Birth Preparation Tips & Tools

Birth Without Fear

One of the most important things I learnt during my pre-birth preparations was this: when you are fearful/worried during labour, your entire body (insides included) tighten up.  It makes perfect sense if you think about it.  But it’s the exact opposite of what you want for a smooth, flowing, relatively quick birthing experience.  When you are fearful, not only does it slow the process down, but fear = pain.

Fear-Tension-Pain-cycle

I love this section on ‘Fears and Concerns’ from the book BIRTH: Conceiving, Nurturing and Giving Birth to your Baby by Catherine Price & Sandra Robinson (used with permission):

“Some women approach their labour in a very open and accepting way, confident in their body’s ability to give birth and to deal with their pain.  Others are not so sure, or are admittedly nervous, scared of even terrified of what may lie ahead.  Fear of the unknown and concerns about the what-if’s are fairly normal during pregnancy.  However, suppressing your fears may only make them resurface in some way, shape or form during labour, increasing the level of pain felt.

Some cultures believe that fear is the main cause of a labouring woman suffering in childbirth.  This theory does have a physiological explanation.  A woman’s underlying fears can make her body tense, often without realising it.  Adrenaline is then released, inhibiting her endorphins, which are needed to help relieve pain.  Adrenaline also inhibits contractions prolonging the labour.  Increased pain and a prolonged labour can create anxiety, making her feel she is not coping or progressing, adding to her fears and increasing the pain.  This ends up in a vicious cycle of:

  • Fear
  • Tension
  • Increased perception of pain
  • Anxiety
  • Repeat

Feeling fearful, anxious and in unmanageable pain can lead to requesting pain relief sooner and/or becoming exhausted prematurely, as more energy is used to fight the labour, rather than going with it.  This type of experience also creates feelings of not being in control and seeing the whole labour process as negative, perhaps leading to feelings of failure if you expected to cope better.

Often by identifying and openly acknowledging your fears, you can devise some coping strategies.  Sharing your fears can also help your caregiver and partner/support person work with you through this phase of the labour, to help calm and reassure you, and hopefully assist you.”

If you’ve read my birthing stories you’ll know that I claim both of my births to be pain-free.  So, how did I do it?  Well, for starters, my babies and I did it together.  We were a great team.  I also had an incredibly supportive partner.  But more than anything, I drew from within and focused on what I had told myself over and over in my preparations.

Below I have prepared some bullet points that I truly hope will be embraced by you and, ultimately, assist you in your own wonderful birthing story:

  • Embrace this experience with confidence. You are empowered.
  • This is a privilege, an honour, and a unique experience.
  • Surrender
  • Fear = tension = pain & the body shuts down/closes up.
  • You need to be relaxed for your body to work naturally & effectively.
  • Relaxed woman = relaxed cervix.
  • If you don’t know the gender of your baby use this as added motivation and choose excitement – will it be a girl or a boy??? Not long to go now!
  • You are birthing your baby. It’s your baby’s birthday!  What a cause for celebration!
  • You’re about to meet your baby!!!
  • Each wave/contraction is dilating you – making a pathway for bub!
  • You feel pressure, not pain.
  • The uterus is simply a muscle, working hard.
  • It can help to picture your dilations opening you up like a flower, say a lotus. Bringing forth new life. waterlily-pink-water-lily-water-plant-158465.jpeg
  • Once each wave/contract is complete: you don’t need to go through that wave again! High five!  Each one brings you closer to meeting your precious baby!
  • You & baby are the perfect team – bub knows what to do too!
  • Draw upon your inner resources, you have within you everything you need.
  • No fear, no worry. Perfect love casts out all fear.
  • This is all completely natural. You were made incredibly to be able to do this.  Have faith in your body’s ability.
  • Remain in control of your mind and let your body do it’s own work.
  • What we repeatedly think about & where we focus our attention is what we become.
  • Send love down to your baby.
Think you can
I fully appreciate this isn’t always the case, but I do know one thing… thinking you can’t is not going to do you any favours.

