Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Am I Allowed, Really??

I hear so many women ask if they are allowed to do something, particularly while in labour. I cringe inside at the sound of that phrase - "Am I allowed, really?"

Most women don't understand that what happens in labour is pretty negotiable. I always try to help women to remember that it is their body, their baby and their experience to protect.

For the most part, medical professionals (but usually midwives) are fairly accommodating to a woman's wishes - after all, she is having a baby; she is bringing a new life into the world; she will always remember this day... but, especially, she will always remember how she was treated.

Common questions I hear asked in terms of what a woman is "allowed" to do, include:

  • eat during labour (Why not?! Remember your body is doing some of the hardest work it will ever do, and you need to give it the energy needed to work effectively. Some hospitals [grr] are somewhat old-fashioned and prefer you not to eat should you require surgery, i.e. a c-section. Do your own research and find out there's absolutely no evidence to support that refraining from eating during labour is beneficial, in fact I would think it were on the contrare!)

  • move around during labour (There is much information on the positives of having an active labour and birth; specifically, a woman being able to take the position she feels is best will assist in keeping her as comfortable as possible, offer opportunities to get labour going or to provide the woman with some rest and allows the woman to use her intuition in adopting the best position to help baby move down through the pelvis and birth canal)

  • labour in the bath or shower (Even if the place where you are giving birth does not have a water birth policy, it is in the woman best interest to allow her to enter the bath or shower at any time she feels during her labour. There is specific information on labouring and birthing in water here.)

  • stay home as long as possible (There is actually evidence to support that staying home in labour while ever things remain 'uncomplicated' is beneficial. This is because you are generally more comfortable at home, less likely to get an infection if your membranes have ruptured, and [most importantly] you are less likely to feel as though you require the use of pain relief or intervention.)

  • have a trained support person (See my website - http://www.empoweredforbirth.com/ - or go here to read about how the Australian College of Midwives support the use of a doula.)

There are many other questions about what a woman is "allowed or not allowed" to do. My general advice would be to discuss your options during pregnancy with your birth support team - this means the people that will be supporting you on the day, including the midwives in the birthing unit. They should be helpful on what their policies suggest a woman do during the birth of her baby.

Most midwives are very accommodating in allowing women the freedom to do what makes them feel best. This is because midwives primarily practice care that is woman-centred.

Go to the Australian College of Midwives website to read about the evidence that supports every woman being attended by a midwife during the birth of her baby. And remember that the choices you make BEFORE you have your baby will strongly determine how likely it will be that you are "allowed" to do what you wish during labour and birth.

Blessings and happy informed choice making!

Jen Staniforth


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