TENS Unit for Labor

What is a TENS Unit?

Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation (TENS) unit is a drug-free option used during labor to help bring pain relief. The TENS unit works by sending electrical nerve stimulation through the electrodes, which produces a tingling sensation to help reduce the intensity of the contraction. TENS unit allows a laboring mother to remain active and upright­­­—you can labor with a TENS unit in any position you want!

Must have provider consent to use a TENS Unit.

TENs Unit.jpg

 

Pros for Using a TENs Unit

  • No harmful effects or risks for mother or baby
  • Does not restrict movement in labor
  • Able to be used in your own home in early labor
  • Mother controls TENS unit
  • Able to use it exactly when needed and at the strength desired
  • Burst mode to help increase strength during a contraction
  • A non-invasive method for pain relief

What is the gate control theory?

The gate control theory was founded in 1965 by Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall through their findings that stimuli can positively impact the intensity of pain by reducing how it is received by the brain.

The brain receives the message of pain from the small diameter nerve fibers. However, when using a TENs unit the additional stimuli is sent to the brain from the large diameter nerve fibers, which interferes with the signal from the pain fibers.

Any stimuli—TENS, heat, cold, pressure or massage will stimulate the large diameter nerve fibers and reduce the intensity of your contractions!

TENS Unit rentals are available through Little Lilacs Birth Services.

Ways to Save Money During Pregnancy

When a baby is on the way, there is a long list of necessary, fun, and adorable things to purchase in preparation for their arrival. From nipple cream and nursery decor to organizational totes and doctor bills, the cost can really begin to add up!

As a doula, I am committed to helping the mothers I support maintain low levels of stress during this season of growth for their family. One way to keep stress low is to maintain healthy spending habits by buying what is on your baby preparation shopping list yet saving money along the way. Here are some money-saving strategies for 4 of the big ticket items on your list!

 

#1. Supplements

One of the first things a midwife or doctor will recommend to an expectant mother is for her to take a prenatal multivitamin. Beyond that, there may be recommendations for taking additional supplements, such as calcium, vitamin D3, omega-3s, probiotics, electrolytes, and herbs.

When you consider the fact that you will be faithfully taking your personalized lineup of recommended supplements every day for the next several months, the cost of supplementation alone can be quite daunting! Here are a few ways to save money on your prenatal supplements.

Use Your Insurance: It may seem funny to think of your multivitamin as a prescription, but some Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Savings Accounts (FSA) do allow you to purchase them as if they were a prescription. You might as well take advantage of this! (Side Note: Think twice before registering for a breast pump at a store, because many insurance companies will cover the cost of that too, and it can be sent right to your front door.)

Buy Large Quantities: Once you find the supplement that works for you, be ready to take advantage of sales or coupon codes by ordering several and stocking up for the next few months. Memberships (such as Costco, Sam’s Club, and Thrive Market) allow for every-day discounted purchases. Also look for larger quantity bottles, which are often priced cheaper than their smaller versions.

Spend Time Hunting: With just a few minutes of searching, you can often find the exact item you’re looking for at a competitive price! A great place to start is Vitacost. You can find most supplements and herbs on this site, and the prices are some of the lowest on the market. (For example, they sell a food-based prenatal vitamin from the company New Chapter for around $57 that typically retails for $115!) Their Set and Save order management system allows you to create a list of all your supplements and have them automatically ship out when it’s time for a refill at an even further discounted price. Even better, this site also regularly sends out coupons to those on their mailing list, which can then be applied to the Set and Save orders for greater savings. 

 

#2. Cost of Birth

When it comes to the cost of the birth itself, this depends largely on the birth experience you have. Whether you’re planning to give birth at home or in a hospital, there are several ways for you to save!

Consider Your Facility: Generally, home births and birth centers tend to cost less than hospitals do. When comparing the cost of your top facility choices, ask yourself the following questions: Are the prenatal appointments included in the cost? What are the hidden, unexpected, or optional fees? Does your chosen facility accept your insurance? You could save thousands of dollars by choosing one that works with your insurance provider. If you have several months to plan ahead, you can try this approach: Find the birth center that you love and ask which insurance they recommend. They can tell you which ones work best with them, and you can try to get that insurance during the next open-enrollment season. If your insurance does not cover a birthing center then you could try contacting your or your spouse’s Human Resources department and asking if they would consider covering it. Some companies will work with the insurance provider and receive permission for coverage. I recommend that you listen to The Birthful Podcast, Episode #95 “Birth Finances, with Nate Dallas.” In this episode, the speaker goes into detail about how you could potentially save thousands of dollars (specifically when planning to give birth in a hospital).

