7 Slippery Slopes of Labor
How to stay in control during labor is one of the most FAQs that I receive on a daily basis! Good news! So many of the “unknowns” of birth can be alleviated with the proper education and preparation!
But there is a catch here! The catch is.. how you prepare is uber important. Meaning you can read all the books that you have been told to read, but if you're not reading the right books, then it's really not going to prepare you. You can take all of the childbirth ed classes that your hospital has to offer. But, if your hospital isn't presenting you with all of the options during the childbirth ed course, and they're only presenting you with options that they want you to know, this prevents you from being able to truly make an informed and confident choice.
Being able to freely make a decision after open discussion with your doctor is what we call shared decision making. This means you, your medical team and your support people come together to do exactly what it sounds like-- making a decision after sharing suggestions, opinions, and alternative options. It is important that the birthing parent shares their fears and concerns at this point, too!With this, the birthing person should feel supported and safe in their decisions. You want your medical team to feel like we are choosing a safe and reasonable option, as well! You should also feel confident that you are making the right choice and your medical team should feel comfortable with the choice made.
Remember that nature is always going to play a role in birth. That's life; nature will always play a role in everything we do and we can’t control that. But, as far as being able to control labor, you can control 90% of it (the part that isn’t dependent on nature). I like to think about labor as seven different categories that you can control 100%. These are places that I call the slippery slopes of birth.
The Slippery Slopes of Birth
These are seven places of your birth story that you can control, but if you aren’t preparing intentionally and you don't prepare in the correct way with the correct information (research-backed information), then you risk going down one of the slippery slopes. Each of these 7 categories is a mountain that you can conquer (control) or you can slip down during labor.
Here's the thing, it's not about having a straight arrow birth when making your birth plan. It won’t be this A to B type route. There will always be what I like to call ‘loop-di-loo’s’ along the way! Knowing how to control these seven places in labor is mey and we will do this by showing you the variables and the normal variations of labor and birth. This enables you to understand what's normal and what is a cause for concern, what are worrisome numbers and what is expected with typical labor patterns. With this understanding, you will be able to have educated discussions with your doctor to find what option is best for you. You will be able to ask the right questions using the right words to feel informed about all of your choices.
There are some things in birth that no matter how hard we try, we're not going to be able to control. And, that is the nature piece. That's literally the only piece of this journey that we can’t control. But, you want your birth to unravel how it's supposed to and your job is not to control it. (Remember, birth is a very natural thing) You're safe to have your baby and your job is to relax so your body can do its job. Your job is to be so prepared and so informed and have done all the research so that if you run into any of those variables, you know how you can react and what your options are--in each of those situations.
Again, it's not about controlling your labor, your birth experience. It is about controlling the seven places that you have ultimate control and allowing nature to take control of the rest. We will prepare for and react to whatever nature throws your way.
The CONTROL Method
Communication. Options. Navigating labor. Team. Research. Opinions. Location.
Let's just take the first one C, communication. Ideally throughout your pregnancy, as you're meeting with your provider (whether you see one provider the entire time or you see a rotation of providers), you should be setting boundaries along the way. You can gently do this through communication. Let's say, for example, you have a very strong preference to do whatever you can to avoid a C-section and otherwise you’re really open to a lot of things.
Since your main goal here is to have a vaginal delivery, we want to gently be saying this throughout your prenatals with your provider or providers, so that they start to get the idea of your birth goals. This sets the tone for your birth in pregnancy. The more direct you are with your doctor, the less room for error. In communicating your goals, you’re providing them with constant reminders over time, so that they're less likely to forget during your labor. This also ensures this doctor is a good fit for you and can support you in your goals. Communicating before you’re in labor prevents us from having to have this conversation during labor because your team already understands your birth goals. That boundary has already been set.
You can see how this is a slippery slope if we don't do the very tiny steps of setting these boundaries and communicating during your prenatals, asking the right questions, using the right words, getting really right down to the bottom of your provider's thoughts and your goals, but also finding that happy middle ground. One last thought: making your goals clear before you’re in labor is incredibly helpful should you have a provider you've never met attend your labor.
Let’s chat about R. Doing the research before allows you to have a solid foundation of understanding about what common practices are in the birth world and what the evidence says about each of those practices. These are certainly things that you don't want to be making big decisions about during labor. These will be things that are going to impact the way your birth goes now or the way that your birth goes down the line a bit. Making decisions on whether you want an IV placed or whether you can eat during labor isn’t what you’re going to want to be doing while you’re also trying to use your mental and cognitive energy to focus on your contractions.
One of the best things you can do to take control of your birth is to plan for all of those variables and learn those normal variations in labor so that you know what's normal versus what is concerning during labor. The research you do leading up to your birth gives YOU all the power. You know what to expect, what your options are, what is considered ‘not normal,’ and what to do if your labor does take a ‘not normal’ turn!
It’s All Connected.
If we look closely, we can see how it's all intertwined. It starts with communication, then understanding your options at each stage. Those two allow you to navigate labor and your team + your research allow you to stay in control from start to finish. Finally, when you control for the opinions in your inner circle and the place you give birth, you greatly increase your chances of achieving your birth goals!
Now, sometimes you're going to have to advocate harder for yourself than other times, but in labor, that’s really a nonnegotiable. You have to speak up for yourself. It is a must. If you're going to stay in control, you have to speak up. Period. You have to absolutely speak up for yourself and advocate for your birth goals in order to stay on track for reaching your dream birth.
If you find that your doctor is giving you pushback on your birth goals and they don't really have a lot of flexibility-- it's really worth considering if this is the right doctor for you. If they are inflexible in your pregnancy, it's unlikely that once labor begins that there's a lot of change in that department. So, if you're already feeling that tension, it is worth thinking about finding a provider that is better aligned with you. This goes back to the core value of T, team.
Remember that there are so many outdated policies in women's health. Like, you know, one of my favorite examples to talk about is the policy restricting food and liquids during labor women. The research is very clear that birthing people should be able to eat and drink during labor, even with an epidural. Like, the science is very, very clear about this. There are so many things that hospital policies have not caught up to the research. This is very important for you to know, and this is exactly what the control method teaches you. This is all part of the research you will do along the way (or, in The Birth Lounge, I’ve done the research for you!). It's up to you to know what your hospital policies are, but the birth lounge will break it down further so that you know how to look into those policies to ensure that they are based on the latest research. (There's no doubt they're based in research, but it is possible and highly likely that they are based on outdated research, meaning from the 1990s. Your hospitals are not intentionally trying to treat you poorly. Many hospitals just haven't revisited the research and their policies in ages.)
The Birth Lounge teaches you how to have these conversations with your provider so that no matter what happens in your birth, you are the one in control. You will understand how to identify the control, you know how to take the control and you know how to remain in control.