Paying too much attention to early labour
You’ve been waiting a long 9 months for the big day to arrive so I totally get why you are anxious to start timing contractions. But focussing on them can just make each one feel worse and lengthen your latent phase.
The best thing is to try and ignore them. Practice breathing through them and carry on with your day as usual. If labour starts at night, make a cup of herbal tea, read a book and try to go to sleep between contractions.
Listen to a relaxing CD such as hypnosis or Calmbirth (sleep headphones are fantastic for this) and you may find yourself drifting off to sleep!
Going to the hospital too early
There are a few reasons women do this – they think they will be more relaxed once they get there, perhaps they think they will receive more support (from midwives) and they don’t want to have contractions in the car.
Most women will be told to go to the hospital when their contractions are 5 minutes apart. This not only makes them focus on their contractions (which is likely to slow down labour) but also it has no relevance to how far along you are in labour.
I have seen women have contractions that are 2-3 minutes apart straight away (but they only last for 30 seconds) and women who have contractions every 10 minutes but they last for 90 seconds. And they have both been in early labour.
Once you are checked in to the hospital the likelihood of interference goes up. Having your waters broken, epidural and continuous foetal monitoring and even the risk of having a caesarean.
Underestimating the importance of having good birth support
If you only intend on having your partner with you for your labour then I would highly recommend preparing him during your pregnancy. A man who isn’t prepared may actually become a source of frustration for the woman who idealised the big day. This anxiety and anger produces cortisol and can slow down her labour.
Not having a birth plan
Of course, not every birth goes to plan but having a few ideas about what you think you would like during labour is a great way to communicate to your midwives and doula what your expectations are.
Every woman is completely different and labour is a time when you want the “thinking” part of your brain to shut down so that labour can progress normally. One woman may not want any vaginal examinations if possible whereas another woman might wonder why the midwives don’t seem to be checking her often enough.
One woman might want constant massage from her partner and another woman might not like the idea of someone touching her. It is a good idea to discuss everything you can possibly think of with your midwife or doula beforehand, so you are not frustrated during labour and resentful afterwards.
Not being clear about the role of a midwife, obstetrician or doula
When I had my first baby my idea of the role of a midwife was completely incorrect. I expected my midwife to provide advice regarding the right herbs to use during labour. Then I expected her role to be more like that of a doula during labour. When my midwife asked me if I wanted a student doula at my birth my first thought was “ooh another person to give me massages”. Not surprisingly I was disappointed!
Knowing what I know now, I wish she had referred me to a herbalist during my pregnancy. Being a single mum to be at the time, I also wish I had read an article like this one so that I could’ve arranged for a girlfriend or doula to provide birth support.
A midwife makes sure that you and your baby are safe and things are progressing normally during labour. This means they will monitor your baby’s heart rate, perform vaginal examinations and give you tips for helping labour progress, like positioning techniques etc. Depending on how busy the hospital is at the time, she may not actually be present in the room a lot of the time until you are in transition.
If you choose an independent midwife (fully funded by the government in NZ and subsidised in Australia) then she will remain with you throughout your birth. Usually, you don’t ring her until you are in active labour because early labour can sometimes be 12 hours or longer. An independent midwife will provide continuity of care. This means that you will see her several times during your pregnancy and will feel comfortable with her by the time you go into labour.
An obstetrician has midwives working for them who will take care of you for most of your labour. The midwife will keep them informed of progress during the labour. He/she will check on you throughout the day and be called in when birth is imminent.
A doula is a birth support person, rather than a maternity carer. This means they provide support (emotional, physical and mental) to help you get through the first stage of labour. Basically all the touchy-feely maternal type support. They do not provide any kind of medical care such as vaginal examinations or advice on interventions during labour.
A doula will not drive a woman to the hospital. Every doula has a unique approach. Some may not provide massage during labour but might offer birth photography. Some may also be qualified in another field such as acupuncture or naturopathy and use naturopathic remedies during labour. It’s best to shop around so that you can choose a doula who shares the same beliefs as you, one you will feel the most comfortable with.
Not everyone can afford to have a doula to support them during birth. I would highly recommend you consider having an extra support person aside from your partner – a close girlfriend or relative is ideal.