Yes, absolutely! There is a lot you can do to give yourself the opportunity to have your ideal birth this time around. Of course, like everything in birth, no one can guarantee that you will have a specific birth experience. The process of birth is too unpredictable for that. However, there are several steps you can take to stack the deck in your favor.
- Choose your care provider with extreme care. The way your provider practices will have a direct impact on every element of your birth. If ninety percent of your doctor’s patients have an epidural, chances are higher that you will also, even if you didn’t intend to have one. If you discover that your doctor has a 40% cesarean rate, understand that you have a 40% chance of having a cesarean under that doctor’s care. See this article for an in-depth look at how to choose the right care provider for your situation. http://www.wellroundedmama.blogspot.com/2010/09/nice-is-not-enough-questions-for.html
- Evaluate your previous delivery, and do your own research. What happened that you were unhappy about? If the same situation happened again this time, what other options are there? What would you rather do?
- Ask your care provider questions throughout your entire pregnancy and delivery. Most obstetric appointments are relatively short. If you save all your birth questions for the couple of visits before delivery, you probably won’t have time to fully cover your concerns. Do yourself and your care provider a favor. Start planning early, and ask a couple of questions each visit instead of a lot of questions at the last minute.
- Take a really good childbirth class (not the one the hospital offers) or at least do a lot of reading. Two of my favorites are The Birth Book by Erica Lyon and Creating your Birth Plan by Marsden Wagner. The more you can learn about birth before the process starts, the better equipped you will be to handle the twists and turns of labor.
- Hire a doula. Mothers who have a doula at their birth report higher levels of satisfaction with their birth. They also experience fewer interventions of all kinds, including epidurals and c-sections. While preparing yourself is key, having a birth professional with you during your entire labor takes the pressure off to remember information and figure out what to do while going through the hard work of labor. A good doula will help you stick to your birth plan when possible, as well as evaluate when you need to deviate from it.
- Do whatever you can to stay healthy throughout your pregnancy. Eat well, move, get lots of sleep, find ways to manage anxiety and stress. A healthy mother and baby have more reserves for the stresses of labor, meaning fewer interventions for a baby in distress or a mother who’s run out of energy.
- Cultivate a flexible attitude. The more rigid your goals are, the less likely that you will achieve all of them. Leave room for the fluid nature of birth. Understand that you can do everything right, and still have a birth that doesn’t meet your expectations. Realize that if you have followed the above steps and still don’t have the birth you want, perhaps it wasn’t meant to be. Much as we would all like to think that birth is under our control, it is an untamed, elemental process. Especially if you have worked hard to have a certain kind of birth, you don’t have to have any regrets that you could have done something differently if it doesn't turn out the way you planned. You did your best for your baby, and that is what matters most.