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Last week I had the first of my two ante natal classes. I didn't really know what to expect, I had visions of the 'Friends' episode where Ross attends a Lamaze class with Carol and Susan; all sat in a huddle on the floor, role playing birth and breathing techniques! Thankfully, that was not the case.
The class was held at the birth centre where I plan to give birth and was free. I had looked into the NCT classes but felt I couldn't justify the cost with all the other baby bits the money could go towards. Plus, Paul does shift work so wouldn't have been able to attend all classes. My midwife assured me that all I would need to know would be covered in the class at the birth centre, which is run by the local midwife team.
The first session covered a 'normal' labour and birth. We started off by writing down our hopes and fears for our labours and births. It was a good exercise to chat to other mums and share our hopes and worries, most of which were the same. After this the midwife leading the course went through the stages of labour; what to expect, what our bodies do any why. I had already done some reading about this in my Natal Hypnotherapy book and an information book from Aptamil. The idea of the oxytocins and the relaxin fits in with the Natal Hypnotherapy ideals of calm mum, clam baby, calmer, less painful labour. (You can find out about the stages of labour here)
I found this really helpful, to know what to expect and to understand what is happening to my body, and why. Everything it does is for a reason. Some key things I took away from the class were:
- Labour is hard work, after all that's what the word labour means. But, it is hard work with a reward at the end.
- People may say they have been in labour for hours/days, however, you are classed as being in active labour when you are 4cm dilated. Even then, you always have a 'break' between contractions, giving your body time to relax and help you preserve energy.
- Labour is a journey, you may take the motorway, the A roads, get diverted on to the B roads or even the country roads. Whatever road you take you always get to your destination.
- Our pelvises have a wider opening if standing, crouching, leaning forward. (Have your legs slightly apart and put a finger on your pelvic bone and one your coccyx. Lean forward and backwards. You will feel quite a difference in the space between your fingers. Leaning forward the space is bigger.) Therefore giving birth laying down is not the optimal position.
- Women who are paralysed from the neck or waist down can still give birth naturally. Our body does 80% of the work, with us just putting in the last 20%.
- Because of our lifestyles today, more sitting down, driving etc there are a lot more back to back babies born. In the 1950s when the majority of women were housewives their lifestyle meant that the baby wouldn't end up back to back, as gravity didn't take it there. In later pregnancy you can do things to help avoid a back to back baby. Lean forward more when sitting down, no slouching. It's OK to do a bit of housework on your hands and knees! Get walking.
The second ante natal class was held this week and was all about pain relief, what could go wrong and what interventions may be needed. As the midwife said, they didn't want to scare anyone, but not knowing what could go wrong and therefore what interventions could take place would be much scarier at the time, so best to be aware.
What, if any, pain relief a mother decides to use is up to her, some are more suitable for different times during the labour. Others may work for some people and not others:
Latent and early stages of labour. The best things you can try to relieve the contraction pains are things most of us will have at home.
- Distraction, take your mind off the contractions; watch a film, bake a cake, read a book, listen to music...
- Have a bath, the water relaxes you and your muscles. Light some candles, play some music.
- Take paracetamol, it will take the edge off.
- Hot water bottle.
- TENS machine. These can be hired from our birth centre, so I would have thought other hospitals and centres do the same. It sends a small electric signal to your muscles and dulls the pain. The intensity can be turned up and down.
Active labour. By this time you will probably be at the hospital/birth centre. Depending on how you are coping with the pain a lot of the above will still work. I hope not to go to the next level of pain relief unless I really feel I need to! I hope with the support of Paul and the midwife I can do as much without major pain relief as possible.
- Gas and air. This is one pain relief I don't mind using, if I feel the need to. I have had gas and air before, after I broke my leg a few years ago, so I know what to expect. Gas and air is not for everyone, but I find it works for me. It is quick to get into your system, about 20-30 seconds and just as quick to get out; it is safe for the baby, in fact it is possibly good for you and the baby. Gas and air is 50% oxygen and so good for you and your baby's blood.
- Pethidine. This is something I didn't know much about until the class. It is not a pain killer as such, but a relaxant. It is administered by injection. It makes you and your baby drowsy and stays in your system for about 4 hours. Because of this the timing of the administration of Pethidine is quite important. The midwives/doctors do not want you and your baby drowsy for the actual delivery. So it will be calculated on your dilation and whether the drowsiness would have worn off by the time they expect you to deliver. Pethidine may be a good idea for you if you have had a really long early labour, you are extremely tired and just need some rest while your cervix continues to dilate before delivery. It will give you a chance to get some rest and get your energy back for pushing.
- Epidural. This can only be administered in hospital as it is done by an anaesthetist. As I plan to give birth at the birth centre this option would not be available to me and after seeing what is involved I don't really want one anyway! It may be different in your hospital, but the one I would go to, if I had any problems, inject a very small tube into your back and the drug is then put on a drip. You would then have to stay on the bed for the birth as your movement is restricted.
Following the classes and the reading I have done on natal hypnotherapy I am even more determined to go through labour and birth with as little intervention as possible. I know my body could give birth even without my help! However, I am also not going to say 'never say never'. At the end of the day I will do what I need to do to have a healthy baby and be healthy myself. If that means I need to have a little help along the way, then so be it. Whatever road I take on my labour journey I will get to my destination and that is all that matters.
Please ask your midwife or doctor if you have any questions on the above. The information is what i have taken from the classes and may not be 100% correct (I have tried to be as accurate as possible).
Have a lovely Sunday.