Know the Difference between Low Risk/No Complications and High-Risk/Complications: If your midwife of OBGYN determines that your pregnancy is considered high risk – or if complications arise at any time – there may be extra costs associated with measures of caution, additional tests, special appointments, a change of plans, etc. The best way to avoid these unforeseen costs is to live in a way that decreases the chance of risk and complications and to research your options when unexpected circumstances do arise. (Accounting for a category of “Miscellaneous Birth Costs” in your budget can also be helpful in the case that extra costs are unavoidable.)

 

#3. Baby Essentials  

Let’s face it, in America, we use A LOT of baby gear. From tricked-out strollers to well-equipped diaper survival bags, the list of baby essentials can be seemingly endless! 

What is “essential” will vary from one parent to another. If you’ve watched the documentary Babies (available on Netflix), you’ll know just how vastly it can vary! In fact, if you haven’t seen it already, watching it can be a great way to destress while you’re browsing for items to add to your baby registry. It follows the lives of 4 babies from birth to age 2 – all from very different parts of the world.

Use Your Registry to Prioritize: If you start your baby registry early on in your pregnancy, you can use it as a complete baby essentials list! As the months go on, identify the most important, immediate, and expensive needs to purchase yourself. Once you purchase each item, remove it from your registry! This will help you prioritize your purchases rather than buying items out of whim that could have been saved for your friends and family. It will also ensure that your friends and family have plenty of variety to choose from when they’re picking out the items they want that fit within their budgets.

Get Creative with Your Registry: Babylist is a wonderful baby registry that allows you to link all of your registries together, add products from any website (think Etsy!), and add services on top of that! Will you need help cleaning your home? How about dog walking or meal preparation? Could you use some gifted babysitting for your older children while you rest, recover, and bond with baby? You can even add a spot for loved ones to give towards the out-of-pocket cost of your birth center, midwife, and doula services!

Think with the Future in Mind: Rather than buying a bassinet, consider choosing a convertible baby crib that could be transformed into a toddler bed. Keeping in mind just how quickly your Little Lilac will sprout from a tiny baby to a bouncy toddler, look for clothing that adapts with time, such as the Wild Carrots line. Since babies grow so incredibly fast, it can help to buy gender neutral onesies for everyday use, then go all-out on a few special outfits and accessories such as headbands, shoes, and blankets. If you’re planning on your baby sharing their nursery with a future sibling, explore gender neutral colors and decor themes that will be ready to welcome any baby girl or boy that arrives.

Buy Pre-Loved Gear Online: A LOT of money can be saved when you buy secondhand baby items rather than brand new. Along with Craigslist Dallas/Fort Worth and Ebay, social media networks like Nextdoor and Facebook can be surprisingly great places to look. The Facebook app has a Marketplace feature that allows you to search for specific items by keyword (click the icon at the bottom of the screen that looks like a street vendor tent). If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, there are also a few exceptional local buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook, such as the “NRH/Colleyville/Southlake Stuff for Sale—Kids, Baby, Accessories, Clothes” group.

Buy Pre-Loved Gear in Person: If you have time for some in-person hunting, pop into a Kid to Kid or a Once Upon a Child, consignment stores that are specifically focused on newborns to young children. Don’t forget to check out the maternity section at these stores too! Garage sales can be hit or miss, so look for entire neighborhood sales in areas of town that seem to have a lot of young families. Consignment events, on the other hand, can be a lot more successful. There are regional consignment events where once or twice a year a huge child’s sale will take place. Just Between Friends is a franchise that regularly has consignment sales in the DFW (and beyond) where you can find children’s clothing (infant through teen sizes), infant care items, furnishings, books, strollers, and more – all discounted 50-90% off retail prices. Rhea Lana, Romper Runway, and Three Sisters Consignments are other companies that hold consignment sales in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

 

#4. Information  

Being pregnant and caring for a newborn can be a huge learning curve. Now more than ever, there are so many ways to research and learn for free!

Downloading a Pregnancy App: Many pregnancy apps are free and give you amazing insights into what is happening in your body and the baby’s each week. Ovia even shows you what your baby’s hand size is!

Borrowing from Your Doula or Midwife’s Collection: Over the years, I have gathered a library full of pregnancy books that I lend out to all of the expectant mothers I work with. Feel free to ask me about the collection! If I do not have a certain book that you’re looking for, or if you know you will want your own copy, try searching for them used at Half Price Books before paying full price for brand new. Speaking of libraries, local public libraries are another great place to learn for free!