This information was taken from the Huggies website and I used it myself (I especially love the first point and evidently that is what landed you here with me, great work!):

  • Do your homework – become as familiar as you can with what’s involved in childbirth and educate yourself and your partner. Remember, we tend to be more fearful about situations we do not understand.
  • Keep active – our bodies are designed to move. Unless you have a condition which is preventing you from moving when you are labouring, then being mobile generally helps labour to progress more quickly.
  • Do some creative visualisation or mindful meditation – whatever helps you to focus. Many women find themselves in an almost primal state when labouring. Give into the forces which your body is dictating and have faith that it knows what to do.
  • Take an iPod or a favourite CD, some aromatherapy oils or perfume into the labour ward with you. We labour with all of our senses and this is a time of acute sensitivity.
  • Keep your partner close. Some women like to have more than onebirthing support person with them; invite whomever you feel most comfortable with. But first check the hospital policy on numbers of support people allowed.
  • Aim to focus on your baby and visualise them going through the labour process with you. Try not to view the pain in an entirely negative way; it is a means to an end.
  • Try to relax when you can between your contractions. Feeling tense will only add to your discomfort so take the opportunity to rest when possible.
  • Keep focused on your contractions as they come, rather than thinking about how you’ll be coping with them later on. Deal with one contraction at a time. Remember, small steps.
  • Don’t feel embarrassed – your midwife and/or obstetrician has seen and heard everything you could possibly do or say a thousand times before. If you need to grunt, scream, swear or pant, or a combination of all of these, then just go ahead and do it.

The birthing journey is a very special time in a woman’s life.  Whatever path your birth takes, your ability to make decisions that are right for you and your baby depend on you being an active participant.

Should you be a woman of faith: let go and let God.  Remember the author and creator of life.  The designer of both you and your bub.  The following scriptures were compiled by Mother Rising (gorgeous printables can be found on her page) and, if you let them, they will both comfort and empower you.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (ESV)

2 Chronicles 15:7 “Be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” (NIV)

Psalm 55:22 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (ESV)

Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (NIV)

Isaiah 26:3 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (ESV)

Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV)

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (NKJV)

Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV) (My favourite!!!)

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (ESV) (My 2nd favourite!!!)

2 Timothy 4:17 “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me.” (ESV)

1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (ESV)

 

I’d also love to add in Psalm 139:14 “I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Your works are wonderful.  My soul knows that very well.”

 

******

Note:

The 2nd stage of labour generally starts with a rest of  5 – 20mins.  Take it!  Don’t intervene.  Recognise and appreciate it.

Don’t push till your body tells you to.

When pushing, remember the baby will move back up slightly after each push but that’s all part of preparing the pathway.

Birth Preparation Tips & Tools

Do you know the EPI-NO? (Hint: You NEED to!)

Using the EPI-NO was a key ingredient in my incredible birthing stories.
EPI-NO prepared me mentally for the sensation of birth & it prepared my body for the physical stretch.

*** This is NOT a sponsored post.  I am in no way endorsed by the manufacturer – this is a tool I used personally and believe it played an incredibly significant role in both of my calm, natural, fast and pain-free births with no tearing or complications. ***

Ladies, let me tell you about a cheeky little birthing preparation tool called EPI-NO which you may not have heard about but, and I can’t stress this enough, you NEED to know about!!!  This device has the power to change your entire birthing experience, for the better.

Warning: it may seem a little ‘weird’ and if, like me, you’re on the prudish side, your first reaction may very well be: “Oh hell no!”  Hear me out though, because I truly believe this product played a vital role for me in two crucial areas:

1) It physically prepared my body for the stretch that it had never done before, yet was imminent (let’s face it, there’s no escape!)

&

2) It gave me a ‘sneak peek’ into what birthing was like, what sensations I would experience… and I assure you it was nothing like I thought it was going to be!

new-delphine-plusMay I introduce you to: “EPI-NO”.  A brochure handed to me early in my pregnancy by a midwife at my obstetrician’s office aroused my curiosity.  Neither her nor my obstetrician ‘sold’ it to me by any means.  They said that they were seeing some good results from it and I figured it couldn’t hurt (well maybe it could…) to give it a go.

Due to the fears I’d always held about birthing a baby (just how exactly does something that size fit through there???), the friends I’d known who’d torn from front to back and my terror at the pain and complications that must inflict… I quite happily parted with the $186AUD to get my hands on this obscure item.  I was a woman on a mission, actively taking steps to ensure I gave myself, and of course bub, the best possible outcome during the birthing process, and this was one of them.

EPI-NO is meant to imply ‘Episiotomy NO!’  An episiotomy is a surgical cut in the muscular area between the vagina and the anus (the area called the perineum) made just before delivery to enlarge your vaginal opening.  The jury still seems to be out as to whether an episiotomy or allowing the body to tear naturally is the ‘better’ option… but ladies, I think we’ll all agree that neither is much more desirable!

