Historically, birth was attended by women. Women understood the birthing process at a very young age. They instinctually knew the symptoms of labor and how to bring a baby into the world. But now, few women have been to a birth other than their own. Many women are uncertain about the birthing process and feel overwhelmed and even frightened by it. However, understanding how birth occurs can make your birth less frightening, intense, and may give you a wonderful birthing experience, no matter how you deliver.
- Start with your bookstore. Your bookstore contains many shelves of birthing books. Talk to your friends and family members for recommendations. If you feel overwhelmed by your choices, check out websites that review books, like Amazon.com.
- Go to a childbirth education class. A childbirth education class is the best place to learn about the birthing process. Your hospital or birthing facility probably offers economical classes. You can also hire a private childbirth educator to come to your home and educate you on what you want to learn about the birthing process. If you are aiming for a natural childbirth, you may want to consider Bradley Method classes or Hypnobirthing classes.
- Talk to your care provider. If you have a good midwife or ob/gyn they will take the time to make sure you understand the birthing process. Go in with a list of questions for them, and keep asking them until you understand the aspects of birth.
- Read studies. There are many studies on childbirth, the results of which may surprise you. Knowing the studies is a great way to make evidence-based decisions about your childbirth. Reading studies can be difficult, so ask your care provider, childbirth educator or doula for assistance. Your care provider, childbirth educator or doula probably have studies you can read. I've also included a two links to sites that have studies about childbirth. You may find the PatientLinx site a little easier to read.
- Consider hiring a doula. A doula is a professional birthing coach. She has been to a number of births, and helped many couples through childbirth. She will be able to explain the birthing process to you before you deliver. While you are in labor, she may provide informational support (not her opinion) about the birthing process for you and anyone on your support team. You can find a doula online at DONA, in the phone book, through your childbirth educator or care provider.
- Check the Internet. There are many articles that will take you through the birthing process on the Internet. However, you should make sure the articles are written by qualified authors such as nurses, doctors, midwives, doulas, childbirth educators and/or lactation specialists.
- Birthing Videos. Birthing videos are extremely expensive, which makes it doubtful your childbirth educator or doula will loan videos out to you, though you never know. If money is no object, check out the Injoy videos (see link); all their videos are wonderful. In addition, your library may have some birthing videos although they will likely be older. Otherwise, expect to watch birthing videos in your childbirth classes. The Discovery Channel and The Learning Channel offer many shows about childbirth such as "A Baby Story" and "Birth Day," but they tend to blur out the actual births. In addition, these shows are fairly unrealistic due to editing and time constraints, and can be frightening to soon-to-be mothers.