Virtual Labor

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it always natural?
Why didn't it have me go to the hospital?
Who are my labor companions?
Why are there so few references to pain?
How can something "feel good" or "comfortable" while I'm in labor?
How do I know which techniques will be most effective for me?
How do I know if the technique I chose worked in labor?
How can I learn to do these techniques?
What about other techniques?
Why do I choose a pushing position?
How accurate is virtual labor?
How many possible labors are there?
How does this work?
Why random?

Is it always natural?

Yes! You are guaranteed to have a natural birth at virtual labor. You can not make a "mistake" in labor and end up medicated, so you can not do that in virtual labor either. You do not know if something will be effective until you try it, so there is no wrong turn. In labor there are some techniques that are usually very helpful at getting certain results, but they do not work every time. Virtual Labor gives you the opportunity to see how these techniques might affect your labor before you have to labor in real life.

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Why didn't it ask me when to go to the hospital?

The purpose of the virtual labor is to give you exposure to the way comfort techniques can affect your labor regardless of the birth place. It is not possible to cover every possible choice you may have on a birth plan.

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Who are my labor companions?

That depends on who you choose to have with you at your labor. It could be a husband or partner, the baby's father, a close friend or family member, your other children, a doula, a midwife or other care provider. The support persons are left vague so you can fill in the blanks for yourself.

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Why are there so few references to pain?

It is not that labor is expected to be painless. Pain is a very personal experience, and no one can judge for you how painful something is. By only describing the sensations and leaving the issue vague, it allows you as the reader to fill in the blanks. As you read through it ask yourself how stressful or painful it would feel to be going through the experience. An interesting phenomenon happens when pain references are removed from labor stories. Different women interpret the same story in different ways. From the same story women say:

The value in letting you, the reader, make up the pain yourself is that you get to learn about yourself. You have the opportunity to face your fears, experience the "worst" and explore how you handle it. That would be lost if you were told how to interpret what was happening.

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How can something "feel good" or "comfortable" while I'm in labor?

Feeling good or comfortable in labor are relative terms. They do not mean that the labor is painless (although there are some that are), simply that the activity you have chosen is effective at making you more comfortable or feel better than you did. This is the reason we like comfort measures in labor, they actually do make us more comfortable. But remember this is relative. Your body is still experiencing contractions even though your legs may feel better or the pressure on your back is lessened.

It is similar to how you feel being sick. When you are sick it "feel's good" to lie down. That does not mean the pain or discomfort from your illness has gone away. It only means you are most able to manage that discomfort by lying down. In labor the intensity of the contractions does not change, but you are able to manage your discomforts by trying the comfort measures and positions.

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How do I know which techniques will be most effective for me?

There are two answers to this question, and they are both equally right.

First, you must know what you need to be comfortable. For example, if you are a person who prefers to be alone when you are stressed, you will probably find you handle labor better with techniques that do not require distraction from others. For example, you might prefer to stay upright leaning over the edge of a bed or chair instead of standing and leaning on a companion. Some of it also will be based on personal preference. If you really enjoy listening to music, you will probably still enjoy that during labor.

The second answer is that each technique has a "best use" you should take the time to learn. If you are feeling a lot of back pain, you will want to use a technique that is best at getting your baby to turn such as lunging or getting on hands and knees. If you are feeling tired and can not stand up you will want to use a technique that is best at supporting your body and letting you rest such as lying or sitting down. Your needs will change during labor, which is one of the reasons it is important to change the techniques you use.

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How do I know if the technique I chose worked in labor?

In Virtual Labor, your next step will tell you if it worked or did not and let you choose accordingly. In a real labor you will use your best judgment. If something makes it easier for you to handle the contractions it is working. There may be other techniques that would be more effective for you, but you will not know that unless you try them. That is one of the reasons it is important to be familiar with a wide variety of comfort measures for labor. If what you tried is helping you manage contractions you probably will not try something new until it becomes ineffective. It is normal for what works in labor to change as labor progresses. It is helpful when choosing a comfort measure to have a "wait and see" attitude, "we'll try this for two or three contractions and if I don't like it we'll try something else."

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How can I learn to do these techniques?

Instructions for the techniques listed, and others, can be found in the Comfort Measures section of the Birthing Naturally site. For more detailed instruction check the Natural Childbirth Directory for a doula, childbirth educator or midwife in your area.

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What about other techniques?

There are a multitude of techniques used by women to help manage the pain and stress of contractions during labor. Something as ordinary as reading a book can be helpful in early labor, and something as uncommon as acupressure can be used to try to stimulate stronger contractions. It is beyond the scope of the Virtual Labor to offer every technique, so the choice was made to focus on the techniques that can and would be used by the most women in a real labor.

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Why do I choose a pushing position?

There are many positions for pushing, although many women only imagine themselves lying on their back. Some experts belive lying on your back is the second worst position to push out a baby (the worst being standing on your head). Since this is all about exploring how the various techniques affect your labor, go ahead and try some of them. Incidentally, lying on your back is never one of the pushing options in virtual labor.

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How accurate is virtual labor?

Well, that's an unfair question. There isn't much accurate information about how often things like a fast labor or a back labor happen in a physiological labor. Everything that happens is a possibility, and it is weighted more towards a longer labor (12-15 hours) than a short one. However, possibility is not probability and the sad truth is your probability of having a physiological natural labor is pretty low in some parts of the world. On the other hand, there are are parts of the world where you are nearly garunteed to have a physiological labor, but will have little access to many of the tools or support for the comfort techniques used in virtual labor.

If the style of birth you see in virtual labor appeals to you, there are some steps you should take before your labor begins to increase your chances of having this experience. The first would be to plan for birth. Hire a caregiver who is supportive of your desire for a natural birth, and talk about your birth plan with that caregiver. You will also want to hire a doula who will be a support person for you and your other labor companions. Commit to learning about the comfort techniques used in virtual labor and become familiar with the normal process of birth.

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How many possible labors are there?

I don't know, and I don't care to do the math (I am not a fan of probability). But I can tell you this: after your labor begins there are 770 options given among the over 200 pages that comprise the virtual labor. These options are composed of 90 different comfort techniques, positions and activities.

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How does this work?

Virtual Labor will randomly send you to a page based on the selection you make. The randomness makes each time you try the virtual labor a unique experience because even if you were to choose the same options, you have only a 33% chance of being sent to the same page.

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Why random?

Labor itself isn't random, it follows a pretty normal pattern. However, what a woman needs to manage labor changes from woman to woman and even from hour to hour during labor. Because techniques don't always work in real life, there is the built in possibility that something you try isn't going to be effective during some part of your virtual labor. Basically, you have the chance it will work great; will be somewhat effective; or won't work at all. That is normal and ok, and when something doesn't work in virtual labor, you handle it just like you do in real labor, you try something else. Eventually you will find something that works.

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