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Preparing for the unexpected during child birth

Each labour is unique and it helps to know things don’t always go as planned. You might end up needing an unplanned caesarean or your pains could begin in your back. Knowing what might happen – and how to cope – in these varying scenarios can ease some of your worries.

Back Labour

When many first-time mothers talk of labour pain, they associate the pain as being felt only in the front (the abdomen and pelvic area), but for some, the pain of labour can radiate towards the back as well. During back labour, pain is typically felt not only during a contraction, but also in between contractions. What exactly causes this discomfort/pain? The heaviest part of the baby is the back of his head and during back labour, the head rests on the mother’s sacrum, or tailbone, causing pain.

Babies can still be safely born in this position. To help alleviate some of this pain or discomfort, take pressure off the back by using positions where you are leaning against your partner, a birthing ball, the hospital bed or a wall. During the birthing stage, try lying on your side. Gravity works for you in either of these positions, which further helps the labour progress.

Fast and Furious Labour

Fast and furious labour feels intense and it seems as though contractions are coming one after the other with no chance for a breather in between. 

Lying on your left side tends to slow things down somewhat. Mothers who have previously given birth and experienced a fast labour are more prone to have another fast labour and birth.

During a labour such as this, it is natural for the labouring woman to tense various parts of the body. They may also feel quite overwhelmed by the whole experience, perhaps even scared at this point. A support person should be there to:

  • Reassure you that you are doing well.
  • Remind you to use your breathing patterns.
  • Help you relax.
  • Encourage you to use your natural coping techniques.
  • Get you into a comfortable position.
  • Look for all tense areas on your body; give you a light touch, followed by a gentle reminder to relax that part of the body.

Slow Progress Labour

During a slow labour, you may feel as though you’ve spent a lifetime labouring and still haven’t progressed as you’d hoped. When this happens, it does not necessarily mean there is something wrong with either the mother or baby. Perhaps baby is still high in the pelvis, or the cervix may still be long and thick.

Use labour-enhancing activities that will not only distract you from focusing on contractions alone, but also will encourage the labour to progress. Try the following:

  • Take a walk.
  • Change positions frequently.
  • Have a shower.
  • Ask your labour support to give you a massage.
  • Remember that each labour is unique in its progression.
  • Try not to get frustrated.

Unplanned Caesarean

During pregnancy, you’ve probably thought about how you would like to see the labour progress. Sometimes, however, it becomes increasingly apparent that things will not go as planned and you will need a caesarean in order to deliver the baby safely. There are several reasons for a cesarean, including the position of the baby for the birth, fetal distress, or a previous caesarean. 

A caesarean is a routine procedure that, while it may not be your first choice, is common and should not cause you to panic.

  • Ask your health-care provider what you can do to make the situation easier.
  • Discuss your concerns with your health-care provider to make you feel more at ease. 

It is rarely possible to determine any one labour outcome prior to the onset of labour. Discuss your concerns with your health-care provider, know your choices and create a birth plan outlining your preferences surrounding the labour, birth and the postpartum period.

A plan can help you prepare for your labour and delivery, but remember to always keep an open mind, just in case plans change.

a man carrying two children

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