Top 10 Childbirth and Pregnancy Questions

Here are the questions I get most often about childbirth and pregnancy!

How Painful is Natural Birth?

Pain in birth is very relative. Some women feel a lot of pain and some women feel no pain. There's really no way to predict what you will feel – but you can do a lot to prepare for birth so you'll be able to handle birthing even if you feel a lot of pain.

It's important to realize that you can and should go into birth with skills that help you cope with your labor – and work with your baby. It doesn't matter if your labor is painful, painless, short, long, etc. Understanding how to work with your birthing body and your baby makes any birth possible. These skills even help during procedures – even if an emergency c-section is needed.

Nobody can sugar-coat birth; it can be painful. But if you're ready to work with birth you can work with and through any pain or intensity to bring your baby into your arms.

What to Eat When You Feel Like You Can't

A lot of women just feel too queasy to eat, and when they do, it comes right back up. This can be pretty normal during pregnancy. If it gets extreme, however, you should talk to your doctor or midwife because you can begin getting dehydrated.

Many women find that yogurt is very easy to eat. A whole milk yogurt is good for you and your baby. Cheese is also good and some women can eat that even with morning sickness. Nuts, cold cuts, and fruits are other things women find easy to eat. Some women are able to get nutrients in through a daily smoothie (or two or three) – and a homemade smoothie is loaded with probiotic bacteria, too, which will help reduce morning sickness.

Small, frequent meals are your best bet. In fact, if you get sick you should try and eat something as soon as you can just so you can keep nutrition going for yourself and your baby.

Protein foods are especially important and can help reduce nausea. Try to avoid sugary foods and junk foods which won't do you or your baby any good and could cause you to become more queasy, though eating a protein and a carbohydrate every couple of hours really helps stay on top of nausea (apple slices and peanut butter or cheese, for instance, or yogurt with berries, string cheese with fruit, etc.)

Is There Any Way to Avoid an Episiotomy?

The female body is made to give birth – and that means the pelvic floor and those tissues are meant to stretch!!

Episiotomies have been performed because doctors believed that they were better than tears (some moms do tear). Research doesn't back this view up – in fact, an episiotomy can cause extensive damage because a woman tears past the episiotomy.

If you've ever tried to tear a piece of fabric in half it can be challenging, right? But if you put a little snip in the fabric first it becomes very easy! It's similar with the tissues in the pelvic floor.

Though episiotomies don't hurt when done, they hurt healing. Tears often hurt healing, too. You can reduce your chances of needing episiotomy or tearing.

Eat well during pregnancy. Also get out and walk or do some other gentle exercise often. Eating well will help keep your tissues healthy and soft. Getting up and getting moving will improve circulation all through your body, including down in your pelvic tissues.

Let the second stage (pushing stage) go naturally during your baby's birth. Don't push forcefully while someone counts and orders you to push. Push your baby out as your body gives you cues to do so – when you feel the urge to push. Stop and take a break when your body isn't telling you to push.

If your baby's head slips back a little, that's ok – this slight backwards and then forwards is ok and it gives your tissues time to stretch around your baby's head.

(NOTE: Want a Perfect Birth Plan Template? Use this template and step-by-step videos to write a birth plan that gets your birth team on your side for a beautiful birth experience! Get the kit here.)

Handle Labor Pain

Does Labor Medication Affect the Baby?

Yes.

Hosptial childbirth classes and doctors often say that medications do not transfer to the baby. This is not true. Medications can get to the baby. Medications also change the way a mother's body functions during labor, which alters her own hormonal balance and affects that of a newborn. It interferes with bonding and maternity nurses say that both mother and baby have a harder recovery after an epidural.

You can read more about labor medications and how they effect mom and baby in this article: The Epidural and Other Medications.

How Do You Know You're in Early Labor?

First, remember to be patient and grateful, it makes a big difference!

