Lack of control during labour and birth is a common concern and I am always keen to stress that, while labour and birth, can be unpredictable, there are things you can do to have a greater sense of control.
Firstly, what does it mean to have control? When it comes to labour and birth, you can’t control the pace or length of labour, you can’t control whether it is easy or not. But there are things you can do that could have some impact on how your labour unfolds and flows.
Control can be very subjective and how you perceive control can also be about having realistic expectations of what labour and birth is.
For me, having control is about having a foundation of knowledge, being able to work your body, knowing what might help and being able to stay as calm as possible. It’s also about being able to adjust to changes, to be involved in decisions and to know what your options are.
So what help give you more control during labour and birth and why does it matter?
- Know how to use your breathing. This helps to keep you calm and it gives you a focus. It also boosts your hormones so you produce less adrenaline and more oxytocin and endorphines, which encourages more powerful contractions.
- Ask questions, ask for support & reassurance. This includes you and encourages open communication and opens up your options as well.
- Move. If you are free to move and use different positions you can listen to and respond to your body so you are more comfortable and giving more space to your baby. It’s about being able to do something so you feel less passive.
- Say what you need. Put yourself at the centre of your care, whatever your labour and birth is like. It can be helpful to have open communication with your midwife so you can know more your options and say what you need to do.
- Prepare well. Know more about all births, not just your ideal birth. This can help you to adjust well if your plan changes and if you need to make decisions. It also means that you could have more confidence, feel calmer and have more realistic expectations.
- Your birth environment. Small changes can make a huge difference so being about to move or rest, have music or quiet, have calm light, have support and help, maybe using water.
- Looking after your basic needs also makes a huge difference. Eat or drink to give your body and baby fuel, go for a wee often to keep your bladder empty to baby has more room and try to rest when you need to, even just for a minute or two between contractions.
- Have a birth plan. This is not about saying how you want labour & birth to be but it is a way of communicating your potential needs with your midwife – breathing focus, movement, communication, the birth room, knowing options, working with contractions.
Labour and birth is unique for each person, which is why it is important to put yourself at the centre of it so you are included and informed. There is a lot of fear around birth but there are usually options. If you should be in an emergency situation, options may well be reduced but you can still benefit from information and focusing on your breathing to remain calm while the medical team take over. And then you can talk through your birth and make sense of what needed to happen.
With a calm and knowledgeable approach, my aim is informed and confident parents. If I can help you prepare well for the birth of you baby, you can just send me a message below.
Janine Smith | A specialist in pregnancy, birth and early parenting
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