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ican-bannerAmong many other things, April is Cesarean Awareness Month. In the U.S., 1 in 3 babies are delivered by cesarean section. To be clear, as a doula, I am not anti-cesarean. I am pro healthy mom and baby, and pro informed choice. With the exception of certain very high risk medical situations, a vaginal delivery is the healthiest option for both mother and baby for a multitude of reasons. (That is a topic for a more detailed discussion in a different blog post).

Here are the most important steps you and your partner can take to avoid an unnecessary c-section. (If you or your baby develop a medical condition that warrants a medically necessary cesarean delivery, this does not apply to you. Again, I am not against all cesarean deliveries)

 

  1. Just say no to induction. The last few days and weeks of pregnancy are very draining, both emotionally and physically. I’ve been there. You’re tired, you’re achy, you are anxious to meet your new baby, and you just want it done and over with! For mothers and care providers alike, induction may seem like a very appealing option. Depending on which study you refer to, the chances of cesarean delivery raise anywhere from 40-60% after an induction is started. New guidelines set by the ACOG no longer recommend non medically indicated induction until at least 41 weeks of pregnancy.
  2. Labor at home longer. Many hospitals have a policy about how long you are ‘allowed’ to labor before they will throw out the infamous “failure to progress” diagnosis and recommend a c-section. Thankfully, the ACOG has just recently relaxed their guidelines to extend this timeline, but it may take a while for hospital policy to catch up. Speak with your care provider about how long you should labor at home before heading to the hospital, and when at all possible, spend more time at home before heading to labor & delivery.
  3. Hire a doula. Of course I’m going to be partial to this one. However, numerous studies have shown that the continual presence of a labor support person such as a doula reduces your chance of cesarean delivery by up to 50%. This is due to multiple factors. A doula helps you ask questions, make informed choices, and helps you better manage your labor. Hiring a doula also lessens the chance that you will require pain medication or an epidural, therefore lowering your risk of needing augmentation such as Pitocin (see point 1).
  4. Take care of your pregnant body. By this, I mean exercise lightly as recommended by your care provider, and see a chiropractor or physical therapist of possible. Many c-sections are performed due to breech presentation, or a prolonged labor (failure to progress) because the baby is simply not in an optimal position. There are exercises that can be done daily during your pregnancy to better alight your pelvis to help baby settle into a proper position. Seeing a chiropractor who specializes in the Webster method, or who is familiar with pregnancy, will also greatly increase your chances of beginning your labor in optimal conditions. www.spinningbabies.com is a wonderful resource. Check with your care provider about using these exercises.

In some instances, a cesarean delivery is truly a life saving operation. It is my hope, and the hope of doulas worldwide, that enough information can be shared to women to help prevent the many c-sections that are not medically warranted.

For more information on Cesarean Awareness Month, visit http://www.ican-online.org/cam/april-cesarean-awareness-month-0

 

 

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You made it! After months of preparation, and hours or days of labor, your baby has arrived and you are both resting peacefully in your recovery room. Or perhaps not so peacefully. For most vaginal deliveries, you and baby will be at the hospital for 48 hours after delivery, and for a cesarean you can expect to spend five days. Even though it is “only” a few days, the discomforts of being away from home can sometimes be discouraging. Here are some practical tips to make your stay at the hospital a little bit more comfortable.
newborn hospital

Pack comfortable clothes. And yes, ladies, I mean maternity clothes. Sorry to say, but it takes nine months to add the baby weight to your body. Delivering an 8 pound baby won’t make it all disappear right away. Pack comfortable lounging clothes to wear in the hospital. You’ll feel a lot more comfortable in ‘real’ clothes, rather than a hospital gown that makes you feel like a sick patient. Good options may be loose-fitting yoga pants, or maternity leggings. If you plan on nursing, you may want to bring a couple of nursing bras or tanks for convenience. And don’t forget socks and slippers! The hospital gets chilly, particularly the tile floor. (Note: for your own safety, you should only walk around with non skid slippers, or slipper socks. The floors are not only cold, but very slippery if you are only wearing socks).

Bring your own pillow. Hospital beds aren’t known for their comfort, pillows included. Have your partner or another family member bring your favorite pillow from home. This will help you get better sleep (when you can), and make your temporary stay feel more like home.

Allow visitors, or not. Depending on your own personality and how you are feeling, you may or may not be up for visitors at the hospital. Personally, I was feeling pretty isolated and lonely with no one around and wished I had more visitors! Whatever your desires are, make them known to your immediate family to prevent impromptu visits if you feel like just spending some alone time.

Pack snacks. If you thought you were hungry when you were pregnant, be prepared for something altogether new as you start producing breast milk. The first six weeks postpartum my appetite was insatiable. Many local hospitals are pretty good about feeding their pregnant and newly delivered mommies well, but it doesn’t hurt to pack some healthy non perishable snacks from home. Also, no one knows your taste better than you.

Bring your own toiletries. There’s nothing like being able to take a shower or bath in your own home, but brining your own supplies from home is the next best thing. Pack your favorite shampoo and conditioner, body soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and even lotions if you like. Although the hospital will have generic items on hand if you forget, having your own may make you feel better physically and mentally.

Take care of yourself ‘down there.’ If you’ve had a vaginal delivery, odds are you are going to be sore or swollen in your perineal area. This is even more true if you’ve had an episiotomy or tearing of any kind. The hospital and nurses will provide you with large sanitary napkins and disposable undergarments for the duration of your stay. If you want to bring your own underwear from home, I would definitely recommend bringing the granny panties that you wouldn’t mind getting stained and thrown out. You’ll also be given a peri bottle that you can fill with warm water to rinse your vulva with during urination. Use this, and bring it home with you. It will feel like heaven. If you do have any stitches, make sure you know how to take care of yourself once you get home, and know any signs of infection.

Do keep in mind, also, that you have the right to check out of the hospital early if you feel that you and baby are well enough to be home without the monitoring of the medical staff. That is a decision only you and your family can make with your doctor. 

Happy birthing!

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