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July 27, 2016

Giving birth can be a daunting prospect for first-time mums. You really don’t know how it’s going to go until you’re there, doing it. We answer your burning questions.

Auckland midwife Sharon Weir has delivered thousands of babies as a midwife. She says the best approach to giving birth is to have as few expectations as possible. “Be positive and keep an open mind, but if you keep your expectations relatively low, then you can’t fall.”

How do I know when it’s time to go to hospital? I’ve heard some women get sent home again…

As a rule, once your contractions are three to four minutes apart, one minute long and are taking the smile off your face, then it’s time to go. Take into consideration what the traffic is like and how far you need to travel. I think most women know when it’s time to go. It’s the blokes who panic and want to rush you in. When contractions get under way but then abruptly stop, it’s often because your baby is in the posterior position (with its face towards your front) – climbing the stairs sideways can encourage your baby into the anterior position.

When is it too late for an epidural?

You can have an epidural when you’re fully dilated and pushing. If your baby is in a bad position and you need Syntocinon to increase the strength of your contractions, an epidural is usually given first to help you cope. Often when women hit transition they want drugs and the problem is, once you’ve decided you’ve reached the end of your tether, you want those drugs NOW! But if your labour is progressing normally and you’ve come this far without them, you probably don’t need an epidural. Have faith in your body and in your LMC – you’ve already got this far. The anaesthetist may be tied up in another department and unable to give you that epidural immediately anyway.

How should I breathe during labour? 

To begin, RELAX. Closing your eyes or focusing on something ahead of you may help. At the start of each contraction, remind yourself to relax your whole body. Take a long slow breath in through your nose, feeling your chest expand. Breathe out through your mouth, then breathe regularly and quietly throughout the contraction. At the end of the contraction, take another long, slow breath, remembering to keep your body relaxed. Avoid hyperventilating.

What should I wear?

Labour is hard work! You will need comfortable, loose, cotton clothing. In a birthing pool, a crop-top can be useful, so you won’t feel too exposed. Most hospitals provide cotton nightgowns for mothers to use, if they prefer. Women often get cold feet in labour, so pack some warm socks. If you have long hair, tie it back.

What if I do a poo?

Many women are apprehensive about this and it does hold some back from pushing properly. However, most find that once they get into the pushing they forget all about it. Usually, when women go into labour, their bowels become loose. It’s nature’s way of clearing the rectum before you give birth. If you’re really worried about it you could ask for an enema – these days you get a Microlax, which is about 5ml of liquid which they squirt up your bum. About 50 per cent of women do poo, but it’s only a little bit. And don’t worry about what you eat during labour – it won’t go straight through, it takes about 12 hours to process food.

What should I eat or drink during labour?

Whatever takes your fancy. Yoghurt, bananas and chocolate are good. Whatever you eat, chew it well in case it comes up again. Drink water, raspberry leaf tea, diluted fruit juice or caffeine-free energy drinks.

Do the internal exams hurt?

They shouldn’t. It’s like getting a smear done – it helps if you relax.

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