What does EPI-NO do?

The following information has been taken directly from EPI-NO’s website:

“EPI-NO reduces the risk of tearing and episiotomy (stitches) during childbirth by working with the natural pregnancy hormone relaxin to prepare the perineum with gentle stretching exercises after Week 36.

 

The human body performs more efficiently in any physical activity when the body has trained and prepared for it. Childbirth is no exception.” 

– Dr Wilhelm Horkel (Inventor of EPI-NO)

Clinical Studies have shown a link between perineal injuries during childbirth with decreased bladder control, long-term incontinence, and sexual dysfunction.  Women delivering over an intact perineum experience a more rapid recovery from childbirth and increased mobility.

EPI-NO also conditions the pelvic floor muscles both before and after delivery (i.e. it’s also a pelvic floor trainer).

EPI-NO consists of: EPI NO
(1) a narrow contoured silicone balloon,
(2) a hand pump,
(3) pressure display,
(4) an air release valve,
(5) connected by a flexible plastic tube.

The EPI-NO balloon is soft, easily inserted, and naturally shaped so that it fits the vagina perfectly.  EPI-NO must be used only with a water based lubricant.

EPI-NO stretching exercises commence after Week 36 and continue until the end of the pregnancy term.  These exercises gradually stretch the perineum in daily sessions of 20 minutes comprising several cycles of 5 minutes duration. In these exercises the balloon is inserted and inflated at the perineum.  Women training with EPI-NO will normally achieve a dilation of between 8.5cm and 10cm over 3-4 weeks.  Women achieving 8.5cm will achieve the extra 1.5cm when the head is crowning.  Following the stretching exercises the balloon can be glided out, simulating the experience of control during delivery.”

Does EPI-NO work?

So that’s the technical jargon, but if you’re anything like me, you want to know from someone who’s used it first-hand and, more importantly, does EPI-NO work???

Here is my personal experience and review of using EPI-NO:

The first time I tried it I made myself comfortable on my bed, hubby was with me, inserted it (I found I always had to hold it in position or it would just come out) and began inflating it.  As the balloon gets larger, you start to notice a burning sensation and this is the start of you stretching.  Just like you’d practice doing the splits as a girl, the longer you hold it in that position the less you notice it, and you can potentially push yourself a little further.  There’s no rush though.  The great thing about this is you always work within your comfort levels and you are in complete control.  I tell you what though, when I ‘birthed’ the balloon (i.e. didn’t deflate it whilst it was still inside me but rather pushed it out), “Holy Guacamole!!!”  For a few seconds it scared the crap out of me.  It shocked me!  I had visions of being in labour gauging my fingernails into my husband’s arms screaming “What have you done to me!!!???”  But just as quickly, it was over.  I re-gathered myself and realised I’d just been given an insight into birthing my baby.  What a blessing.  I could practice beforehand to avoid freaking out on d-day.

The flash of the woman I didn’t want to be during labour encouraged me to keep using EPI-NO.  My husband was banished after that first experience and I used it in private, generally twice a day.  It really was a form of exercise, and as Dr Wilhelm Horkel, the inventor of EPI-NO, says: “The human body performs more efficiently in any physical activity when the body has trained and prepared for it. Childbirth is no exception.”  Makes perfect sense doesn’t it!  Why oh why then do more women not know about this?

It is said not to use it prior to week 36 because it works with the relaxin increasing in your body during this late stage of pregnancy.  My firstborn came at 38 weeks 6 days and by this time I was regularly inflating the balloon to the 10cm mark.  I’ve read forums online of some women saying they could never reach that 10cm mark and that’s OK.  Surely something is better than nothing.

Now, first timers, let me ask you a question.  When you are birthing your baby, do you expect that you will feel like you’re birthing out of your vagina or your derriere?  Because I most certainly was not expecting bub to feel like they were making their entrance into this world via my backside!  But that’s exactly what it feels like!  EPI-NO helped me get used to this bizarre, strange pressure so that it wasn’t a shock in the delivery suite.  Honestly, for me, this was invaluable!

My obstetrician, who was away the weekend I birthed, visited me a day or two later.  We received a handshake and a “congratulations” then he looked at my notes and questioned: “No tearing?”  When I confirmed this was true I received a second handshake (but I could tell he really wanted to high-5 me!)… something very rare for first time birthers apparently!

