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Notes From A New Mum: A Positive Labour & Birth Experience

Whether you’re pregnant right now, are planning on it in the future or have a friend who’s expecting, it can be a daunting experience bringing new life into the world! Editor and journalist Eleanor Cains (eleanorcains.com) gave birth to her first child in October and has been guest-blogging for us about pregnancy and being a new mum – perfect for today, the day the royal baby is being born! After sharing her pregnancy tips and her skincare tips, she’s here to help you plan a positive labour and birth experience:

Eleanor Baby

There are so many choices to make when it comes to deciding how you want to welcome your child into the world that it can feel overwhelming. Research and birth plans can help you feel prepared in the lead up and being in the moment during the experience can make it easier to cope with complications. Here are five things that helped make my labour and birth a more positive experience.

Research the options: Antenatal classes are a great place to learn about the choices available in your area, to chat with others in the same situation as you, and to consider options that you might not have come up with on your own. If you’re struggling to choose between a hospital, birthing centre or home birth, try writing a pros and cons list and attend support groups to find out more. I built a support network through the NCT, felt empowered and positive at Daisy Birthing classes and learned about the birthing process in detail at NHS Parentcraft.

Write a plan: I’ve heard birth plans referred to as ‘wish lists’ and that’s a realistic attitude to have. It probably won’t go perfectly, but imagine your ideal scenario and put it on paper: where you want to be; whom you want with you; how you want to manage the pain; what you want to happen to your baby straight after delivery; and how you want to be treated in the post-natal period. It’s also worth including your concerns and scenarios you hope to avoid. Passing a sheet of paper to your midwife is much easier than your birth partner trying to remember everything and communicate it all in an already stressful situation!

Go with the flow: My daughter’s birth didn’t go to plan, but what helped me cope with the complications was to trust the professionals and stay in the moment rather than fretting about what wasn’t happening as I’d hoped. I’d written a detailed birth plan that pre-empted difficulties and this came into its own, as the midwife was able to tell the surgeon my concerns. Antenatal classes suggest you ask BRAN questions when given choices, and follow your instincts: what are the Benefits, Risks and Alternatives, and can we do Nothing for now?

If you don’t ask, you don’t get: Although I’m not usually forthright, it was important to me to have a side room after I left the operating theatre and recovery ward so that my partner could stay with us in hospital overnight, so I kept asking… and asking… and asking. A room was available and the sister in charge was happy for him to stay, with a few caveats (no wandering the ward in his underwear!). Luck was on our side, but if I’d just assumed it wouldn’t be possible and hadn’t asked, it certainly wouldn’t have been offered.

Focus on the positives: If your labour and birth wasn’t your dream scenario, there can be confusion about why certain decisions were made by staff. I found it useful to remind myself that the goal was for the baby to arrive as safely as possible, and focusing on the ‘big picture’ like this rather than all the tiny details helped me deal with feelings of disappointment and failure. There are birth story services available if you want to speak with someone about your experience; they can access your labour notes and explain exactly what happened, when, and why, and these answers might provide you with a sense of acceptance and peace.

– Eleanor Cains