Why self care in labour is the right thing to do

Feature image for article titled self care in labour in the right thing to do
by Robyn Jones – B.Sc. (Psych), Goonellabah, Australia

During my first pregnancy in 2007 I prepared to have a ‘natural’, pain medication free birth. I thought that having a ‘natural’ birth would be what was best for my baby and myself.

So when my waters broke at 38 weeks and 4 days we went into the hospital armed with our birth plan that stated all our wishes for a pain medication free labour.

As I wasn’t experiencing any contractions as yet and was only 1cm dilated, we returned home and waited. Twenty-four hours after my waters broke, I thought it was time to head back to hospital as the contractions were becoming more painful and more frequent.

At the hospital they examined me again and it was determined I was 2cm dilated. We decided to stay this time as I was experiencing frequent contractions and didn’t want to be travelling in the car anymore. I had managed to get a little sleep when we were at home but was feeling on edge about what was to come.

Over the next 15 hours I experienced an increase in contractions and pain and 39 hours after my waters broke was feeling like I wanted to push.

I was tired and kept looking at the hospital crib in our birthing suite thinking to myself, “Why is my baby not in there yet?”

After another examination I was told that I was 4cm dilated and I was shocked. It had been 39 hours! I was exhausted and I was not even half way there yet! I was also told at this time that the baby was posterior, meaning the baby’s spine was up against mine. This certainly explained why I was experiencing the most incredible backbreaking pain.

At this point I realised that I could not continue to experience this level of pain for another hour, let alone how many more hours it would take until I was 10cm dilated!

I stopped. Took a deep breath and said to my husband, “I want an epidural. I can’t continue in this way as I will be too exhausted to look after the baby once it comes out, which will be no help to anyone.” He was surprised by my request and reminded me that we wanted a pain medication free birth. I just looked at him and knew within myself that the best thing for me right then was to have the epidural. I needed to do this in order to care for myself so I would have something left in me to care for our baby when it finally arrived. It was just so clear to me.

“What good was a pain medication free birth if I was completely exhausted and unable to function at the end of it?” “How was that going to benefit my baby?”

The doctor was called and the epidural was ordered. Forty-five minutes later I had the epidural inserted and the most amazing thing happened…We all fell asleep and had a much needed nap.

After being examined again I had progressed to 8cm, all within a very short period of time of having the epidural. It was decided that they would insert a drip to help me progress the last 2cm without delay.

It had now been approximately 42 hours since my waters broke.

Another couple of hours later I was finally 10cm dilated and was told that I could try pushing. So I did. Every time I pushed, the baby went down and every time I stopped pushing, the baby went back up again. I was informed that our baby was getting caught on my coccyx and was unable to be pushed out.

The doctor was called for an assisted delivery but because I had been in labour now for approximately 45 hours they wanted to take every precaution they could so I was given a spinal block and taken to theatre before a forceps delivery was attempted. I was told that if the forceps were unsuccessful I would have an immediate emergency caesarean.

At 48 hours and 20 mins after my waters broke our daughter was born via forceps delivery.

I felt so very relieved.

She was finally out… She was well and in excellent health. Yay!

Upon reflection, I can see how my determination to have a ‘natural’, pain medication free birth really got in the way and dragged out the whole process unnecessarily. It certainly made it far harder than it needed to be.

Having the epidural was one of the best decisions I could have made for my baby and myself, as it was exactly what was needed to assist my body to relax and just let go.

The body does know how to birth a baby but it can also require support from specialised pain medication to do this. I certainly benefited greatly from having the epidural and so did my body and therefore my baby due to me feeling calmer and more relaxed.

There is so much focus on what is best for the baby during pregnancy and labour that the woman gets overlooked a lot of the time which is very damaging to all involved, because what I have come to know deeply is that when a woman makes caring decisions for herself, the people around her benefit greatly. No one is left feeling less or deprived.

In fact, it is the opposite.

When a woman makes self-caring choices she invests in herself, she replenishes herself, rather than depleting herself. Therefore there is more for her to genuinely give to those around her and this increases the quality of care she has to give.

Making self-caring choices in labour is vital as it is a very physically rigorous process and both the woman and the baby benefit from these choices.

It is simple really. What is most caring for the woman in any given moment is the most caring for the baby, as there is a natural flow on effect from the woman to the baby.

What has been your experience of self care in labour and in life? Please share in the comments below.

Original article published on the Mouths of Mums website on August 26, 2015.

3 thoughts on “Why self care in labour is the right thing to do

  1. Thank you for sharing this! I am 37 weeks along in my first pregnancy and would love a natural home birth, but this encourages me to want what is best for my baby AND me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such great clarity Robyn with this statement: “…What good was a pain medication free birth if I was completely exhausted and unable to function at the end of it?” “How was that going to benefit my baby?”
    Labour isn’t the place for women to prove their ‘toughness’.


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