Updated: May 22
Reduce Anxiety Through Preparation
Labour. It’s the one thing on every pregnant woman’s mind, no matter how far along she may be. What will it feel like? How much will it hurt? How long will it take? The truth is, none of these questions can be answered until childbirth itself. One thing expectant mothers can control, however, is their approach to the labouring process through calm birthing preparation techniques.
Managing childbirth expectations
Much of the ability to remain calm during labour and birth revolves around understanding and accepting the unpredictability of the labour process. The experience can differ substantially from labour to labour, and even if you have given birth before, you may find subsequent deliveries vastly different. While opinions differ, today's common preference is for a ‘natural birth’: a drug-free, tear-free, physiological (unassisted, vaginal) delivery. If this is a mother’s preference, it is essential that she is aware of the actual statistical likelihood of that occurring and plan accordingly.
‘Natural Birth’ statistics
In Australia, approximately 50% of women in their first labour will give birth via a physiological or ‘normal’ delivery. Approximately 35% will need a Caesarean section, and 15% will need assistance with forceps or ventouse (vacuum). Approximately 40% of women who labour will request an epidural for pain management, and once this is administered, there is an increased likelihood of intervention. This is because, despite the epidural providing excellent pain relief, it can affect contraction quality, blood pressure and ability to push. These side effects create the potential for further interventions such as syntocinon (the drug to aid contractions), foetal distress and increased likelihood of an assisted delivery.
Approximately 90% of women who have a vaginal birth, either assisted or unassisted, will sustain a tear or cut (episiotomy). While bad tears (third-degree or greater) are rare, there is generally some notable discomfort during the healing process. These numbers tell us that, while the chances are suitable for a ‘natural’ birth, this will not be possible for every woman.
Natural birth preparation
For those who would like to try to have a ‘natural birth’, without medical intervention, without drugs or an epidural, and have little-to-no tearing, preparation is the key to maximising the chances at success. Hypnobirthing methods, taught in the lead-up to childbirth, have decreased the need for pain relief, decreased anxiety leading up to the birth, produced calmer babies and increased natural delivery rates.
To decrease the chance of tearing and the need for episiotomy (‘cutting’) the Epi-No perineal trainer is effective and is not known to affect the long-term bladder and pelvic floor tone. While neither hypnobirthing nor the Epi-No guarantees a natural birth, they are safe and practical. They may be the difference between an interventional and non-interventional delivery and all the potential after-effects, including effects on future delivery choices.
This article was written by Dr Peter Jurcevic, Parents You've Got This' Obstetrician expert. Dr Peter is one of Melbourne’s finest Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, providing private services at Frances Perry House. He has been advocating for calm birthing options for more than 18 years and has seen first-hand the enormous benefits they provided his partner at the births of their three children. Dr Peter Jurcevic presents at the Parents You've Got This Virtual Birth, In-person Birth and Pregnancy Classes.