Listening to Podcasts: Pregnancy podcasts can be such a great way to learn, because you can listen to them while you’re driving, cleaning, cooking, or getting ready for your day. Check out The Birthful Podcast and The Birth Hour.

Join Your Local La Lecha League Group: Finally, I’ll put in a plug for your local La Leche League group! This nonprofit organization offers local group meetings that support mothers in the art of breastfeeding. Once you find your local group, you can attend the meetings both before and after you give birth to receive free mother-to-mother support, encouragement, and education. This sort of support may even prevent you from hiring a lactation consultant post-birth. If you do end up struggling with breastfeeding and need to hire a lactation consultant though, don’t worry about the expense! If you can save your breastfeeding relationship with your baby, you will save yourself so much money on formula!

I hope you found some of these tips helpful! Do you have any cost-saving advice to share? Little Lilacs would love to hear it, so we can pass it on to all our expectant mothers who are buying on a budget. Please email us your tips!

Informed Consent

What Is Informed Consent?

Informed consent is the permission granted by a patient to a doctor for treatment with full understanding and knowledge of the possible risks and benefits of the proposed procedure.

A patient needs to understand the risks, benefits, and alternatives of a proposed procedure or treatment in order to make an informed decision about the course of their health care.

Without the informed consent of a patient, a medical practitioner risks legal liability for a complication or adverse outcome even if it was not caused negligently.

For consent to be given voluntarily, it must be given without duress.

 

What Constitutes as Informed Consent?

  • Consent must be given voluntarily.
  • Consent must be given with an understanding of the risks involved in the proposed procedure.
  • Consent must be given with an understanding of reasonable alternatives for the procedure.
  • Consent should encompass the procedure to be performed.
  • The patient must be legally competent to give consent to the procedure.

 

When Preparing to Make a Decision

  • Make sure you gather all the information possible. Request reading material, such as pamphlets.
  • Utilize the BRAIN acronym: benefits, risks, alternatives, your intuition, and requesting more needed time.
  • Ask for clarification to ensure you understand all the information provided to make the best decision.

Informed consent is an extension of good communication techniques and helps establish doctor/patient rapport. Patients have a right to receive information and to participate in decisions affecting their health.

 

Questions to Ask

  • What is the problem?
  • What is the most likely cause?
  • Why does my baby (or why do I) need this drug or procedure?
  • How will this drug or procedure help my pregnancy/labor?
  • Is this part of a study, a routine, merely for convenience, part of insurance guidelines – or a true emergency?
  • What are the potential risks to me or to my baby?
  • What are the known side effects or liabilities?
  • Are there other options?
  • What is the risk to me and my baby if I don’t take it or have it done?
  • Will its benefits outweigh the side effects?
  • What is my gut telling me?

As you ask yourself these questions, weigh the risks vs. the benefits. (All drugs and procedures have risks and benefits!) Feel free to ask for a moment alone to make your decision.

 

Brain Acronym

Use this Brain Acronym to gather information: B for benefits, R for risks, A for alternatives, I for your intuition, and N for requesting more needed time. The more information you gather, the more prepared and confident you will be to listen to your intuition and make the best decision for you and your baby.

 

Making a Decision

It is important that you feel you have received adequate information in order to make the best decision for you and your family. You should not feel rushed or pressured to make any particular decision. Ensure that you take your time and digest all the information you have received. Once you arrive at this place, go ahead and make your decision – and give your informed consent – with peace and confidence.

Finding the Right Healthcare Provider for Your Baby

 

During pregnancy, the mother’s doctor or midwife cares for both mother and baby. With so much focus and excitement being placed on the prenatal appointments, it can be easy to overlook one of the most important tasks that you will accomplish as an expectant mother: choosing a quality, post-birth healthcare provider for your baby!

Soon after birth, your baby will need his/her very own healthcare provider. In fact, in the first year alone, expect to visit this provider at least 7 times for standard check-ups, which typically involve taking measurements, giving vaccines, making behavior observations, and completing developmental screenings. While these sorts of visits are considered the bare minimum, many parents do find themselves at the doctor’s office more frequently, depending on the health of their child and the vaccine schedule they are on. Considering how often your child’s life will be impacted by this provider, it is valuable to choose one that you feel safe with and trust!

My goal, as a Childbirth Educator, is to provide you with knowledge that enables you to confidently select the healthcare provider that best suits your values, while also informing you about the healthcare choices you get to make as a parent to your child.


