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Setting your labour preferences

There are many things for you to consider when preparing for your labour. Now is a chance for you to think about what you would like to do during your labour. Talk to your healthcare professional to make sure that your wishes are known and achievable. Your “Journey to Birth” map will help you with key aspects. Check it after every week to update your views.

Birthing partners

Earlier in this course, we talked about the importance of a birthing partner and the benefits of support during labour and childbirth, especially when it is one-to-one care.

One-to-one care, or continuous care, is when a person is with you throughout the whole of your labour, without long interruptions, and is a continuous support to you. Having a birthing partner reduces your risk of caesarean section, increases your chance of having a normal vaginal birth, shortens the length of your labour and reduces the likelihood of needing a forceps or suction cup birth. We also know that continuous support reduces the use of pain relief, the use of an epidural and leads to positive feelings about your childbirth experience. Amazing, isn’t it!

Your birthing partner should be someone you trust and believe will be a helpful support to you physically, psychologically, emotionally or in any other way. Is it possible to have more than one birthing partner? Maybe, but this may depend on where you choose to birth. Ask your midwife or obstetrician about the options available to you.

Pain relief in labour

Warm water is an effective form of pain relief, whether used in a bath, shower or birthing pool. If you plan to birth in a hospital, ask if you can bring in your own inflatable pool. Massaging with a birthing ball and keeping mobile can also be very effective as they provide pain-relieving distractions – make sure you have a birthing ball available to you. Using paracetamol may not be a good idea as it has been suggested that it makes the early part of labour longer.

It might be an idea to start researching TENS machines, which are devices that give small electrical impulses to soothe your contractions (see Steps 4.2 and 4.11). A TENS machine can be rented, bought or borrowed. If renting or borrowing, buy your own pads to attach on to the machine. This is more hygienic and new pads will stick onto your back more easily.

Birthing environment

The environment you give birth in can impact hugely on your birth experience. You may prefer a room with low lighting (even candle-lit if possible) and/or with music playing. If you are not labouring or giving birth at home, it might be a good idea to think about bringing some comforting reminders of your home to the birthing unit.

Think realistically about the space that you will have in this unit, in your car and the ease of moving these homely touches from different areas around the unit. Consider bringing your own pillow cases rather than pillows (to save on space) and battery-operated candles instead of flame-lit ones.

Also, playing music through headphones can increase your focus and concentration on your labour and birth. This can stop you from getting distracted or irritated by other sounds in or outside of the room. Ask your midwife to tap you on your shoulder if they need you to listen to what they are saying, to limit interruptions, and close doors to offer privacy.

Did you have a caesarean section on a previous birth?

If you have had a previous caesarean section, you will be wondering about your next birth and how it might be affected. We have a lot of information in slideshow presentations that will help you to decide about your next birth after caesarean. You can access this information through the links below, and can then discuss your wishes with your healthcare professional at your next visit.

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This article is from the free online course:

Journey to birth

Trinity College Dublin