Sunday, December 31, 2006

Your Birthing Plan Options

Having a birth plan is a great idea, but you should know that it is not set in stone. There are a number of reasons you could opt to change your birth plan during the course of labor and delivery, and the doctor or midwife has some discretion as well. One of the most crucial issues you will need to decide for your birth plan is whether or not you want medication. Unfortunately for a lot of women this issue has become politicized so that many women feel pressured into making a choice that may not be right for them.

Many women feel, for example, that using medication is tantamount to drugging the baby despite significant evidence to the contrary when it comes to modern medications. The reason for this belief stems from older versions of labor medication in which some babies were born groggy. Though those medicines have been out of use for decades, some people still persist in their belief that using any drugs will harm the baby. If you feel that medication is not right for you, then do not use it. For most women, though, some relief from the pain of childbirth is welcome.

Narcotics are a common option for mothers who are in labor. Let me share some information with you from my personal experience, however. I took a shot of a narcotic during labor with my son because I mistakenly believed (learned in childbirth class) that I would be able to continue to walk around or sleep after taking the drug. That is not the case. As soon as I got the drug, I was kept in bed, which I hated, and I discovered that narcotics actually are intended as more of a grogginess mechanism than a pain reliever in labor.

Epidurals also are a common option for women who want to diminish the pains of labor. Epidurals are another option rife with misperceptions. When this type of anesthetic agent became available, it was called a spinal. The doctor put a needle into the top two layers of the spinal cord. That made some women get terrible headaches, sometimes for months afterward, because their balance had been altered. Today, doctors use a different technique that does not require this invasion of the spinal column.

If you want to get an epidural, you should check with your hospital about their policies. Some women are not eligible because of various medical conditions. In most hospitals, there are requirements. You will need to be dilated to a certain point but not too far along, and you may have time limits as well. Find out beforehand so that you can make preparations.

Many women find that though they have researched their medication options before going into labor, they want to change them once they are in the throes of labor. Some women report feeling more powerful in labor, and they decide that they do not want or need pain medication. Other women were not prepared for how their bodies would react to the pain of childbirth, and they may need to re-evaluate their options. Do not feel bad about changing your decisions; do what you think is best for you and your baby.

Beyond the medication route, there are other ways to deal with pain during childbirth. Many hospitals now offer exercise balls, which work well for many women, and rocking chairs, massagers, and other accessories to help ease the labor pains. If your hospital has these items or permits you to bring your own, then you definitely should consider it. They can make the process go much more smoothly for you if you have something to help you feel better. Other options, such as music, work for some women and not others. I personally wanted to blare my favorite songs so that I could shift focus instead of playing classical music, which is what some women prefer.

Just be sure that you research what you think may be helpful to you before you go into labor. Pack everything up before you get there so that you will be ready when the time comes. Know that you may get out some items while you leave others in your suitcase. Just pick whatever works best for you.

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