Your choices matter, as you are the one who ultimately cares for this precious baby. After being so involved in their health during pregnancy, I encourage you to continue to be just as involved as they grow and develop. 

Now let’s take a look at 4 things to consider when choosing a quality healthcare provider for your child!

#1. Being Informed… to Give Informed Consent

In an earlier blog post titled “4 Reasons to Invest in a Childbirth Class,” I talked about the importance of informed consent during your birth process… and it’s just as important after birth too! Let’s recap:

Informed consent is the permission that is granted by a patient to the doctor for carrying out treatment.

Although informed consent implies that the patient is informed, this does not always ring true. Giving consent without having a full understanding of all the possible risks, benefits, and alternatives of that treatment can easily happen, is dangerous, and puts you in a passive position rather than one of active involvement.

How does this happen?

  1. A medical practice is presented as normative, causing the mother to misunderstand that it is still optional! (You have likely discovered many times during your prenatal experience that a normative practice may not be in the best interest for everyone.)
  2. A medical practice is strongly suggested by the healthcare provider, causing the mother to battle between simply trusting the trained professional’s word or trusting herself to weigh all of the options before making a decision. (The truth is that you, the dedicated parent, are the best person to make decisions that will impact your child’s future.)
  3. The healthcare provider is hurrying to move on to the next patient and gives a rushed explanation, causing the mother to lack the time or information needed in order to be truly informed. (Informed consent to the practices of the healthcare provider should be given voluntarily and without duress, meaning that you should never be forced to agree to a treatment that you do not feel comfortable with.)
  4. You take on a “go with the flow” approach. (Sleep-deprived mommas who are juggling a growing child, new routines, and evolving relationship roles truly do need others to step in and help them out. Even if it may be tempting to let the baby’s healthcare provider take over, this is one area that your full attention is needed.)

Regardless of how busy the health clinic is or how strongly your healthcare provider feels about a certain course of action, you ultimately hold the position of protecting the health of your child; therefore, you must be fully informed about a treatment before signing informed consent. Don’t be afraid to speak up, ask questions, or take a few days to research! Just like creating a birth plan helps prepare you for your birth experience, starting to inform yourself now (ideally, before your baby has made his/her grand entrance into the world) helps prepare you for the types of treatment that will be offered during these standard visits.

TIP: Use the easy-to-remember acronym B.R.A.I.N. (Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Intuition, Need More Time) when making any medical decision!

#2. Having a Vaccine Plan

The reason why I want to delve into vaccines in this post is because it is important to choose a healthcare provider that will accommodate the choice you make regarding vaccines. This is a very hot topic for many people. Know that I am not trying to persuade you one way or another; I simply hope that this information will empower you to make a choice you feel most comfortable with for your child’s health.

What does the law say?
There is not a federal law that mandates vaccinations; however, some states no longer give their residents the right to decide against vaccinating their child. Many states require vaccinations for children that attend public schools, yet there are exemptions available based on religious and medical reasons. Child-Care Facilities in Texas also require that your child be getting routine vaccinations. To make it clear, residents of Texas do have a choice! In fact, not only do you have the right to decide for your child whether or not to vaccinate, but you can also decide the specific vaccination schedule.

What is a vaccine?
A vaccine is a product that delivers immunity against a disease, usually in the form of an injection. They do indeed save many lives and have been trusted by many to be safe and effective. They are credited for the decrease of many disease rates, such as polio and diphtheria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a recommended vaccine schedule that the majority of healthcare providers tend to follow. There are over 9 diseases that the vaccines provide immunity for, and the immunity is typically built through a series of multiple injections of each vaccine. This means that there are about 29 doses of vaccines planned for children aged 0-6 years, and it is not uncommon for a child to receive 5-7 different injections during 1 appointment. 

If many healthcare providers strongly agree with following the CDC’s recommended vaccine schedule, why would a parent consider diverting from this schedule or even not vaccinating at all?

