When I meet with clients one question I often ask is “why do you want this type of birth/birth plan?” And one of the most common answers is “I just want to do what’s best for my baby.” Though this answer is completely understandable and reasonable, it is my belief that it should not be the goal. In my practice I offer my clients lots of articles and information about the benefits to the baby when the mother eats and exercises healthily during pregnancy, the baby is born unmedicated vaginally vs caesarean, or when they breastfeed for x-amount of their life. However birth is just as much, if not more, about the mother as it is about the baby.
Personal Prenatal Care
Personal prenatal care mostly involves the mother’s support system, diet, and physical habits during pregnancy. Healthy habits help with physical and mental development of the baby; this is the most well-known information. But for the mother? Women who live a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy have a decreased chance of developing pregnancy related conditions such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and gestational hypertension. Healthy mothers have more positive labours and quicker recovery times postpartum as well as a decreased chance of developing postpartum depression.
My definition of a gentle birth is any birth where the mother has options and chooses which ones fit her best interest. She trusts her team to support her and is in an environment where she feels safe to be vulnerable and trusting. Very rarely a baby will feel trauma from how it was birthed, it is possible but rare. A mother, however, will remember her child’s birth long after they are born. If the birth went well, then she will gleam when she remembers the event. But if the birth ended in an unplanned cesarean, she felt unsupported by her care providers, or everything went by in a blur then she can remember it as trauma. This can either cause her to never want to give birth again, or be determined to have a different birth the next time around. Whether the birth ended in ecstasy or distress, the mother feels all of the emotions long after the birth.
The benefits to babies of breastfeeding are becoming highly well known in society: improved immune system, decreased chance of allergies, increased brain development, decreased risk of SIDS etc. There is no doubt that breastfeeding is the optimal option for babies. But breast feeding has many benefits for mothers as well. The skin-to-skin contact that mother and baby receive during feedings helps with oxytocin release in the mother and bonding between the two. This is the time for mothers to be in the moment with their young one. There is no need to worry about work, household chores, or what you’ll eat for dinner. Just be present and enjoy the time you have with your baby. Taking the time to rest and let your mind free during feedings helps to reduce stress and decreases the risks of postpartum depression for the mother. There have also been studies showing decreased chances of breast and ovarian cancer from mothers who breastfeed their children.
And what about the emotional aspect of having a child? Mother’s feel so much when they spend time with their little one. Humans often choose to do activities and hobbies, simply because they enjoy them. Birth is all about the mother feeling safe and comfortable. If she wants a water birth, then she shall be free to choose a water birth for her own comfort. If she decides during labour that she does not like the feeling of contractions and wants pain relief, well then of course she can have the pain relief. Same can be said for any other choices she makes for her birth. Birth is so much about the mother. If the mother feels relaxed and blissful, then her baby will also experience that in the birth. A happy mother means a happy birth.