Choosing your Labor Team
One of the most demanding tasks during your pregnancy will be putting together your labor team. A labor team is the group of people who will be with you as you labor and give birth. Some will be paid by you either directly or through insurance. Others will participate because of a deep love and concern for you and your baby.
For pay or not, the only people who should be with you during labor are those you have invited. The birth of your child is an exciting event that many friends and family may want to participate in. However, no one has the right to be with you unless you have invited them.
Let's take a closer look at some of the members of your birth team, and your relationship with them.
Your Doctor or Midwife
Usually, the first person you hire is a doctor or midwife, and the choice can be frustrating. In some areas, there may be only one or two professionals, while other areas have more than two phone book pages full! Where do you begin?
Get Recommendations: Ask friends and relatives who have had children in your area about their experiences. What did they like about their practitioner, and more importantly, what did they NOT like? Remember that her goals for labor may not be the same as yours, so what she considered a hindrance in a caregiver, you may consider desirable.
Interview Candidates: Many women get nervous about interviewing a medical professional, but there is no reason not to. Remember, a doctor may be a medical authority, but she is not your authority. She simply knows a lot about the human body. You are hiring her to be your consultant, to give you information so you can make decisions. You wouldn't hire an interior decorator without first hearing some of her thoughts and ideas about design. The same should hold true with birth attendants. Don't hire someone who wants to make your labor something different from your desires.
Determine Who to Hire: After interviewing a few practitioners, it should become clear to you who is offering the services you desire, and you expects you to conform to their way of doing things. You wouldn't go to a grocery store to buy new shoes, don't hire a doctor or midwife who cannot give you the obstetrical services you desire.
Choosing a Birth Place
When it comes to choosing a birth place, all towns are not the same. In some areas, there are opportunities to labor and give birth at home, in the hospital or at a birth center. In other areas, hospitals are king and any other options are difficult to find.
If you choose a homebirth, you have complete control over who will be with you in labor. If you choose a birth center or hospital birth, your attendants will depend on who is on duty when you are in labor. The nice nurse who conducted your hospital tour may not be in that day, and you might get stuck with someone whose personality clashes hard with yours.
Getting recommendations from women who have given birth in your area is a good place to start. The best way to ensure a good birth place fit is to tour each facility you are interested. During the tour listen carefully to the policies of the institution, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Observe the staff and try to interact with them. If you get a chance, ask the staff about their experiences.
Get a copy of the hospital's birth statistics. This may be given to you as part of the tour information. Knowing the percentages of medicated births and surgical births may help you avoid institutions whose statistics are above national averages.
Choosing a Doula
A doula is a professional labor attendant. She knows ways to keep you comfortable, and may help educate you before the labor. There are as many varieties of doulas as there are birth philosophies.
Some doulas will perform medical evaluations of your progress such as vaginal exams. Other doulas feel their value is in emotional and physical support. There are doulas who enjoy being the main support person for a labor, and there are others who prefer labors where they are an assistant.
When interviewing doulas, pay attention to the style of doula she is. Does she perform the services you would like at your labor? Does she share your birth philosophy? Do you enjoy her personality? Do not hire a doula you do not feel comfortable with.
Family and Friends
Friends and family who labor with you have the most freedom in the way that they participate. While some family members may participate fully, rubbing your back and helping you sip water; others may feel awkward and unsure of their usefulness.
Generally, good choices are individuals who have an interest in the health of the mother and baby, and are supportive of your desires for labor. Those who support you during labor should train with you, attending childbirth classes and practicing the relaxation exercises with you. This will prepare them to work with you as you labor, encouraging you and assisting with comfort measures.
Sometimes an individual is important to your emotional support, but seems to offer no additional comforts to your labor. You may find that giving these individuals jobs other than caring for you will allow them to be with you, without them feeling like a fifth wheel. Tasks such as updating family members, taking discreet photos or video, or running errands such as getting food and drinks can be helpful to the labor team.