Many parents and health care providers want to vaccinate yet prefer to follow a different schedule than the one the CDC recommends due to the belief that getting too many vaccines at one time – especially while the child is so young – is not the safest approach. For example, instead of getting 5 or more vaccines during 1 visit, your child may get only 1 or 2 at a time. Or they may choose to schedule only 1 aluminum-containing or mercury-containing vaccine per visit or per month. This would reduce the level of heavy metal exposure in one visit and allow the child’s body to recover before being exposed to high amounts of heavy metals and other vaccine components the next time. Dr. Paul Thomas outlines a delayed vaccination plan found in his book The Vaccine-Friendly Plan, and Dr. Robert W. Sears offers an alternative vaccination schedule found in The Vaccine Book

Many parents – and even some healthcare providers – may desire to avoid vaccines in general due to both the belief that most infections can be effectively dealt with by the immune system, as well as the desire to prevent negative side effects from ingredients found within the vaccines (such as heavy metals and preservatives). For example, Dr. Thomas postulates that the heavy metal content (such as aluminum and mercury) in some vaccines may be contributing to problems such as allergies and autism, which are increasingly on the rise despite the advanced medical system we have. In 2008, the CDC released a study that found food allergies among children had increased by 18% from 1997 to 2007. In 2000, the CDC reported that the prevalence of autism was 1 in 150 children; but by year 2012, the prevalence had increased to 1 in 68. It is also important to note that there are also many new environmental, lifestyle, and diet changes that children are now exposed to that could also be contributing to the these increases; therefore, we do not yet understand all of the factors that are causing this significant decline in the health of children.

Ultimately, you as the parent need to assess the risks of vaccinating versus not vaccinating and make the best decision you can. If you choose to not vaccinate, are you okay with the risk of your child’s immune system not being able to fight off exposure to a disease that could have been prevented? Likewise, have you spent time informing yourself about the many ingredients in the vaccines? Have you thought about your specific family history and whether or not anyone in your family has had an allergic reaction to a vaccine?

This is a big topic to understand, so take your time researching and coming up with your plan. Once you have become informed, trust yourself to make the best decision you can with the information you have and find a healthcare provider that will work with your plan! If you choose to deviate from the CDC’s recommendations, it will be important to choose a “vaccine-friendly” physician, one who will accommodate your vaccination choices.

TIP: Ask any nearby family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers with kids who share your philosophies for healthcare provider recommendations. If you have a good relationship with your current provider, ask him/her for recommendations too!

#3. Considering Office Environment

Now we move to a less heavy topic: the environment of the office. You can call offices and ask several questions prior to your baby becoming a patient there. You could also ask these questions to any friends or family members who go to that provider!

Here are some of the questions you may want to ask:

  • Are they accepting new patients?
  • What are their prerequisites for new patients? (Some only accept newborns, only accept newborns born at specific hospitals, or may require that your child have the Vitamin K injection at birth – as opposed to the Vitamin K drops or no Vitamin K at all.) 
  • Does the practice accept your insurance? If it is possible that your insurance may change, do they accept a variety of other forms of insurance? 
  • How far away is the office from your home? 
  • If the office is a group practice, who are the other providers your child may see?
  • What is the bedside manner of the provider like?
  • How do they feel about breastfeeding?
  • What is their philosophy on circumcision?
  • What is their philosophy of antibiotic use? (Antibiotics are definitely necessary in some situations; however, there is an antibiotic resistance crisis now due to the overuse of antibiotics. Also, antibiotics kill both the good bacteria and the undesired ones, which could lead to other problems since good bacteria have a vital role in our health.)
  • If your child needs to be hospitalized, where would he or she be admitted to? Is your insurance accepted at that hospital? Would your doctor go to that hospital to take part in the care of your child?
  • How long does a typical check-up last? 
  • What is the waiting time to be seen? (This may be even more important to you if you choose to delay-vaccinate your child since you will be going to the office more frequently.)
  • Will you be seen by a nurse, a nurse practitioner, or a physician? Are you okay with this?
  • What are the office hours? (If you are a working or single parent, evening and weekend hours may be desirable for you.)
  • What is the waiting area like? (Some offices have a waiting area specifically for ill children and one for children who are just there for routine check-ups.)
  • Are the staff easy to communicate and work with? 
  • What is the office policy on phone calls? Is there someone you can ask routine questions to when in doubt without having to schedule an appointment to come in? 
  • What happens when your child becomes sick after hours?
  • Is it possible to interview the healthcare provider one-on-one? If yes, is there a charge?

If a one-on-one interview is not available, be sure to ask the office if they offer any meet-and-greet sessions, which allow you to meet the providers and determine if they are a good fit for you and your child.

#4. Switching Providers

Finally, I want to end this post with an encouraging message! The first healthcare provider that you choose does not have to be the one that you stay with; it is okay to change providers if you feel like the match is not working out. I strongly recommend switching providers if you experience resistance from them or feel like your questions and concerns are not being respectfully addressed.

Some offices may ask why you are choosing to switch care, which may be a good opportunity to leave constructive feedback (wait times were too long, different medical philosophy than that of the provider, distance from home, etc.), and other times you will not be asked why. Either way, in the long run, switching will be better for both you and the provider.