If you haven’t read my firstborn’s birth story please be sure to because it is absolutely amazing!  A completely calm, natural & pain-free birth with no tearing, no complications nor interventions.  I dilated incredibly quickly… from 0 – 9cm in a very short time.  I was stunned to say the least and I quote: “Does this mean I’m having a baby…?”  The rest is history!  I say without a doubt that I am certain the use of EPI-NO played a vital role in this success story, and I have been spouting about it ever since!

So that you don’t just have my review of EPI-NO to go off, I asked a friend of mine to write up a quick testimonial after her first birth.  Different to mine, as every birth story is, but impressive results nonetheless.

Josie’s Story – An EPI-NO Review:

“A friend suggested I try EPI-NO during my first pregnancy.  It sounded unusual and a bit quirky but I gave it a go and started around 38 weeks.  I reached a maximum stretch of 8.5cm and was worried it may not be so effective.
I endured a long labour and finally out came my baby’s head, quickly followed by a big, broad and tall body.  A baby boy weighing 9.5 pounds (4.230kg) and 55cm long.
The midwives were very concerned I’d torn my perineum given this was my first, he was a large baby and how quickly he shot out.
I only sustained superficial tearing on the outer vagina with no tearing to my perineum.

The midwives were astounded.  I told them about EPI-NO and they believe without a doubt this saved me from having an episiotomy.  The midwives said they will be recommending EPI-NO from that day on to all the women they see in antenatal clinics.

I strongly recommend EPI-NO to every woman in preparing for childbirth, it is so worth it. I will definitely be using it for my second.”

So yes, Josie still tore to a degree, but absolutely nothing like they were expecting her to and certainly nothing that caused her long-term pain or issues.

Another friend shared with me how she’d used it leading up to the birth of her second (because I’d not stopped raving about it after my first!).  She’d sustained third degree tearing first time around and this time… nothing!!!  Her nurses were amazed!  What stunned my friend the most was how ‘normal’ she felt immediately after birth. “Yes!!!” I said. “That’s how I felt after my first and everyone looked at me like I was some kind of freak!”

Alas from another friend who I’d heard had an EPI-NO… she confessed it was still sitting in it’s box unopened… three natural births and she tore every time… I realise they may not be for everyone, but I sure don’t regret it’s use for a second!

More testimonials can be found on EPI-NO’s website.

What are the risks of purchasing EPI-NO?

  • You may have purchased EPI-NO only to go into premature labour and hence not have even had the opportunity to use it.
  • You may have started using it but go into labour earlier than expected and perhaps not have reached the ‘goal’ you were aiming for… though one would hope that something is better than nothing, as with any form of exercise.
  • Despite your commitment and best efforts using the product in the lead-up to labour, circumstances find you having a caesarean.

As much as possible, one does need to mentally prepare themselves for the above mentioned.  There are no guarantees in birth.  But remember, it can also be used for pelvic floor exercises so it’s still a great purchase (I don’t think I’ve met a woman yet post-birth who’s pelvic floor is entirely as it should be…)  And of course it can be used again for possible future vaginal births.  Personally, I always like to be over prepared as opposed to under prepared and I like to know I’ve done all that I can do/control… but sometimes circumstances and situations are out of our control and, as disheartening as this can be, please remember that the health of both mum and bub are always of the utmost importance.  Our medical professionals are professionals due to their education, training and experience… whilst it is wonderful to be well informed and have clear ideas as to your birthing plan, unfortunately there are times when it all doesn’t fall into place the way we had hoped.

I am not a medical professional and urge you to always do your own research and please liaise with your medical team.  The thoughts and opinions expressed herein are those of the author based on their own personal experience.  No guarantees of effectiveness or outcome can be made.

EPI NO 2

 

Before commenting please stop & think: is it kind, caring, positive & beneficial?  Please remember that on the other side of this screen, be it the author or your fellow readers, that we are all humans with our own stories: needs, hopes, experiences, opinions &, most importantly, feelings.  This is a respectful & safe place.  I, the author, am not a medical professional.  I offer simply my personal experiences & information gleaned in the sincere hope that it may be of use to another.  This does not mean that I am ‘right’, whatever that means, but it did work for me.  I reserve the right to remove any comments I deem unnecessary, inappropriate or negative.  Thanks for being here.  xx