A midwife's guide to having your best birth

6. Avoid the negative nellies.


Whenever I meet with midwifery clients, a common question that I'm asked is, 'What is my philosophy around birth?' That's an easy one for me—my philosophy is whatever your philosophy is.

A positive birth comes in many forms and is defined only by you—your preferences, plans, expectations and needs.

Certainly, birth is a force of nature and not everything is within our control. If things don't go the way you hope, it is not your fault! But there are steps we can take to help steer things in the right direction.

Here are my top 10 tips to help you have the labor and birth of your dreams.

1. Choose your place of birth carefully

According to recent research, your risk of having a Cesarean section depends more on your choice of a hospital than any health complications you or your baby may experience on the big day.


Different hospitals and providers have different protocols and philosophies, and those can make a difference when it comes to birth. So, doing some homework can make your birth a much more positive one. It's okay to ask potential hospitals and providers what their C-section and intervention rates are, for example.

If avoiding a Cesarean section and interventions is really important to you, a birth center or home birth might be a great option to consider, as well. Of course, C-sections and interventions can become necessary and when they are, it's a wonderful thing that they exist. Talk to your home birth or birth center team about what happens when the need for a transfer arrises.

2. Walk your way to a positive birth

Light exercise in pregnancy reduces the risk of complications and is good for you and your baby. Additionally, you'll build endurance and focus—all helpful in labor.

Exercise in pregnancy is not just good for you but your baby too. Moms who exercise regularly have less weight gain, so the risk of complications (such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure) may be reduced. Your baby is also more likely to stay within normal weight guidelines, and you're setting them up for a lifetime of health, too!

You get to share those lovely, happy hormones that your body makes when you exercise with your baby too. Yoga, walking and swimming are great options. Just chat with your provider to make sure your plans are safe, and then, have fun!

3. Consider an independent birth class

Wherever you decide to give birth, consider taking In an independent childbirth class, you'll learn about your birth place's policies, as well as all of your options for the big day. That way, you and your partner can navigate any decisions that need to be made more confidently. An independent instructor works for you—not the hospital or birth center.

4. Get support, such as hiring a doula

In a busy hospital or birth center, your nurse may have to look after more than one expectant mom, so that leaves your partner as your sole support on the day.

There's a saying by pediatrician Dr. John Kennell that goes 'if doulas were a drug, it would be unethical not to use them."

There are many benefits to hiring a birth doula, including less need for pain relief, significantly reduced cesarean births, less Pitocin, a reduction in postnatal depression, and higher breastfeeding rates. There's really no downside to having extra support on the big day.

5. Have a prepared partner

If you have someone who will be with you in labor, encourage them to prepare—a lot. A well-prepared partner is one of the most important tools in your labor toolkit, especially if your nurse is busy.

Far too often, partners have been sidelined in the birth room, but with support, information and training, they can be the rock you need on the day for emotional and physical support.

When researching classes, find one where your partner can learn hands-on comfort measures. Consider writing your birth preferences together, so your partner feels confident to facilitate and advocate for you on the big day. Your job is to get in the zone and stay there—your partner's job is everything else.

6. Avoid the negative nellies

No doubt you've already met a few—those well-meaning friends and family members who can't wait to tell you how awful labor is. Find your positive birth village comprised of people who will uplift you, encourage you, and keep you feeling excited about what's to come.

When someone does try to tell you a negative or scary-sounding story, don't be afraid to stop them by saying something like, "Thanks for wanting to share this with me! I would love to hear this story after I give birth, but right now, I'm choosing not to listen to too many birth stories."

7. Write your clear birth preferences

Written birth preferences are a fabulous communication tool. You've likely never met your nurse before, so a written birth preference sheet is a great way to help them get to know you and the kind of birth you'd like very quickly.

It's not a contract or guarantee but helps you and your partner explore your options for the big day, as well as to access personalized care rather than standard hospital protocols, which may or may not be evidence-based.

No need to turn your preferences into a thesis just one page with bullet points will suffice.

8. Get your bump in the bath

Baths are known as the midwife's epidural. Deep warm water immersion shortens labor, reduces pain and allows for greater freedom of movement. You are weightless—absolute bliss in labor! No tub? Try the shower instead.

9. Build your labor toolkit

I always advise my clients to labor with a yoga ball. Just sitting on it opens the pelvis and reduces pain as you move your pelvis around your descending baby.

Acupressure, music and pre-practiced relaxation exercises can also help you feel calmer and more in control. You can also consider speaking to your provider about using a TENs machine. This is self-administered—all you need is a partner to apply the sticky patches to your lower back in labor. In Europe, many moms reserve their TENS units in their local drugstore for their due month, so it's ready to go whenever they need it.

Medication can also part of your labor toolkit—keep everything on the table for the most positive birth possible.

10. Focus on what can go right

Despite what you see on Greys Anatomy, in most cases, birth goes really well for most healthy moms and babies.

It's very easy to spend time in pregnancy mentally rehearsing the kind of birth we don't want, instead of the birth we do want. Your mindset heading into birth is so important. Start training your brain to prepare for a calm, positive birth. The decrease in stress that this provides you will help you enjoy your pregnancy more, and may carry you into a more relaxing birth.

In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    The one thing your family needs to practice gratitude

    And a tradition you'll want to keep for years.

    Gracious Gobbler

    I think I can speak for well, basically everyone on planet earth when I say things have been a bit stressful lately. Juggling virtual school, work and the weight of worry about all the things, it's increasingly difficult to take even a moment to be grateful and positive these days. It's far easier to fall into a grump cycle, nagging my kids for all the things they didn't do (after being asked nine times), snapping at their bickering and never really acknowledging the good stuff.

    But the truth is, gratitude and appreciation is the kind of medicine we need now more than ever—and not just because the season is upon us. For one thing, practicing gratitude is a scientifically proven way to boost our happiness, health and relationships. More importantly, we need to ensure we're cultivating it in our children even when things are challenging. Especially when things are challenging.

    I'm ready to crank the thankfulness up a few dozen notches and reboot our family's gratitude game so we can usher out 2020 on a fresh note. So, I've called in some reinforcements.

    Enter: the Gracious Gobbler.

    Keep reading Show less

    100 unusual + surprising baby name ideas

    From Adelia to Ziggy.

    Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

    Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

    Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.

    Keep reading Show less
    Learn + Play