Dilation and effacement are poor indicators of either when your birthing time will begin or how quickly things will progress.
Strong Signs Things are Getting Started

  • Strong, close contractions that don’t stop when you change activities.
  • Contractions that steadily build and come at regular intervals
  • Water breaking. It may take time for contractions to start or become regular.

Slow Build-Up?
It’s possible that you won’t have the clear signs above; things may start to happen slowly for you, over a few days or even weeks. The term “prodromal labor” is used when things seem to get started, then putter out. This usually happens in the evening.

Don’t get stuck in a negative mindset during this time. Instead, rest, relax, take it easy, and honor yourself 🙂 Look at it as your body gearing up and getting ready. Take extra naps, eat well, etc. so you’re rested when “the real thing” happens!

More Signs Things Could be Happening

  • Baby “drops” – called lightening. This usually happens a couple of weeks before labor in first-time moms, and just before or during labor for subsequent babies.
  • Strong nesting urge (don’t wear yourself out!)
  • Losing the mucus plug, or having a “bloody show” – mucus streaks or a glob of pink or red tinged mucus.
  • Feeling slightly crampy, like period cramps
  • Persistent lower back-ache, especially if it’s radiating around to your front
  • Braxton-hicks become regular and frequent
  • Loose bowels
  • You will know when the real thing is happening!

How Can I Have More Energy?

Happily for you, you'll probably find you have more energy as your pregnancy progresses! I have always felt exhausted during the first couple months of pregnancy, and that gradually wears as I get past those first weeks.

It's so common that exhaustion is considered an early pregnancy sign!

Extra protein is an excellent way to get an energy boost. Eating small, frequent meals to keep your protein levels and your blood sugar balanced can help. A meal that combines protein with a little fruit may be helpful. A green supplement, like liquid chlorophyll drops, can also help.

Rest when you need to. If you need an extra nap during the day, take it. Go to bed at a good time. You may also find that daily walks actually improve your energy level, so shoot for a walk or two every day.

Midwife Wants to Induce, Any Tips?

It's completely normal to wonder if labor will ever start… and a midwife or doctor pressuring you with induction can make those feelings even harder to deal with.

It's also very normal to get Braxton-hicks contractions, or “practice” contractions… and these contractions can feel very strong! They make your belly hard just like “real” contractions. In fact, they also do good to get your body ready for labor just like the real thing.

But when you're overdue and anxiously awaiting labor it can be very hard to figure out if you're feeling real labor coming on or not. In general, real contractions won't stop when you change what you're doing. If you sit, stand, take a nap, etc. they keep coming. They also tend to be felt all over – from your back to the front of your uterus, and sometimes up high. Braxton-hicks are often felt just in the front. Some women notice that their contractions have a “cramp-y edge” like period cramps. This is often a good sign labor is actually beginning. You may also notice a bloody show, which is a good sign labor will get going. See the labor starting question above for more detail.

If possible, I would try to make sure that you are doing all you can to bring on labor naturally, because it's good to let labor begin on its own – and as you know it's easier to have a natural birth if you have not been induced. In fact, you can refuse an induction.

Induction uses synthetic oxytocin to cause your uterus to contract. Unlike natural oxytocin, however, it does not cross the blood-brain barrier. That means you get contractions without the “feel-good” effects. It overloads the body's oxytocin receptors, meaning even after your baby is born your natural oxytocin isn't as effective and able to do its important bonding work. Induction alters labor, period.

Click here to read more on oxytocin, induction, and while you want the real deal.

It is generally safe to let labor begin on its own and you and your baby are both safer after natural labor.

Click to get more information on chemical labor induction.

Can I Have a Natural Birth With My Next Baby?

Yes, you can most likely have a natural birth with your next baby, especially if your c-section was for something like a breech baby, and often if it was for something vague like “failure to progress.”

It's important to find a caregiver who is supportive of “VBAC,” which means, vaginal birth after cesarean. There are many midwives and some doctors comfortable with VBAC deliveries, so shop around and find someone in your area.

