Pregnancy and birthing resources

My sister is having her first baby and I'm looking for some good resources to send her. I know that she wants to give birth in a hospital but she is talking about wanting to do it without an epidural and she's scared of the possibility of tearing. I know that there are things that can be done to help avoid both (of course, I know tearing can happen, but I've heard of techniques to reduce the risk). Being her older sister, I really want to help arm her with all the information she needs to make a birth plan and help her get the birth experience she wants (of course, there are no guarantees, but I want her to have lots of information). Does anyone have suggestions? I know she wouldn't be open to a home birth or anything like that, so anything too "granola" probably wouldn't be too appealing to her (although, I'd be interested for future reference) TIA!

Most hospitals have epidural rates approaching 100%, so it's getting pretty difficult to have a natural birth in hospital. With the national c-section rate over 35%, and approaching 50% in some states...well, vaginal tearing may be the least of her worries. If she does have a vaginal birth (getting pretty rare), the risk of tearing is pretty low. Most tears are only 1st or 2nd degree...superficial skin tears, which usually heal well within a few days. They're not really anything to be afraid of.

If she's serious about natural birth and avoiding episiotomy and tearing, she should look into hiring a private doula (birth coach) who shares her natural birthing philosophy.
"A Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth" by Henci Goer is a good start. A little out of date (they don't do some of the stuff it mentions) and the author definitely has an agenda, but chock full of information. Also The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin. Very informative about the pros, cons and ramifications of all typical procedures.

Tell your sis that she does not have to use an OBGYN for her pregnancy just because she used him/her for her routine care. She can shop around for an OB or Midwife, schedule a bunch of consultations with different people. Other than specific answers (a lot of them will pay lip service to whatever), she should look for signs that they actually respect their patients as human beings with brains. if they are at all dismissive or patronizing, that is a bad sign.

Also, hospitals even in the same area do differ greatly. Don't know where your sister is, but here in NY hospitals are required by law to make their stats available about # of births, primary and repeat caesareans, VBACs, how many babies are breastfed and how many of those are supplemented with formula. Her state may do something similar. In general the big fancy teaching hospitals tend to have higher c-section rates and higher interventions. My theory is that when you are used to dealing with high-risk people you are going to treat everyone as a high-risk case. I had a great birthing experience in a small, local hospital.

Best way to avoid or minimize tearing 1) don't have an epidural so she can feel what she is doing 2) push the way her body tells her to, not because some nurse is yelling at her and counting to 10 3) Not pushing lying on her back or reclining

Best way to not need an epidural 1) Don't get labor artificially induced or augmented with pitocin 2) Be able to move around, walk, change positions 3) If her water doesn't break don't let them break it because it is more painful after 4) being in a bathtub

I second getting a supportive doula to help out.
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Thanks for the info! Someone else mentioned The Birth Partner, so I think I may get that for her and pass along all the info here. Thanks!


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I second the Birth Partner. Lots of good facts without all the touchy feely fluff in some of the other books out there.
hello.world.
Most hospitals have epidural rates approaching 100%, so it's getting pretty difficult to have a natural birth in hospital. With the national c-section rate over 35%, and approaching 50% in some states...well, vaginal tearing may be the least of her worries. If she does have a vaginal birth (getting pretty rare), the risk of tearing is pretty low. Most tears are only 1st or 2nd degree...superficial skin tears, which usually heal well within a few days. They're not really anything to be afraid of.

If she's serious about natural birth and avoiding episiotomy and tearing, she should look into hiring a private doula (birth coach) who shares her natural birthing philosophy.
Originally Posted by RedCatWaves
I agree, doulas are wonderful! Having a supportive provider is important too, so she should ask a lot of questions to get a sense of how supportive her doctor or midwife is. If the provider gets defensive or annoyed by all the questions, or won't give her a straight answer, that's a red flag.

As for tearing, most tears are superficial, like RCW said. I think high order tears make up only like 1% of all tears.

Books--I recommend Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin; The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer; and anything by Penny Simkin.

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