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This content is taken from the Trinity College Dublin's online course, Journey to birth. Join the course to learn more.

Staying in control of your birth

You are birthing your baby, so why is it that women may feel that birthing is out of their control? Remember, you know your body and your baby better than anyone else.

How can you stay in control of your birth?

  • Believe in yourself.
  • Build on your knowledge of birthing.
  • Prepare your body by being physically active.
  • Prepare your mind by using relaxation or imagery techniques.
  • Make every moment count with midwives before birth.
  • Try to visit or seek out photos of the unit/birthing centre/delivery suite that you will be birthing in.
  • Familiarise yourself with your birth setting.
  • Encourage your birth partner to prepare themselves.
  • Encourage your birth partner to speak up for you when you are in labour or birthing.
  • Tell your birth partner and birthing team of your birth preferences.
  • Prepare your mind for changes to your birth preferences on the day.

Each of these tips will hopefully guide you on your journey to stay in control of your birth whether you decide to use hypnobirthing, pregnancy pilates, pregnancy yoga, aromatherapy, prepare a music play list, use positive mantras, write down your birth preferences or simply see how it goes.

For pain relief, think about your toolkit for labour:

  • Will you use water (bath, shower, birthing pool), TENS machine, Entonox (gas and air), an epidural (you may or may not be able to walk with an epidural), other medications, or no pain relief?
  • Will you use a birthing or peanut ball (See Figure 1)?
  • Do you plan on staying as mobile as possible?
  • Will you prepare for birth by doing perineal massage?

This is your plan, your preparation and your way of preparing to be the leader and in control of your own birth.

birthing balls Fig 1. Birthing ball (l) and peanut ball (r)

When you meet the midwife that will be caring for you during your labour and birth, it is a good idea to talk your preferences through with that midwife. Tell them what you really want to achieve for your labour and birth.

You can do this by writing them down on paper before labour and birth and bringing that with you or simply telling them your preferences. This is known as a birth plan/preferences. The midwife will then know your plans and will assess you and your baby while being aware of your birthing preferences.

Being in control of your birth means you must take the practicalities of the health and wellbeing of you and your baby into account. Yes, it is wonderful and very possible to maintain control of your birth in the way that you have planned, but also to be aware that you are still in control of your birth if those preferences change.

For example, if you do need to have a birth assisted by vacuum (a suction device placed on the baby’s head), other parts of your birth plan can still remain the same, particularly if the reason for a vacuum birth was not due to concerns about the baby. In this instance, you can still have a hot compress held on your perineum right up until the time of birth, which means you may still be able to have ‘skin-to-skin’ contact with your baby immediately after birth, if he/she is well.

These elements of care will be discussed later in the course.

It is important for you to prepare yourself, understand your level of control and plan ahead so that you can still be the decision maker. Now is the time to inform yourself.

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This article is from the free online course:

Journey to birth

Trinity College Dublin