It's also important to take great care of yourself and prepare for childbirth. Doing so will greatly increase your chances of having the natural birth you'd like to have. Check out the resources here:

Healthy Pregnancy

and here:

Natural Childbirth Basics & Preparing for a Natural Birth

Which Birthing Preparation Course?

It can be really hard to decide which birthing course to go through, because they all have good aspects to them.

Getting comfortable with your body as it prepares for birth is really important. You want to have confidence when you go into labor. Confidence comes from developing the skills needed to handle whatever form your labor takes – fast, long, little pain, lots of pain, doctors, midwives, etc. etc.

I recommend that all women take independent natural childbirth classes for that reason. Hospital classes just aren't comprehensive and are often designed with the assumption that a mother will use medications and all interventions offered at the hospital.

Taking a natural childbirth class with an independent instructor in your town can be a great experience because you'll meet other couples due around the same time as you (Bradley classes are a good choice).

If you don't have a good class in your town, or if your schedule won't allow you to attend, check out my online childbirth class. I've designed it to be comprehensive and meet your needs – you'll get info to make informed decisions, plus reassurance and practical strategies so you know how to work with your body and your baby during labor.

We have a live, weekly tele-class (listen online or via phone) so you can get answers to all of your questions, and the class is recorded if you miss a week.

Click here for more info on MamaBaby Birthing Classes

Preparing for Natural Childbirth

A lot of the work of natural childbirth is done long before you ever go into labor.

It starts by taking good care of yourself. Eat a good pregnancy diet and get outside to get exercise regularly.

After you're taking good care of yourself you should start learning about the birth process and more about birth preparation.

You should also consider a good childbirth course, either an independent class in your city, or I've created an online class that may be a good fit for you: MamaBaby Birthing Classes

How Can I Prevent Excessive Bleeding at My Next Delivery?

Pay extra-special attention to nutrition and work on boosting your blood supply.

Eat foods naturally high in iron that is easily absorbed (meats and egg yolks) – and try to eat them with citrus foods which are said to increase absorption even more (example: eggs with orange slices).

Drink herbal teas – red raspberry, nettle, and red clover are good for pregnancy support and boosting the blood.

Do make sure you salt your food to taste – your blood volume expands dramatically during your third trimester (by a full third of its volume). Salting your food to taste helps your body keep up this expansion, meaning a healthier you and a healthier baby.

It also increases circulation and keeps all of your organs healthier – including your uterus which needs to clamp right down.

You may also want to work on some affirmations – something like “my labor is going smoothly and easily, my uterus clamps down right away after my baby's delivery.”

And always go for a gentle third stage of labor – no cord traction or rushing if possible. Make sure the third stage is as uninterrupted as possible – no cord clamping, no “chatting” from others in the room. Just you and your baby. Don't put a hat on your baby's head. No clothes on baby's body – your baby should come right up to your chest and both of you can be covered with blankets. The smell of your baby's head engages hormone receptors in your body that tell your uterus to contract and stop bleeding. Your baby's skin against your skin regulates his/her temperature, blood pressure, breathing, and even blood glucose (sugar). Nature has designed birth to work, without excess bleeding.

Click here to read even more on preventing postpartum hemorrhage

That's plenty to get you thinking about pregnancy and birth! If you'd like more, be sure to sign up for my natural birth cheat sheet by clicking below!

(NOTE: Want a Perfect Birth Plan Template? Use this template and step-by-step videos to write a birth plan that gets your birth team on your side for a beautiful birth experience! Get the kit here.)

Handle Labor Pain
Top 10 Childbirth Questions

About the author 

Kristen

Kristen is childbirth educator, student midwife, and a mama to 8 - all born naturally! She has spent years helping mamas have healthy babies, give birth naturally, and enjoy the adventure of motherhood. Find her on her website NaturalBirthandBabyCare.com and helping families through her online childbirth class MamaBabyBirthing.com

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