You Can’t Control Birth, But You Can Influence It

By Karen Shlegeris

In these fast-moving days, we love to feel in control of what’s happening to us. Control of our jobs, finances, social life, kids, friends and family. Women come to my pregnancy classes saying they want to feel in control when they give birth, and I have to break it to them gently that birth is one thing you really can’t control. But the good news is, there is plenty you can do to influence the way your birth flows, starting early in pregnancy. Here are some ideas of the actions you can take.

Firstly, you can choose a care provider and place of birth where you’re likely to be supported to achieve the type of birth you want: vaginal or by caesarean, unmedicated or with an epidural, and how actively you’re involved in decision-making. It’s obvious that if you want a natural, spontaneous birth without drugs, you need to choose a care provider who regularly supports this type of birth, probably at home or in a birth centre or midwifery model of care. If you want an elective caesarean, you’ll choose an obstetrician who is comfortable scheduling you in for surgery.

I find that most women don’t realise the importance of this decision on the outcome of their birth. They do what their friends or sisters do, or what their GP recommends, rather than exploring the options in their area. Where I live and work on the Sunshine Coast, we have lots of options, from hospital midwifery care or group midwifery care at the public hospital, to a range of obstetricians in private practice, to a number of independent midwives who support birth at home or in hospital. We also have a growing number of women choosing to freebirth without medical support at all, sometimes with a doula, or just their partner and maybe friends in attendance.

But the good news is, there is plenty you can do to influence the way your birth flows, starting early in pregnancy.

Regardless of the type of birth you’re aiming for, you’ll want to be active and feel comfortable during pregnancy. Choosing a specialised exercise class like pregnancy yoga or Pilates will provide you with safe exercise as well as a place to find a community of like-minded women to share your journey. For most women, walking, swimming or dancing will complement their exercise classes and maintain a good level of fitness, as well as boosting their feel-good hormones.

With the growing knowledge about making space for the baby, most pregnant women become aware of the Spinning Babies movement and incorporate specific exercises and posture awareness throughout pregnancy. I focus a lot on this in my pregnancy yoga classes to help pregnant women find balance in their bodies and help baby get into a great position for birth, to prevent breech position, backache labour, need for an epidural, and even avoid the need for forceps, vacuum or a caesarean.

An independent birth class is essential for every couple approaching birth. I see the difference these types of courses make to couples again and again. Not only do they learn the beautiful way that birth works; they become aware of challenges that can arise, how to work with their care providers, how to breathe and relax, move and rest to have the most effective labour possible. Partners learn their important role, which takes a load off the mother’s shoulders when she realises she doesn’t have to look out for her partner as well as give birth.

The difference between these types of classes and traditional hospital classes or even active birth workshops is that couples are guided into relaxation where their deeply-held beliefs about birth are cleansed, removing fears and blocks and replacing them with feelings of calm, confidence and excitement about giving birth. Births and lives are changed during these courses.

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