don't prepare for birth

Let me start by just getting this out the way. I’m NOT about laying on the guilt. At all. And this post is not a let-me-beat-you-into-guilty-submission kinda post.

It’s more along the vibes of… here’s how things *could* go…. please listen and try not to repeat someone else’s mistake.

Ok, now that I’ve got that out the way, let’s carry on.

It’s very possible that you’ve heard people say “Don’t prepare for birth… there’s really no need. We’re built for this, you’ll be fine”.  Hmmm… that’s not really great advice. It’s times like this when a true story helps.

What happens when you don’t prepare for birth

I cannot even begin to guess how many emails I’ve received from mamas who wish they had done things differently for their first pregnancy and births.

Like this one;

“I had a pretty terrible experience first time round. After listening to your podcasts, I think I put all my faith in the medical team which was great because my little man got here safe and sound but in the meantime I felt like I wasn’t informed and that a lot of the choices were made for me.

I am really trying to have a better birth experience this go around. I did a birth center birth with my son that ended in a hospital transfer and a very sloppy, upsetting delivery. I’m thankful I was able to birth my son vaginally, however, the whole thing really affected me negatively. I find myself quite fearful this time and am trying to sort out and prepare as best I can.”

This is a common story that I’ve seen recounted too many times on social media too.

Let’s take a closer look at what she says to try and understand what really happened. Because it’s only then you can learn from her mistake

“I put all my faith in the medical team ….”

Putting your faith in the medical team isn’t a bad thing and often we need to do it. But as a general rule, it shouldn’t be the starting point for the pregnancy-birth journey.

Pregnancy and birth isn’t a passive experience where you can sit back and let other people take over. You need to step up and take control of it. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility. The medical team are there to support you, not to lead. But unfortunately many women don’t realise this.

This is the kind of thing you learn when you prepare or take a class. You learn more about the kind of birth that you want, and the kind you don’t want;

  • Where you want it – hospital or not?
  • Which hospital or maternity unit?
  • When to have it … should you accept that induction or not at 40 weeks?
  • What type of pain relief you will want

So many things to consider… some of which you might not have thought about.

 

“I felt like I wasn’t informed and that a lot of the choices were made for me.”

We have the right to make ALL the choices during our pregnancy and birth. But it’s hard to make choices when you don’t understand the question being asked, or the various options available to you.

If faced with a question that you don’t know how to answer, you will usually defer to someone else… someone who knows more than you.

During pregnancy or birth, this is usually your care provider. So if they ask you a question you can’t answer and you defer to them, you immediately hand over the power to the medical team.

Often, a decision needs to be made, and because you couldn’t make it, they did.

This can often feel like things have been taken out of your hands (and this feels like losing control of things).

Of course, sometimes you get some really horrid healthcare providers that simply don’t ask you and make a decision without you.

But if you’re savvy, you can usually spot this happening and, with your partner or birth companion, put a stop to it before it’s too late.

Asking questions if you’re not sure about what you’re being asked, is totally fine by the way. But thinking things through like this in the middle of labour isn’t ideal. You might be tired and exhausted – not the ideal state to be making important decisions. Much better to make them when you’re feeling calm and not under pressure while you’re pregnant.

You might feel you need more time to think things through, and maybe you don’t have the time you need, so you feel pressured to give an answer. An answer you may later regret.

“[My] birth ended in a hospital transfer and a very sloppy, upsetting delivery… the whole thing really affected me negatively.”

It’s such a shame that her birth has affected her so negatively. But this happens a lot.

The negative effects of birth have a tendency to ripple outward into other areas of your life. The negative feelings could affect your ability to recover from birth, your willingness or ability to breastfeed and how you feel about your baby. They could also affect your relationship. Individually, these are all important aspects, but it could be that they ALL get affected, in which case things could be quite a struggle emotionally. Not a great start to the motherhood journey.

She finishes by saying

“I find myself quite fearful this time and am trying to sort out and prepare as best I can.”

This implies that she didn’t prepare as best as she could the first time around… and that she wished she did. She’s making up for it this time.

This is why she’s preparing .. to avoid a re-run of her first birth.

Please don’t be this person.

There is nothing worse that filling your head with ‘what ifs’.

I’m not saying that preparing or going to classes will guarantee that you avoid a situation like this, because it won’t. But it will definitely help to stack the odds in your favour that it won’t.

So if someone tells you “don’t prepare for birth” please ignore them.

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Alexia Leachman

Alexia is the host of the Fear Free Childbirth podcast and the author of Fearless Birthing, Childbirth, Midwifery & the Media, and Clear Your Head Trash.

Alexia supports families planning pregnancy and birth. She helps them to overcome their fears and feel calm and confident about birth and pregnancy.

Alexia also trains birth professionals in the Fearless Birthing, a unique approach to birth preparation that is ideal for those who have fears around birth.
Alexia Leachman
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