve.

One woman I was a doula for was pressured by the hospital to have a caesarean for a large baby. She wanted a home birth but at 42 weeks and two days she decided it would be best to birth in the hospital. Her baby was born naturally from a fast labour without drugs. He needed help at the last minute to birth the shoulders but on arriving into the world we discovered he had mucous on his lungs that prevented him from breathing. The paediatricians were already on standby and acted very quickly and he soon became a healthy thriving baby. Had the birth been at home it’s likely the story would’ve turned out differently. If she accepted a caesarean it would not have made any difference to the mucous on the lungs. It’s likely the vaginal birth pushed more out of the lungs and made the situation safer. The mother listened to her body instead of her original plan and made the right choices, felt very empowered by the whole event and looks back with good memories.

If you don’t listen to yourself you may have negative feelings for a long time. It’s my belief that this is one of the major causes of postnatal depression. Like a wedding day, birth isn’t ‘just one day’, it’s a source of self esteem and a life time of memories. How to make the right choices in childbirth? Listen to yourself.

“Giving birth is a life-changing event. The care that a woman receives during labour has the potential to affect her – both physically and emotionally, in the short and longer term – and the health of her baby.”
National Institute For Health & Care Excellence (NICE)

Samantha Thurlby-Brooks is the creator and director of Mumanu Ltd; specialising in pregnancy massage, postnatal massage and BirthWorks antenatal classes in London, UK. Samantha supports her clients with kindness, understanding, knowledge and a damn good rub! She is also the creator of the award winning Mumanu Pregnancy Pillow
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