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There is more to birth than the physiological changes that take place in a woman’s body in order for her baby to make an exit.

Sadly, most “what to expect” books and blogs focus solely on that one aspect, leaving out the other fundamental information that every new parent needs to know in order to fully prepare for the birthing process.

As a doula and mom of 4, I want to share 20+ fundamentals about the birthing process that you should know.

  1. You need to educate yourself. This is a self-fulfilling point, because by reading this post you’re educating yourself a little bit. It’s important to remember that it’s not your care provider’s job to educate you — whether an OB/GYN, midwife, or even a doula. Yes, all providers ought to inform you to the best of their ability, but the only person truly responsible for your education is yourself.
  2. Interventions lead to more interventions. So while all interventions aren’t necessarily wrong, it’s important to be very deliberate about the interventions you allow during your labor, at least if you aren’t comfortable going down the intervention rabbit trail to a c-section.
  3. There are more interventions than you think. Most mamas believe the first intervention during labor is Pitocin, or possibly vaginal exams. In fact, the first intervention is leaving your home. Home is where you are most comfortable, and where you’re in control. This does NOT mean that your decision to birth in a hospital is wrong, but you need to be aware that it is the first intervention — and interventions lead to more interventions (see #2)
  4. Birth plans are helpful. Not because your birth will necessarily go the way you envisioned, but because it forces you to educate yourself. (see #1)
  5. Doulas are worth their weight in gold. Do yourself a favor and hire one for your birth. I’ve had one at each of my births, and even though I’ve gone through childbirth 4 times I still wouldn’t do it without a doula. At least not on purpose. (And no, a doula won’t make your husband useless)
  6. Not all hospitals are created equal. Find one that encourages the kind of birth you want. Do you want to have the option of sending the baby to the nursery while you get a nap? Find a hospital with a nursery. Or perhaps you want a birthing tub? Or a really awesome NICU because you have a high-risk pregnancy? Or a hospital that will encourage you to birth in any position you want? Make sure to do your research.
  7. Not all doctors are bad… but they aren’t all good, either. It’s a mistake to lump them all into a stereotype. Plenty push for unnecessary interventions, but many are willing to let birth play out the way it was created to.
  8. It’s going to be hard, but you can do it! Birth is intensely difficult workbut you will be able to do it. Our mothers and grandmothers have been doing it for thousands of years. You’ve got this!
  9. You can fire your doctor or other hospital staff — even while you’re in labor! If you are unsatisfied with their services, don’t keep them around. You’re hiring them to do a job. If they aren’t doing the job you want, that’s their problem, not yours.
  10. Don’t be afraid of rest. If your body is giving you a break in between contractions, embrace it! Some women experience their contractions naturally spacing out right before transition or pushing, and that’s okay! If your body needs a break in preparation for the final hurrah, let it have it’s break.
  11. Prodromal labor is common {but it still sucks}. Some people call it false labor, but there’s absolutely nothing false about it. It’s preparing your uterus for birth by toning the muscles to be able to push a baby out, and that’s a super important job.
  12. Your provider needs to be on board. You need to find a care provider, whether an OB/GYN or a midwife, that is not just okay with your birth plan, but fully on board with it. The last thing you need when in the throes of delivering your baby is to be fighting (or firing, see #9) your doctor.
  13. You’ll need to make decisions for your baby. There are a LOT of decisions you have to make for your baby as soon as he is born, and I can assure you that immediately after pushing out a baby is the worst time to figure out what your decision will be. Learn about them now so you can be ready.
  14. You won’t use most of the stuff in your birth bag. Find out what you really need here.
  15. Your birth choices are yours alone. No one else can make decisions for you; not a doctor, not a midwife, not a doula. Also, you should definitely never be bullied into decisions you aren’t comfortable with. If you’re feeling bullied by a care provider, fire them. (see #9)
  16. YOU and YOUR BABY are the birth team. Anyone else is just an assistant — even your OB. This is YOUR birth. Remember that.
  17. It’s not wrong to desire a birth outcome that you’re happy with. Having a healthy baby is everyone’s desire, but you need to remember that a healthy mama- both physically and mentally- is vitally important, too.
  18. You need time to recover afterwards! Give yourself space to rest and enjoy your new baby.
  19. You can have a good birth experience. No matter where you decide to give birth- whether at home, at a birth center, or in the hospital- you can have a freaking awesome birth experience if you remember the rest of these tips and do your research.
  20. Birth is not a spectator sport. If you don’t want your [mom, sister, best friend, mother-in-law, etc.] in the room, don’t let them in! It’s YOUR birth. No one has the right to come in against your will.
  21. In that same vein, though… if you would feel more comfortable having someone else in the room, by all means invite them in! Your ideal birth is just that, YOUR ideal birth. Have (or don’t have) whoever you want!
  22. Surround yourself with what you love. Certain people, music, scents, and lighting can all release a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is the love hormone, and it helps babies come out easier and faster. By being in an atmosphere of peace and calm, you’ll have a better birth experience.

By equipping yourself with knowledge and a good support system, you’ll be able to rock your birth even if it doesn’t go exactly how you envisioned it. That’s because you’ll know that you weren’t pressured into anything you didn’t want, and that you were in control of your birth the entire time.

Knowledge is power.

Now go rock your birth.