It's natural to feel nervous about what will happen at the birth, so it makes sense to find out as much as you can about labour before the big event itself.
Midwife Maylyn Bonds, who works on the Tommy's The Baby Charity's Pregnancy Information Line, says,
Get to know your midwife so you can discuss any worries with her. Go to antenatal classes as you'll be taken through the labour process there, and go on a tour of your labour ward - most hospitals offer this once a week and it will give you a better idea of what to expect.
Read up as much as you can and get ideas about what you want, such as who to have as your birth partner and the pain relief you might like. It can also help to make a birth plan that your midwife can go through with you,' she adds. Read on as we help calm your nerves by addressing some of your most common birth worries.
I'd love a home birth but I'm nervous about things going wrong'
Maylyn says, A home birth needs to be planned in advance so the midwife can go through with you things that may happen, uch as the baby having difficulties after the birth.
There is some risk but your midwife should be aware of any potential problems and transfer you to hospital if necessary.
But there are things you should consider, such as how far away is your nearest hospital? If you live somewhere remote you may want to consider a birth centre, which has a home-from-home atmosphere but also has facilities if anything goes wrong.'
I'm worried my partner might not cope with the birth'
Your partner may be anxious about this, too, so talk to him sooner rather than later. Maylyn says, Have someone on hand who's calm, supportive and who you're comfortable with. It doesn't have to be your baby's dad. In fact, if he's anxious about it, he might not be the best choice. If so, don't force him. Ask someone like your mum or sister who may give more support. And remember, you can have two birth partners so it's not a case of either/or.'
Can I give birth to twins naturally?'
Labour tends to start earlier with twins, often at around 38 weeks. Talk to your obstetrician if you want a natural birth and if all's well, you should be able to.
One thing that may be an issue is the position of the twins. If they're both head down, a natural birth should be possible. If one is head down while the other is breech (bottom down), the head down twin is born first as this makes the space wider for the second twin to pass through. If both twins are breech, a C-section may be recommended. This is also the case in rare situations where one twin is lying sideways.
My baby's in an awkward position. Will this affect delivery?'
Sometimes a baby can be in the occipitoposterior position (OP) - with his back against your spine. It can cause back pain and ineffective contractions. Ask your midwife or antenatal teacher to show you techniques that give your baby the best chance to change position, for example, postures that involve tilting the pelvis forward, giving your baby room to turn. Spending time in the final weeks leaning forward over a beanbag is said to help, too.
I've been told my baby is small for dates. Will he cope with labour?'
Small for dates' means that your baby is smaller than average for his age. Certain things can cause this, for example, if you smoke, have diabetes, suffer from hypertension or have severe anaemia. Small babies don't cope with a shortage of oxygen as well as normal-sized babies do, and this may influence doctors' decisions about how you give birth.
After the birth, small-for-dates babies have a higher risk of problems in the first week. On average, they tend to have less body fat, which puts them at risk of heat loss. It's important for doctors and midwives to be aware that your baby is small so they're prepared to deal with any problems that may arise.
How will I know if labour's begun?'
The most common sign is when you start having regular contractions. Once these start to get stronger and last for more than 30 seconds, labour may have started. So get out your stopwatch!
A show' - when the sticky pink plug of mucus that seals the cervix comes away - can also be a sign. You may have low backache, or the same feeling you have during a period. You may also get diarrhoea as the body makes space for the baby to pass through the birth canal.
A more dramatic sign is your waters breaking. This could be a gentle trickle or a gush of liquid. When this happens, contact your midwife or local maternity ward.
What if my waters break in public?'
This is a common worry. It can happen, but it's unusual to get a sudden gush - you're more likely to feel a trickle. There's no need to panic, but do contact your midwife.
If you feel a warm gush rather than a trickle, your waters look greenish brown, or there's blood, call the labour ward at once, as you could go into labour very shortly. Hospitals have different policies, however, if everything is okay, you may be allowed home to go into labour naturally. Always seek medical help if your waters break early - before 37 weeks.
I need to be induced but I've heard it makes contractions more painful'
Induction is when labour is started artificially. It may be needed if the baby's at risk if he stays in the womb, for example if he's not growing, or if you're overdue and there are concerns that the placenta won't work as well. You may also be induced if the pregnancy is putting you at risk, for example if you have high blood pressure.
Your contractions will be started either by breaking your waters manually or by inserting a pessary or gel into the vagina. A hormone drug known as Syntocinon may also be given through a drip. Some women say that contractions brought on by Syntocinon are more painful than natural ones, so you may choose to have an epidural for pain relief.
I'm worried about tearing'
Not everyone tears and there are things you can do to make it less likely. Giving birth upright helps, as does massaging your perineum, the area between the vagina and anus, with almond oil in the weeks leading up to your due date. This is said to help improve the elasticity of the skin. Once the pushing stage starts, it helps if it's done gently and gradually. Your midwife will help you through.
I'm afraid of the pain'
Pain is frightening because it's associated with the body being damaged, yet in labour something positive happens. The best way to face it is to learn about contractions and the pain relief available either at antenatal classes or by talking things over with your midwife.
Maylyn says, Some women cope well with pain and others don't, so keep an open mind about pain relief. In my experience, in a normal delivery, once the baby is born and the placenta is delivered, a lot of women forget about it.'
If I poo, I'll be embarrassed'
This is a real fear for many women. It tends to happen as the baby moves down the birth canal and presses on the bowel. But while you're in labour, you'll be focusing on other things and may not even realise you've done it. And don't worry about the midwives - they deal with this kind of thing every day.
I can't bear the idea of forceps'
Forceps - which look like salad servers - can be useful in the end stages of labour. They're placed around the baby's head and pulled gently to deliver him. They may be used if he's distressed, during a breech birth to deliver the head, if you're tired, or your contractions are weak. An episiotomy, a cut between the vagina and the anus, may be given along with a local anaesthetic if you haven't already had an epidural.
I want to avoid a Caesarean'
Elective Caesareans are planned, usually if the baby cannot be delivered naturally - perhaps the mother's pelvis is too small or the placenta is in the way. But if labour is progressing slowly or the baby is distressed, an obstetrician would advise an emergency Caesarean if it was the best way to deliver your baby safely.
Maylyn says, Most women want a natural birth and may feel disappointed if they have a Caesarean. Remember, most midwives and doctors are gearing for a normal delivery but sometimes a C-section is necessary for the mum and the baby.'
Will I feel like a failure if I don't get the birth I want?'
Labour is often thought of as an endurance test that you either pass or fail. It isn't. Be prepared for a range of possibilities rather than having a rigid plan. Also try to get as much information as you can, but don't have too many preconceived ideas.
To create your own personalised birth plan click here.
For more information visit netdoctor.co.uk