Monday, July 24, 2017

Wanting vs needing pain meds in labor

Deciding on how to manage the sensations of labor is probably the most discussed topic surrounding childbirth. Do you want an epidural? Do you want a natural birth? Do you need a childbirth class? Which one should you take? Do you need a few classes? Should you give birth in the hospital, birth center, or at home? How you plan to manage the sensations of labor determines where you give birth. You can't get an epidural at home!


I work with clients who have a variety of goals and needs for their births. Just how no two people are alike, no two births are alike. That is the beauty and wonder of birth. Most clients who seek my services desire to have a natural childbirth. While there are different definitions of what constitutes "natural," most people who approach me want two things:

1. To avoid a Cesarean
2. To avoid pain meds

Many of my clients use pain meds in labor, so I want to share some thoughts about this.

Sometimes a person might NEED pain meds in labor. Some examples might include:

1. Needing a surgical birth
2. An inability to cope with the sensations of labor despite trying a multitude of comfort measures
3. A persistent cervical lip and a cervix that starts to swell despite doing all the tricks in the book
4. Exhaustion (i.e. hasn't slept days and labor has been taking a really long time)
5. Client says so

Let me say a note about #5.

I am a professional believer in you, you are capable-er, you are a badass-er, the bomb dot com-er, you are strong enough-er, I know you can do this-er, these doubts are part of the process-er, you've got this-er, let's try something else-er. I am an encourager and confidence instiller. I am a believer in your strength despite what others in the room, yes, even sometimes YOU, think. When they doubt, when even YOU begin to doubt, I believe. I never stop believing.

But I have a confession to make. It is very difficult for me to turn that off. I will encourage. I will suggest other things. But I will never say that I think you need pain meds. I will never suggest it. You probably asked me not to mention pain meds anyway. You hired me to be the one person to never ask you, "Are you suuuuure you don't want an epidural?" And I truly believe deep down to the core of my being that you don't need one.

That is, until you tell me you do.

Here's my promise to you, amazing clients. I will never ever ever stand between you and receiving pain meds if that is what you want. I might have a few tricks up my sleeve to help you get back in your groove if you hit a wall, but if you say you're done, I believe you. I support you. And I do NOT judge you. Please know that. And I am not disappointed in you. I am not disappointed in myself either. I would not put that burden on you. I understand that your choices are not a reflection of me or my skill as a doula. They're your very own unique and wonderful choices. They belong to you.

Sometimes a person might WANT pain meds in labor. Here are a few examples:

1. Natural birth is not appealing. Like, at all.
2. Goals change
3. More painful than expected
4. Sleep deprivation
5. Client says so

I don't know about you, but it is hard for me to say that I want something. I feel selfish, and I struggle about my wants and needs. I have a feeling many others might understand. But let me say this.

Wanting pain meds in labor is a good enough reason to have them. 

It is ok to have them even if you don't need them. It really is ok. Just like you don't have to justify or explain your reasons for wanting a natural birth to anyone, you do not need to justify your reasons for wanting pain meds to me or anyone else. I trust you to know what is best for you. I want you to have a satisfying birth experience, however that looks for you.

I've been around long enough to see that instincts are a wonderful thing. Even if those instincts say, "I need to go to the hospital now even though it is still really early and we planned to labor at home as long as possible" or "I think I should be induced even though we were planning a home birth" or "I think I would like an epidural even though I appear to be coping well and took all the birth classes and read all the books and hired a doula."

So if you decide in labor that you need or even want pain meds as part of your experience, I promise to support you. I promise to remain by your side. I promise not to judge. I promise not to question your choice. I promise to continue providing the same unwavering and compassionate support as always.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

How to have an AMAZING induction

For one reason or another, you are scheduled for an induction of labor. You've weighed the risks and benefits of having an induction, and you have decided that this is the best decision for your family. Even though you know this is the right choice, you may be feeling pretty apprehensive. After all, you've been on the Internet. You've read all of those articles about how horrible Pitocin is, and your friends have volunteered their own induction horror stories. You may be wondering if you have ruined your chances at having an amazing birth. I'd like to offer some encouraging words and say, "No!" You can have an induction AND have an amazing birth.




Below are a few ideas on how to have an amazing induction.

1. Comfort measures

You learned about all kinds of comfort measures during your childbirth class. Put them to good use! You already know that contractions with Pitocin are usually stronger, longer, and closer together. It will help to change positions frequently in order to help baby find a great position and also to keep your mind focused on other things besides contractions. Use the tools available to you. Try the birth ball. Try various positions. Try getting into the shower or tub if you are at a birth location where this option is available.

2. Touch

Touch increases your own naturally occurring oxytocin, which is the hormone that causes contractions. Pitocin is the synthetic version of oxytocin. Back rubs, snuggles with your partner, and any kind of touch that makes you feel loved and safe is going to increase your naturally occurring oxytocin. Having more of your own oxytocin flowing may mean less Pitocin is needed in order to create the strong contractions necessary to bring a baby.

3. Environment

Dim lighting, calming music, comforting scents, and positive people can all create an environment condusive to having an amazing birth. Some people compare the birthing environment needed to generate the most oxytocin-friendly atmosphere to a date night. Think about your favorite and most intimate date night. What was the environment like? Trying to recreate that environment helps bring feelings of safety and well-being, which helps the oxytocin to flow.

4. Rest

I am a huge proponent of resting as much as possible during labor, especially early labor. I also like the idea of restful work. You can still do all of the positions you learned about during your childbirth class, but try doing them in the most restful position possible. For example, placing a peanut ball between your knees while taking a nap in the bed can help you get rest AND open the pelvis to give your baby room to move down. If labor has been taking an especially long time, you can discuss with your care provider the possibility of turning the Pitocin off during the night to shower, eat, and rest. That little break may be just what your body needs in order to be ready to start again in the morning.

5. Options

The goal of an induction of labor is to mimic a spontaneous labor as much as possible. There are many ways to achieve this. Discuss with your care provider the various options available in order to achieve the goal you both desire. For example, you may have the option of increasing Pitocin in slower intervals to create a more gentle experience. There are many methods for inducing labor, and they vary between care providers. Communicate with your care provider to decide together on a plan of action that can help you have the best experience possible.

6. Pain meds

As with every birth, the decision to use pain meds is a personal choice. Just because you are planning an induction does not mean that now you HAVE to use pain medication. Plenty of people have given birth without pain medication even though their labors were induced. However, there are times that pain meds can mean the difference between a vaginal delivery or a Cesarean delivery. They can also mean the difference between a positive experience and a traumatic experience. Remember that pain meds are a tool in your toolbox just like the suggestions already mentioned.

8. Support

Surrounding yourself with adequate support can help you have an amazing induction. Choose people who believe in you and your goals. Support can come in the form of your carefully-chosen care provider who wants you to have the birth you desire, an experienced doula, family, and/or friends. Surround yourself with people who help you to feel encouraged, confident, and safe. Your birth team needs to include people who believe that you will rock an induction!

7. Positive thinking

I truly believe in the power of positive thinking during labor. Try to have a list of affirmations handy for those times where your resolve begins to waver. Surround yourself with positive people who can remind you that you are amazing and strong and have what it takes to do this. Having an induction might take longer and be harder than a spontaneous labor, but you can do it anyway. You've got this!

These are a few suggestions I have for having an amazing induction. If you have any to add, please let me know in the comments.