If you’re expecting a baby, chances are you’ve given some thought to who you’re going to have with you while you’re laboring. A question I get asked a lot is, “What if I don’t really want my [family member] at my labor?” How do I tell them? Or “I love my Mom, but she drives me crazy, and I don’t know if I want her there.”
A lot of women almost feel “obligated” to have a particular family member attend their birth because they don’t want them to feel bad. These are such important things to consider, especially because having someone at your birth that you don’t feel 100% comfortable with can actually slow your labor down and potentially lead to interventions that may not have been necessary otherwise. So, if you’re not sure who you want with you during labor, here are some things to consider.
The magic and importance of hormones during labor
In order for labor to begin and progress, there’s a magical cocktail of hormones that need to flow. Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, present when making love, during a hot makeout sesh, and also when nursing your babe, is responsible for making your uterus contract during labor so you can birth your babe.
Research shows that the production of oxytocin is slowed down by the presence of stress hormones (among other things). If oxytocin slows down, then so do your contractions and your labor. When oxytocin slows down in early labor due to stress, labor can simply stop. If the presence of oxytocin slows when labor has been going for a while, it can slow things down or it can lead to a deficit in important hormones during later stages of labor. That may increase the need for drugs that bring contractions back or “boost their power” such as Pitocin. If interventions are something you are trying to avoid, this is an even more important conversation.
You’re probably starting to see the connection between people who may bring on the stress and how it can impact how your labor unfolds
So, if you’ve got someone who wants to attend your labor and they stress you out in normal scenarios, then you can count on them stressing you out during labor, and probably even more. Just like wild animals in labor, if we sense danger aka “stressful person in the room”, our bodies will shut’er down.
What we know about the labor process, it’s that it is best left “undisturbed.” This means when a woman feels safe, supported, comfortable and cared for, yet allowed to be in her labor exactly how she is, “undisturbed,” things tend to progress more naturally on their own.
Now, I know you may be thinking, yeah, but I’m having my baby in a hospital, and I know for sure I won’t be undisturbed there. Well, that’s true. And a topic for a whole other blog. But in short, the hospital setting can make it tougher for a laboring mom to settle in and feel safe and relaxed. Even in the best hospital environments, women are disturbed with machines, intrusions, strangers, and a lack of privacy. This is oftentimes why women laboring in hospitals will hire a doula. Doulas can help to maintain some distance between the “busyness” of the hospital setting and help a Mom stay in the labor zone, kind of “buffered” from things.
But back to that stressful person, you may be worried about being at your birth. How do you handle that situation?
First and foremost, if your intuition is telling you that it’s best not to have “said person” at your birth, TRUST that. Don’t doubt it, even if this is your first baby. You know what you need (and what you don’t need). These are hard conversations to have, I know. I’ve had to have one myself. But your labor experience is yours; own it.
If you are considering having someone at your labor but still have some doubts about how their presence will affect your stress levels, here are some other things to consider:
- Think about what they know (or don’t know) about birth. What was their experience like? What are their biases? Opinions? Views? What are your goals for birth and what do you want them to know about them? Will they be able to set their stuff aside and support you and your goals?
- Set specific boundaries. Tell them they can be in the room with you until it’s time to push. Or they can come when it’s time to push. Let them know exactly what you expect from them such as quiet and no small talk, no social media updates, etc. And, even better, give them a job. Tell them what they can do. Have someone be the water refill person, the washcloth person or other such things to help keep you comfortable.
- Think about why you would have them there with you and ask the hard question. Is it because you actually want them there? Or is it because you feel obligated? Trust me, the latter is no reason to have someone at your birth. You will never forget how your birth goes. You can avoid feelings of regret by having these conversations now.
This is just as important for a mom choosing a medicated birth as it is for a mom choosing an unmedicated birth.
The introduction of medications such as Pitocin and/or an epidural can also slow labor down and impact the presence of organic hormones needed later in labor. That, compounded with stressful people in the room can be a recipe for more intervention. And with more interventions, there can be an increased risk of cesarean.
Bottom line, give yourself permission to create a birth space that is as safe and as comforting as possible for you. You’ll be doing hard work. Be brave in your conversations, remember that it is YOUR birth experience and you can absolutely say who’s there to witness it, or not.
Did you have someone at your birth who stressed you out? What did you do? How did you handle it? Did you choose not to have someone there and if so, how did that conversation go? Share in the comments!