Childbirth is unpredictable. No matter how much time, money, and effort you spend planning and preparing, there's no way to guarantee how your experience will go.
You should also know that while all of the above is true, there are things you can do to increase your chance of having a better, safer, and healthier birth experience and outcome.
Based on up-to-date and proven research, Lamaze has created six guidelines for a safer and healthier birth outcome. The Lamaze Six Healthy Birth Practices help ease the birthing process while instilling confidence along the way. No matter the unique circumstances surrounding your upcoming birth, you will be able to benefit from understanding the options and information presented within these practices.
The Lamaze Six Healthy Birth Practices
1 - Let labor begin on its own.
Allowing labor to begin on its own means you allow your baby to choose their own birthday and your body choose when it's ready to go into labor. This helps ensure that baby has developed properly and reduces the risk of additional medical interventions (procedures) during birth that may not have been needed, and that can cause problems for parent and baby.
Spontaneous labor is almost always the best way to know that it's the right time to go into labor. In most pregnancies, labor will start only when your baby, your uterus, your hormones, and your placenta are ready. When all systems are "go" for birth, labor and birth are usually safer and healthier. Every day in the last weeks of pregnancy is vital to your baby and your body's preparation for birth.
Unless you or your baby has a health problem that necessitates induction, it makes sense to wait patiently for your labor to start on its own, even if your due date has passed. Find out how to keep labor as natural as possible if you have a medical reason to be induced.
2 - Walk, move around and change positions throughout labor.
In labor and birth, your body's movements help your baby's movements! Your baby has a lot of work to do to move through the birth canal. Moving makes this process easier for baby and it makes labor and birth more comfortable and efficient for you. Different positions work to speed up labor, lower pain, and help baby move down.
Learn how you can keep moving during your labor. Find out how to keep your birth as healthy as possible if your movement is restricted.
3 - Bring a loved one, friend or doula for continuous support.
Birth is emotionally and physically challenging. When you have a dedicated person by your side to support and encourage you through the process you are more likely to have a positive birthing experience and less likely to have unwanted medical interventions. A supportive partner or family member makes a great support person, as does a doula.
Good labor support is not watching the clock and checking IV lines and fetal monitor printouts; it’s making sure you’re not disturbed, respecting the time that labor takes, and reminding you that you know how to birth your baby. Your support team will create a space where you feel safe and secure and can do the hard work of labor without worry. Learn more about choosing your birth team.
4 - Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary.
Certain medical procedures (also known as interventions) are performed routinely in labor and in birth, despite the fact they aren't always necessary. In fact, they can cause unnecessary harm. Most births in the United States today are full of interventions. It's important to know more about interventions, including when they are needed and when they're done routinely, without medical reason.
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5 - Avoid giving birth on your back and follow your body’s urges to push.
Gravity works in your favor during birth -- use it! Research shows that laying flat on your back to push out a baby is more difficult and can cause added difficulties when pushing. Research also shows that holding your breath during pushing isn't ideal -- better to follow your body's urges for pushing. Current evidence shows that letting you assume whatever position you find most comfortable, encouraging you to push in response to what you feel, and letting you push as long as you and your baby are doing well are all beneficial practices. Learn how to keep your birth as safe and healthy as possible if you have to use directed pushing.
6 - Keep your baby with you after birth; it’s best for you, baby, and breastfeeding / chest feeding.
Research shows that keeping baby with you after birth and without separation for the first few hours, is best for both of you. Breastfeeding / chest feeding gets off to the the best start, baby feels safest, bonding can begin, baby gets healthy bacteria from your skin, baby stays warm, and both of your hormones regulate.
Experts recommend that right after birth, a healthy newborn should be placed skin-to-skin on your abdomen or chest after birth and should be dried and covered with warm blankets. Any care that needs to be done immediately after birth can be done with your baby skin-to-skin on your chest. Learn about establishing breastfeeding in the early days and weeks.