A survey of 525 nurses in Southern California—56% of whom have more than twenty years experience—reveals what labor and delivery nurses wish women knew about childbirth. And their advice is really good! So listen up:
1. 94% of the surveyed nurses think women should take a childbirth class.
“Usually the more prepared women are the better the experience. The fear factor decreases and with it so does the pain,” wrote one of the nurses surveyed.
Another had this to say, “women think that watching The Baby Story and similar shows on TLC, etc., is preparation for childbirth, and is realistic. This is not the typical birth experience.”
I couldn’t agree more! I became a childbirth teacher because I want to help reduce the “fear factor” and dismantle some of The Baby Story mythology. You can never know exactly what your labor will be like. But you can learn a lot about what to expect in the hospital or birthing center which will allow you to focus on your labor rather than the dazzling and sometimes intimidating surroundings. Knowing how normal birth works– the physiology of it– can be incredibly valuable, too. If you know what your body is doing, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed or scared. Not all childbirth classes are fantastic, though. So look around for one that delves into many the ways a woman can cope in labor, and embraces a more personal, less prescriptive approach.
2. Nearly 89% think women should prepare a birth plan.
This one surprises me. I heave heard about hospital staff rolling their eyes when a birth plan is presented. But these nurses emphasize the educational aspect of a birth plan: “Developing a birth plan takes conscious thought and may assist (especially first time) mothers with being more informed about options.”
Another nurse writes, “I’ve noticed a lot of people use pre-made birth plans from the Internet, which doesn’t really help them to be more knowledgeable about the process of labor of delivery. I’m not convinced simply having a birth plan will help patient’s to be more knowledgeable or prepared about the process.” So true. I love these nurses!
And this: “Birth plans must be created with a health care professional who understands the realities of what is available at our particular hospital.” Yeah, if you come into a hospital with a high-risk Ob/gyn and want to give birth in the bath with your husband, children and soul sisters you’re going to be disappointed. But if you come in with a plan that shows clear priorities, you may get the help you need. I suggest educating yourself and making a list of those things that matter most to you.
3. 63% welcome “the right” doula.
This one is also a little surprising, I hear about doulas and nurses going head-to-head from time to time. But maybe the “wars” between nurses and doulas and doctors and midwives are over-hyped, much in the same way all the other birth and mommy “wars” are.
Here’s what these nurses say: “A doula can be a great support if a woman is trying to have an unmedicated delivery. A woman really needs one-to-one care when she is laboring without any pain meds.”
“Continual labor support from a confident and knowledgeable support person makes a huge difference in outcomes.”
“Doulas can be helpful as long as they are supportive, not adversarial with the nursing staff.”
All of these observations are supported by research.
Kudos to these labor and delivery nurses for seeing a clear, collaborative path to helping women prepare for birth. I would also be curious to hear what they think obstetricians might do to improve their practices. Or how hospital policy might change to better accommodate women.