It is important that you take the time to choose a healthcare provider for your child, but remember that you are not alone! Little Lilacs is happy to help you find a provider that matches your philosophies and to provide you with additional resources that will further inform and empower you.

 

5 Senses to Create Your Birth Plan

 

Giving birth is one of the most monumental moments in your life, and creating a birth plan is an important piece in preparing for the birth experience that you desire. To create a birth plan, take time to consider and learn about the many aspects that can play a role in your birth and collect your thoughts, needs, and desires as you go. Whether you end up with a detailed 3-page bulletin or a simple overview sketch, making a birth plan will have a significant impact on your birthing experience.

During labor, your brain will be utilizing all of your 5 senses to continuously process your surroundings, greatly influencing your emotions and impacting your sense of well-being. In fact, Little Lilacs recommends using the five senses of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch to guide you in creating your birth plan!


#1. Sight

When it comes to sight, it all starts with the neocortex, the part of the cerebral cortex that is concerned with both sight and hearing. If a laboring mother experiences a visual surrounding that is peaceful and safe, her neocortex will respond by sending a signal to the primitive brain that everything is ok and that there is no need to go into panic and protection mode.

The primitive brain, also called the “brain stem,” is located at the junction of the spine and the brain. It controls many of the automatic functions of your organs, particularly your breathing. When it receives the signal that you are safe, it will continue functioning in a state of rest by maintaining steady, relaxed breathing. This type of breathing encourages a calm state, which will in turn, positively impact your oxytocin levels, even further reinforcing a sense of well-being.

This chain of reaction is why surrounding yourself with peaceful things to look at during labor is a prerequisite for optimizing your state of consciousness and happy hormones levels.

Consider the opposite effect of when a laboring mother is surrounded by an atmosphere that looks unwelcoming or unsafe. The body’s natural reaction to this kind of environment is the classic fight-or-flight response. The hypothalamus tells the mother’s sympathetic nervous system to kick into gear, causing the body to speed up, tense up, and increase overall alertness. It also signals the adrenal-cortical system to start pumping out more stress hormones.

This chain of reaction causes increased intensity in contractions and an extended length of labor, exhausting the laboring mother before it is even time for her to push!

Ensure that you begin a positive chain of reaction by creating a peaceful visual environment. You can do this by dimming the lights, lighting candles, and surrounding yourself with peaceful items and pictures that will help you experience feelings of safety, tranquility, and warmth.

For partners, be aware that your facial expressions will indeed influence the atmosphere. Focus on maintaining an inner sense of peace and self-control, and your calm and relaxed face will help the birthing mother maintain the same.


#2. Sound

The neocortex is also responsible for processing your audible surrounding and signaling the results to your primitive brain. Loud, stressful noises invoke the instinct for the fight-or-flight reaction; whereas soft, soothing noises encourage feelings of safety and well-being.

Whether your location of choice is a hospital, birthing center, or home, some undesirable background noise may be unavoidable. Although you might not be able to control the nurses talking or the midwives preparing, you can choose a soothing music playlist that will help everyone relax!

In my own labor experience, I was so focused on giving birth that I didn’t hear as much of the background chatter as I thought I would. However, I do remember my midwife and doula putting on some relaxation music to help me remain calm as my contractions started getting stronger and closer together. It also became a distraction of sorts for my brain, allowing me to focus primarily on the beautiful sounds instead of the waves of contractions.

Music is especially powerful in that it helps to switch the brain from logic to creativity and impacts the medial prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls the link between sound, memories, and emotion. Create a playlist in the weeks leading up to your due date that features sounds that evoke positive, safe memories. For instance, you may find that ocean waves, chirping birds, or a bubbling brook remind you of relaxing on a day off without a care in the world. Soothing instrumental music, such as soft cello or piano, is also relaxing.

You can even amplify the relationship between music and memories by dedicating time in the weeks leading up to labor to creating new memories by listening to these playlists while you read a relaxing book or take a nap.


#3. Taste

If you’ve ever experienced the feeling of being hangry, you know how important satisfying your tastebuds can be! In the first stage of labor, eating complex carbohydrates and foods rich in Vitamin B is beneficial, as they provide a gradual, sustained release of energy that will help you stay strong throughout the contractions.

