Whether you’re a first-time mum or adding to a growing family, giving birth is a big deal. We asked Ana Piera, a Dubai based childbirth, hypnobirthing, doula and breastfeeding counsellor, and our resident midwife Anoesjka Myburg, for their expert tips on how to plan for this life-changing experience.
Women have been doing it for 1,000s of years but that doesn’t make giving birth any less daunting and the benefits of having a well thought-our birthing plan in place and surrounding yourself with a great team of experts – and your birth partner! – is the way to go.
An Emirates Home Nursing trusted partner, Ana Piera is a champion of positive birthing and works with mums-to-be to create an empowering experience from start to finish, irrespective of what path the original plan followed in reality.
“It is very important that both mum and her birth partner feel in control, informed and respected, even when special circumstances demand that control is handed over to the experts, but with all the decisions still theirs,” she says.
Anoesjka Myburg adds: “There isn’t a one size fits all definition for positive birthing.
Catering for the individual is important and the information I share with different groups empowers each mum-to-be in different, and positive ways.”
Growing demand for hypnobirthing services in the UAE is thanks to increased awareness of how empowering and effective it can be for both expecting couples and healthcare professionals.
“A hypnobirthing course will teach you how to take control of your body and manage its reaction to fear and anxiety so as to create internal equilibrium,” explains Anoesjka.
“There is an assumption that women only attend a hypnobirthing course because they want a natural birth without drugs. However, hypnobirthing techniques are beneficial for any type of birth, even when women decide to use pain relief or in the case of a C-section. The techniques are even more valuable when there is increased fear and anxiety,” points out Ana.
Al Zahra hospital in Dubai has a hypnobirthing room as well as a birthing pool. Mediclinic City Hospital, Saudi German Hospital and Mediclinic Parkview Hospital also have birthing pools.
Another option is to engage the services of a doula. Also known as a birth companion, a doula is a non-medical person who assists a woman before, during, and after childbirth and who acts as an advocate throughout the journey, helping her
fulfill specific desires she might have for her birth and beyond.
“Demand for doula services is also growing and, with improved education, more people will be able to understand the positive effect a doula can have on a mother’s experience during pregnancy, labour and delivery,” says Anoesjka.
Think of the word hospital and it doesn’t necessarily engender warm, positive feelings, and Ana is keen to address this early on, as she explains: “It is important that expecting couples visit several hospitals and choose the one where they feel most comfortable, safe and positive. It’s a good idea to visit several times, to get familiar with the environment, find out what they offer and get to know the medical team.”
“Find a doctor who puts you at ease and who supports your labour and delivery views. Your midwife is your personal advocate and cheerleader and someone who can answer all the questions a doctor perhaps doesn’t have time for, especially the more difficult questions, such as what to truly expect,” adds Anoesjka.
Ana makes sure to share as much evidence-based information and techniques as possible that will help expectant mums remain positive, calm and confident. This extends to birthing partners too, with a ‘toolbox’ of relaxing techniques to boost their confidence and enable them to more effectively support the mum-to-be during birth.
This is also important if there is a history of complications or if a pregnancy hasn’t been textbook plain sailing.
“You will both be more aligned if you talk about the birth preferences plan, about your fears or limitations, and how you can work as a team. This involves lots of home practise and at hypnobirthing classes, for example,” she notes.
Anoesjka also reinforces the importance of partner involvement. “Most midwives enjoy having the father as part of the experience and appreciate it. Discuss how you want your partner to participate with him. It can be anything from him holding your hand to having him cut the cord after delivery.
“Make sure he also knows where your hospital bag is, so when it is time to go, he will feel like your knight in shining armour. The most difficult part for him is seeing you in pain and not being able to make it better; so making them feel needed is a sure way to include them in the whole experience!”
“At the birth, one of the key things we do as a team is to breathe slowly and deeply throughout the whole process in order to remain calm, relaxed and in control. When we are calm, our breathing slows and creates more inner peace, bringing us into the present moment,” says Ana.
This kind of breathwork helps women stop fixating on what is about to happen and reduces the possibility of slipping into a negative shallow breathing cycle.
Birth partners play a vital role, as Ana explains: “They can support mum by breathing with them, listening to relaxing music together, providing a massage and some pressure point relief, practising pregnancy and birthing positions, providing positive talk, plus emotional support.
You also shouldn’t be afraid to ask for what you want, as Anoesjka explains: “Allow staff to do their job but if you want to get up and move around, use a yoga ball or take a shower to help relieve the pain, then just ask.”
The physical work done, what comes post-partum is a whole new world.
“Skin to skin contact immediately post-delivery is the first physical connection and the midwife and doula, if you have one, will be on hand to help with the initial breastfeeding,” says Anoesjka.
“You can also ask for help and demonstrations of all those important first-time activities from cord care to nappy changing and most baby-friendly hospitals insist on your newborn remaining in the room with you during your stay,” she adds.
Says Ana: “Mums need to be aware that it may be challenging, especially in the first three weeks. It’s a new experience for everyone and is particularly emotional for new mums, as well as being a learning time for the rest of the family. Depending on the birth experience, mum may need more time for recovery and it’s important that she rests as much as possible, eats healthy and drinks lots of water.
“It’s a good idea to also have a post-partum plan, to have someone take care of the housework and cooking in those early days. Breastfeeding may be challenging at the beginning and the key is to be prepared and patient. Professional breastfeeding support may also be an option worth considering.”