Anyone who has ever delivered a baby will tell you childbirth is not a walk in the park. The reward comes when you hold your baby for the first time and realize all the hard work was worth it. Luckily labor, delivery and post-partum options have evolved. These options can ease the discomfort of labor, encourage mother-baby bonding and provide families with the tools needed to customize their birthing plan for one of life's most precious experiences.
There are different options when giving birth. Childbirth delivery options include natural unassisted childbirth, assisted childbirth, and delivery by Cesarean surgery (C-section).
Franciscan Health Indianapolis Childbirth Education Coordinator Ann Clute, RN, says she has seen an increase in women requesting unmedicated births. "The other thing I've seen is moms waiting longer to get their epidurals (spinal blocks) and not getting them the second they hit the door," she said.
Labor Pain Management
While epidurals and other types of pain medication can be helpful in relieving labor pain, other options are available to help women manage pain, promote relaxation and encourage baby and pelvis positioning to aid in delivery.
Joan Culver, RN, director of ancillary patient care services at Franciscan Health Olympia Fields, said that birthing balls can help reduce pain and provide support. Traditional birthing balls can be used by women who can get out of bed.
Even while out of bed, mother and baby can be continuously monitored, thanks to wireless central monitoring. Women with an epidural can use peanut-shaped balls. “Both are great for helping mom be in a better position to encourage the baby and to help open the pelvis,” said Culver.
Aromatherapy is another tool to help moms relax and is the use of essentials oils from plants to improve the mind, body, and spirit.
Clute said women are encouraged to get a blend of essential oils made up ahead of time to get through labor and provide a calming effect to promote breastfeeding.
Aromatherapy is used in several ways:
- Indirect inhalation: The patient breathes in an essential oil by using a room diffuser, which spreads the essential oil through the air, or by placing drops on a tissue or piece of cotton nearby.
- Direct inhalation: The patient breathes in an essential oil by using an individual inhaler made by floating essential oil drops on top of hot water.
- Massage: In aromatherapy massage, one or more essential oils is diluted into a carrier oil and massaged into the skin.
A doula, or birth coach, is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.
Countless scientific trials examining doula care demonstrate remarkably improved physical and psychological outcomes for both mother and baby. Doulas have a positive impact on the well-being of the entire family.
After The Baby Is Born
Franciscan Health encourages skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby for at least an hour after birth, avoiding any immediate bathing of the infant that would separate them. Clute said research has shown extended skin-to-skin contact increases bonding and breastfeeding success rates. It also helps to regulate the baby's temperature.
Part of Clute's job is to educate the parents, grandparents and visitors about the importance of mom, dad and baby spending precious alone time together before having visitors.
"We try hard to encourage parents to keep visitors at bay to have that sacred time in the first couple hours to just bond, count fingers and toes, take pictures and just take a breath," Clute said.
Lactation consultants are onsite and regular support groups help encourage long-term breastfeeding. Staff also spend time with family members on safe sleep instruction, SIDS prevention and car seat safety. Culver stated that while education classes differ by location, all educators work hard to stay up-to-date with the latest research and recommendations.
Culver stresses while every woman labors and delivers in a different way, the most important part is sending home a healthy mom and a healthy baby. "This is one of those rare times where it's really about the destination and not the journey," she said.