It’s important to remember to eat early on in your birthing experience while you have an appetite, as most women become uninterested in eating food once they have reached active labor. Even then, it is always a good idea to have some extra nutritious snacks handy that will provide energy and reduce anxiety or fatigue. Here is a short list of a few of our favorite suggestions:

  • Honey sticks
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Granola bars
  • Fresh smoothies
  • Bananas, apples, or celery with almond butter

Staying hydrated is also important, so you might as well choose a beverage that feels pampering and calming, such as soothing decaffeinated herbal tea and plenty of cool water with fresh slices of lemon and cucumber.


#4. Smell

Your sense of smell is tied to your olfactory bulbs, which send messages directly to the primitive brain, the limbic system, and the neocortex. Smells can greatly impact the consciousness of the laboring mother for positive or negative, signaling either safety or alert to her brain.

Several essential oils have been used throughout pregnancy and during labor for centuries, and they are even found in the Bible. Regardless of where you are giving birth, you can bring along an essential oil diffuser to fill the room with soothing scents to create a tranquil atmosphere. Certain essential oils have an especially powerful calming effect on a laboring mother, such as lavender, bergamot, and geranium. Be sure to become familiar with these oils before labor to create the combination you like best.

Similar to music, the sense of smell directly influences emotions and memories as well. Create new positive memories by diffusing these oils during moments of total relaxation in the weeks leading up to your baby’s birth.


#5. Touch

The homunculus is the part of the brain that is engaged during experiences of touch. It communicates with the somatosensory cortex, an area of the brain that is located near the brain’s surface. When someone touches you, receptors on the skin and in the muscles transmit a signal through the spinal cord and medulla to this area of your brain. Your brain has the incredible ability to monitor a map of your entire body and maintain a detailed awareness of the touch you are experiencing!

During labor, the desire for physical contact – and the type of contact – varies for every expectant mother. Here are a few forms of touch that can help the mother relax, as well as provide some relief during contractions:

Hydrotherapy: A laboring women can benefit by the touch of water in each stage of labor. In the beginning stages, soaking in a light bath or placing a wet towel on her forehead helps to relax a laboring mother, which then allows her more time to rest and conserve her energy before active labor begins. During active labor, a nice warm bath is so effective at calming muscles that it is known to be the “Midwife's Epidural”!

Counter Pressure: Have you ever heard of the Hip Squeeze? It is counter pressure applied to areas such as your hips or lower back, and it is simply amazing! During my own labor, my husband and doula teamed up to provide constant double Hip Squeezes through each of my contractions. This technique is often used when a laboring mother is experiencing back labor, bringing her great relief during contractions.

Gentle Pressure: As contractions increase in intensity, it is common for the mother’s body to begin tightening up. Since the goal is to keep your body relaxed and supple, applying gentle pressure helps you identify areas of tension and consciously release them. You can even experience a total-body release of tension by having your birth partner or doula give you a big bear hug as you lean into them, breathe out, and relax all of your muscles. This is also a great way to reset your mental state back to relaxation!

Massaging: Massaging can significantly help the laboring mother release tension. Stroking consists of your partner or doula using slow, firm pressure to run their fingers down an area of your body. Kneading is a another technique which involves circular movements done with the palm or the closed fist. To release tension, both techniques can be used across the shoulders, down the thighs, or wherever you may be feeling the waves of contractions the most. For optimal results, the one massaging should maintain constant, flowing contact by having their one hand begin a motion before the other hand ends its motion.

Reflexology: Lastly, reflexology involves applying pressure to certain areas of the feet or acupressure points to relieve pain or problems in other parts of the body. The use of reflexology can help create stimulation of the nerve endings, sending messages to the tensed area and releasing happy endorphins, which then help to control the intensity of the contractions.

Have your birth partner and doula practice these touch techniques with you before labor. This will allow you to figure out your favorite techniques, give feedback, and prepare them to know exactly how they can help you when the time comes.

Would you like help creating your birth plan? Little Lilacs greatly enjoys guiding expectant mothers as they craft a customized, personal plan that includes all 5 of these senses! Contact us to learn more or set up an appointment.

 

Sources:
https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-most-primitive-part-of-the-human-brain-What-function-does-it-serve
http://thebirthingroom.co.nz/feeling-safe-in-childbirth-what-does-the-research-say/
http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/emotions/fear2.htmhttp://www.livestrong.com/article/156262-the-effects-of-sound-in-the-human-brain/
https://www.tsbvi.edu/seehear/summer05/smell.htmhttp://alinenewton.com/neuroscience-of-touch-touch-and-the-brain/

 

4 Reasons to Invest in a Childbirth Class

 

As expectant mothers are being increasingly drawn to learn more about the wide variety of birthing options and labor techniques, more and more out-of-hospital childbirth classes are being offered. With so many different types of childbirth courses available in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, this can leave you feeling overwhelmed when it comes to choosing the one that is right for you and your baby.

