The definition of labour is; “work, especially physical work” (dictionary.com). Labour in childbirth is certainly a physical workout but it needs a much broader description. These are the words l would add to the description of labour: ‘painful, excruciating, intense, amazing, life changing, anxiety provoking, awkward’ and I’m sure there are many more we could add.
Questions about the impending labour need to be asked to decrease our fear and allay our anxieties. The more prepared we are, the more we are able to deal with the event itself as we feel more confident and empowered. I always remember and tell pregnant women;
KNOWLEDGE = POWER
Pregnancy is a time of excitement, fear, anxiety, happiness and l bet you could name a lot more as stated above in my definition. I think l have experienced every emotion known to man during my labours. Labouring women that l have cared for experience similar and different emotions depending on their circumstances but all concur that it’s one hell of a rollercoaster ride. You can compare labour to parenting except it’s at time warp speed instead of spread over the rest of your life. Everyone’s experience of pregnancy is different and unique.
When it is your first pregnancy, you have never been through ‘the event’ before so all of these feelings can be exacerbated. What will labour be like? Will l have a vaginal birth? What happens if my water’s break at home? How will l get through the pain? Will l tear? Some questions can not be answered before the event. Being a midwife, l would have loved a dollar for every time a woman and her partner asked me ‘how much longer?’ I would be even richer if l had a crystal ball! Unfortunately we are not fortune tellers although at times we could make an educated guess and be right!
Your health care provider does not know what your labour experience will be like and how you will birth. No-one knows what their own experience of labour is like until you have been there. You will hear a number of stories, but they can be completely different. I can certainly say though that there is one similarity, contractions are damn painful!!! This is one thing l can guarantee in labour but you can have pain relief to help or dramatically decrease the pain you experience thanks to technology.
This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Please discuss any of this information with your health care provider. I am going to provide you with general questions that you can ask, but there will be a lot of specific questions you will need to ask pertinent to your individual circumstances.
In most countries there is education you can participate in during your pregnancy to prepare you for labour, birth and the parenting journey. This is a great time to discuss and explore in detail any of these questions and others you may have.
Questions to ask in pregnancy about labour
- How will l know my labour has begun and when do l need to go to the hospital?
- What are the numbers l need to call if I am in labour? Keep them somewhere easily accessible.
- If I’m at home and l have some general questions about the pregnancy or birth, is there someone l can call reputable websites l can access that provide accurate information?
- On arrival to the hospital, what happens?
- What pain relief will be available for me to use in labour? Ask about medical and natural types of pain relief that you can use.
- Where will you be having your baby? Can you have a tour of the birthing unit? This can be helpful if you have not seen it already as you will know where to go in labour and hopefully feel more comfortable with your surroundings. This can decrease your anxiety.
- Who will look after me in labour and who will be present when l have my baby?
- How many support people can l have with me in the birthing room? There can be restrictions but it depends on the hospital policy.
- Is there a bath or shower available for me to use? Water is a great source of pain relief in labour.
- What do l need to pack for labour? Do l need to bring my own hot packs, snacks, drinks etc.
- What positions are more helpful to give birth in? Note: The most uncomfortable position is to be lying on your baby pushing up hill. Its better to be in any other position than this unless you are having an assisted birth (vacuum extraction or forceps).
- What happens when I’m pushing my baby out? Will l know how to push? What support is given to me at this time?
- What type of monitoring will be used for my baby in labour. Will l be able to walk around?
- When is an episiotomy performed? Will l need one?
- What happens once my baby is born? Can the baby be on my chest for skin to skin contact? When would you need to take the baby away?
- What do l do after l have my baby? Do l need to be moved into another room? Can my partner stay?
- What happens if l need a caesarean?
- What observations and how often do you them on me during labour to make sure I’m ok?
This list is not exhaustive and you will have your own questions that you will need to ask. Remember again, knowledge = power. Good luck on your pregnancy, labour and birth journey.