It’s never too early to start preparing, especially if you do intend to have a natural, intervention-free or low intervention birth! You wouldn’t wake up tomorrow morning and all of a sudden decide to run a marathon without having done any training. Good for you for wanting to learn about your options as soon as possible! The more informed you and your partner become, the better your birth experience will be :)
I agree with the recommendation of reading Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth and watching The Business of Being Born. They are both excellent places to start as you begin to figure out exactly what you want for your own birth experience. Ina May is very empowering!
You also want to make sure that you have the right kind of care provider for the type of birth you are hoping to have. Make sure you are 100% comfortable with the midwife or doctor you choose and that you are all on the same page. Know that you have the right to ask them any of the following questions so that you are able to make the most informed decisions:
üWhat are their intervention rates? Find out how many epidurals, episiotomies or C-sections they perform each year. How many natural births have they attended?
üWhat is their policy if you go beyond 40 weeks? Do they automatically induce? Let you progress to 42 weeks and then see? What methods of induction do they use?
üWill they be the one attending your birth? Do they have a backup provider? If so, can you meet with them? If you choose a midwife, do they have a backup MD they work with?
üWill your provider be present throughout your entire birth?
üCan you move around during labor? Eat or drink? Do you have to be hooked up to a fetal monitor or have an IV? Can you use the bathroom on your own?
üCan you have a doula, family members or other support people present? How many people are allowed to be with you?
üIn terms of where you are birthing, will you have access to a birth tub or shower? Do they have birthing balls, stools or other equipment? Are water births allowed? Are you allowed to room in with your baby after the birth? What do they offer as far as breastfeeding support?
Find out about your options for places to give birth in your area: hospital, in-hospital birthing center, free-standing birthing center. Know what their policies are as far as labor and delivery. You could even explore homebirth options if you were so inclined.
You might want to see if your area has a local doula organization or birth network. That could be a great source of information for you as you try to decide which route to go and what types of classes would be the best fit for you. You might even want to consider hiring a doula to help give you the support you need and be an advocate for you no matter what type of birth experience you ultimately have.
Every woman experiences labor and birth in their own way. What may be considered extremely painful for some might not be for someone else, though I think most women would agree that it is an intense and profoundly life changing experience. The more informed you and your partner are about the process as a whole, the better you will be able to make the best decisions for you, no matter how your birth plays out. I hope that I haven’t overwhelmed with you with all of this information. Being as informed as possible about your birth options is a passion of mine! You have plenty of time to begin exploring your options, figure out what feels right for you, and making plans to help you achieve the birth experience you want. Best of luck to you!
Edited by mamathomas - 9/11/11 at 12:26pm