My goal, as a Childbirth Educator, is to provide you with knowledge that empowers you to choose with confidence the birthing class that best suits your needs – in or out of the hospital. After all, childbirth courses are not just about breathing in, breathing out.

They are about educating the expectant mother and her partner about the interconnected elements of pregnancy, birth, and delivery, so they can make educated decisions based on informed consent. 

In this post, we will be going over 4 reasons to invest in an extensive childbirth class!

 

#1. Creating a Birth Plan

Not everyone knows the importance of creating a birth plan. Just as you invest time into planning a special birthday gathering in order to ensure that it goes smoothly and that you are free to enjoy the moment, it is important that you also invest time into planning your birth experience. After all, bringing your baby into the world is a monumental moment and the very first birthday celebration that your baby will have!

Childbirth classes are all about giving you insights into your birthing options. For example, eating during labor is an option and has its benefits or the various positions for your body to be in during each phase of the labor process. (And no, you do not actually have to give birth lying on your back!) Little Lilacs teaches Intuitive childbirth classes, which will walk you through better, more comfortable positions that naturally open your pelvis (and reduce tearing…hint hint).

Whether you are planning to give birth in the hospital or out of the hospital, childbirth classes go over all the information you need in both settings. In fact, a childbirth class may help you choose which environment you would prefer!

 

#2. Being Informed … to Give Informed Consent

Informed consent is the permission that is granted by a patient to the doctor for carrying out treatment. When signing informed consent, the patient must be informed! This means having full understanding of all the possible risks, benefits, and alternatives of that treatment… and therefore having full understanding of exactly what they are agreeing to do.

This part is very important, because – without the awareness of what is being signed – the expectant mother is unable to make a truly informed decision for their health, as well as for the health of their baby.

The childbirth classes you select should prepare you for this moment by giving you an in-depth understanding of the common procedures offered during labor, including induction methods, pain relief options, episiotomies, continuous fetal monitoring, and many others.

Informed consent must also be given voluntarily and without duress, meaning that no doctor can force you to agree to a treatment that you do not want to do. During labor, while contractions are flowing, it is easy to get overwhelmed, especially if your doctor is seemingly urgent or insistent that you go along with their preferred procedure.

Childbirth classes give you the opportunity to learn and explore the many options you have for your birth plan in a safe, non-judgmental environment, empowering you to speak up during labor should anything begin to deviate from your desired birth plan for unnecessary reasons.

TIP: Use the easy-to-remember acronym B.R.A.I.N. (Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Intuition, Need More Time) when making any medical decision!

 

#3. Learning Tips, Tools, and Tricks for Labor

Out-of-hospital childbirth classes, such as the ones we offer at Little Lilacs, are usually more thorough and comprehensive than in-hospital classes. Look for a series with 5 to 12 sessions. Having several sessions allows for the class to dive into each subject covered, providing you a detailed journey through all the tips, tools, and tricks for labor.

The course’s offerings should include the following in regards to labor and delivery: various birthing positions (and understanding why they help a laboring mother), relaxation and comfort measures during the labor process, and optional procedures to opt in or out of following the birth.

This is also a great opportunity for your partner to get involved and learn about your likes, dislikes, and preferences. Would you appreciate physical touch, such as massages and weight support? Or would that be distracting? Do you need constant words of encouragement and affirmation? Or would you rather an atmosphere of quiet and concentration? Would you like help catching the baby? Or would you prefer a midwife to take on that role? Knowing the answers to these and other questions will empower your partner to be involved in both the pregnancy and the birthing process.

 

#4. Growing Forever Friendships

One of the things I treasure most about the childbirth classes I took when I was pregnant is the forever friendships that developed during the weekly sessions. Most out-of-hospital childbirth classes are small in size, making the environment safe and comfortable to talk about all things pregnancy, labor, and postpartum! Being in the same stage of life together – expecting a little lilac – truly does bring you close. Everyone becomes a cheerleader and supporter for each other, anticipating each other’s labor and delivery with positivity and excitement.

Childbirth classes do require the investment of both time and money; however, the ability to feel empowered to make informed decisions for the health of you and your baby is far greater than going into such a pivotal moment blind and unprepared. I believe I can speak for all Childbirth Educators when I say that it is truly our passion and goal for all women and their families to experience an empowered birth.

If you would like more information about the childbirth classes that Little Lilacs offers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, please visit our Childbirth Education page or contact us