Every year I collaborate with Bio-Oil to share the importance of pregnancy education. This year, instead of the usual spiel, I thought that I’d share how I benefited from pregnancy education through my own birthing experiences.

Studies have shown that one in every four women describes giving birth as traumatic and up to 20% meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the most effective ways to reduce these alarming figures is to encourage expectant parents be properly prepared.

As some of you know, both of my pregnancies ended in an induction at 38,5 weeks and while they were both very similar, there was a distinct difference – I was more confident and trusted my body during my second birth as I had prepared mentally by researching more of what to expect.

You see, with my first pregnancy, I had only ever heard of two types of births; natural and c-section. So, when my doctor told me that I was being booked for an emergency induction, I panicked, not knowing what to expect. Naturally, I called my mom for some help and guidance, but she didn’t know what an induction was either. I remember standing in the corridor of the hospital, on the phone with my mom, trying very hard to hold it together, but feeling the sheer panic catching up to me.

In hindsight, it’s probably better that I didn’t have the time to Google every worst-case scenario as it would have only added to the stress of that moment. I was really grateful to have my husband with me the entire time, who supported me through every labour pain, spoke to the doctors when I was too sore and reassured me that I was doing a good job, even when I didn’t feel like it. If it weren’t for him, I have no doubt that my first birthing experience would not have been such a highlight to look back on.

An induction can be terrifying and depending on the process that you and your doctor decide to take, it can take up to two days to start experiencing active labour. My doctors first tried a Foley balloon catheter which failed for both of my boys – failed is quite a strong word, especially when you’re unsure of what is coming next.

The following morning, my doctors broke my waters for me, before giving me a solution that would bring on my contractions. The solution had to be drunk every 20 minutes until the bottle was finished, or until I was giving birth – whichever came first.

With my first pregnancy, birth proceeded shortly after finishing the whole bottle of the solution, but my labour was very painful, and I’d pass out in between contractions from being too weak and failing to manage the pain. After 5 hours of labour, my doctors told me that I hadn’t even moved passed 2cm and that I had a long way to go.

So, when preparing for my second birth, I played my first birthing experience over and over in my head, trying to figure out how I could better prepare myself. Although I really did not want an induction, I knew that it was likely to happen and that preparing myself mentally for going through it all over again would be best for mine and my baby’s health.

If you’ve read my birth story, you will know that for my second birth, my husband wasn’t present and that I went through the entire labouring process without him by my side. Something I never thought possible and something that I certainly didn’t prepare for. I also didn’t prepare myself for the fact that the doctor on duty would be hell-bent in me having a c-section and that every time that I showed signs of hopefulness, he would remind me how unlikely it would be for me to have a natural birth and that just because my first induction resulted in a natural birth, it’s not to say my second would too.

But he was wrong.

Despite so many things being out of my control, there were other things that I could control – things that I had prepared for. I knew that by standing up through the contractions, gravity would help labour progress quicker. I had planned to stand against my husband for this so that he could support me when a contraction came along but because he couldn’t be there, I found a window sill to hold onto and would squat between contractions. I even distracted myself by playing loud, happy music – yes, I created a specific playlist for this – and would dance next to my hospital bed through the contraction or walk around the bed as much as possible.

When my labour had progressed to the point that I could no longer support myself, I plugged in my electric hot water bottle and placed it on my lower back. The heat helped ease the pain that I was experiencing – remember, I didn’t have any pain meds to get me through this, so it was important that I kept myself as comfortable as possible.

Remembering how low my energy was the first time that I gave birth, I stocked up on Super C’s, gummy sweets and Energade to help give me a boost of energy. I also had a cooler bag with water, ice-packs and small snacks. The ice-packs proved useful for keeping my forehead cool, and the snacks were appreciated after welcoming my son into the world.

It was tough labouring on my own. I had very little assistance from the professionals on duty and trying to keep myself motivated while updating my husband via Whatsapp was no small task – but I was confident that I could do it. And I did. Much to the nurse and doctor’s surprise, I went from being 3cm dilated to giving birth in less than 20 minutes, thanks to perseverance, determination and being prepared.

With my own experience in mind, I completely support Bio-Oil’s drive to promote Pregnancy Education, during the month of February.

“Good childbirth classes will equip parents with the pros and cons of all the available childbirth options as well as practical tips and techniques for the birth and afterwards. Childbirth educators are usually nurses and midwives and parents who can share both professional expertise and personal experience. Classes are offered at many hospitals, clinics, and private practices.

‘We believe that when parents are informed, any type of birth, from homebirth to caesarean, can be an empowering one. It shifts from a potentially overwhelming experience to one that is fulfilling, positive and, ultimately, beneficial to mother and child,’ says Anna Guerin of Bio-Oil. ‘There is simply no substitute for evidence-based information provided by qualified and experienced professionals. With quality childbirth education, parents are empowered and properly prepared in a warm and supportive way.”

Over 300 private hospitals and clinics around South Africa are running Pregnancy Education Month activities in February. For details, or to find a childbirth educator in your area, visit #EmpoweringBirth

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