The Labor Traps: Sneaky Things That Derail Your Natural Birth (Part 1)
Did you know that the very things you've been taught to do when planning a natural birth will set you up to fail? In fact, a lot of advice out there on how to cope during labor or what to expect can lead to you getting a trip to the OR for a cesarean. I have coined the term Natural Birth Trap when discussing a lot of the things that lead to you getting tricked into scheduling an induction or cesarean when your body is actually capable of physiological birth. If you want to know more about the 20 most common Natural Birth Traps, go here to part 1.
Today I'm diving deeper into the traps you can fall into once you're in labor, because even if you manage to avoid many of the scare tactics that lead to a lot of moms thinking they won't go into labor on their own, once labor actually starts you still gotta watch out for the Labor Traps!
These are the beliefs, attitudes, cultural expectations, misconceptions and medical practices that are so routine in maternity care and our birth culture that you don't think twice about them.
They're the things you see most often in the mom groups and in mainstream childbirth education that are leading you right down the exact path you don't want: the path to a cesarean, induction, episiotomy, forceps delivery, or simply a birth where you lose all control and things happen to you that you didn't ask for, didn't want, and might not have even agreed to if you'd known the risks and that you had other options.
In other words, these are the things that seem obvious in hindsight as you learn how birth really works and your own psychological and emotional needs during labor, but they aren't easy to spot beforehand because it seems like it's just "normal" and "to be expected."
You can watch the first 5 here and then read more about how I came to discover these Labor Traps and how to avoid falling into them yourself below.
So, how did I figure this out and how can you avoid falling into these traps and the many, many others that are so common in our birth culture?
First, let me tell you a story:
When I got pregnant with my second baby I had already been in the birth community as an advocate for over a year and had learned a lot of information about birth that I hadn't known with my first pregnancy.
One of those revelations was that my cervix was not a crystal ball and that I could decline vaginal exams.
Another revelation was that I could check my own cervix if I was really curious where I was at in terms of progress toward labor starting.
Armed with this knowledge I had been feeling pretty confident in my plans to birth at home...until I experienced weeks of stop and start labor and got fed up with "nothing happening".
I checked my cervix out of desperation to see if things would start moving soon, only to find that NO changes had taken place despite all the practice contractions and false alarms over the last several days AND despite all the sex, red raspberry leaf tea, yoga ball bouncing, and evening primrose oil. Nothing was getting this baby girl to come out, and I even gave her several stern talks about how her days were numbered and she needed to get OUT.
Part of my impatience had come from how much pain I was in. I had developed SPD (Symphisis Pubis Dysfunction) and walking was so challenging and my pelvis ached so badly. I just wanted to be able to move again without that pain. I was tired of feet in my ribcage and the heartburn, and I was just done. No amount of knowledge about why I needed to wait for her to pick her birthday was enough to keep me motivated, however the very real fear of going back to the hospital and being re-traumatized was what kept me from giving in to the pressure from my family to get "assessed" for progress. I did not want fingers up in my cervix knowing how uncomfortable it was the last time.
Then, finally at 40 weeks and 1 day I realized I was in labor. I had my bloody show, which I had decided would mean labor was starting. I called my doula to the house and she stayed with me and helped me with my almost 3 year old son while my partner was at work.
I had a midwife appointment set for that afternoon, but I didn't want to get in the car for that, having remembered how much I hate being in the car in labor, and so I told her that I was in labor and she agreed to come assess where I was at in a few hours after clinic hours if things didn't move fast before then.
She arrived at 5pm and I was so frustrated and just wanted to know if things were finally moving. I agreed to have my cervix checked and she told me I was 4cm. I was relieved that labor was finally moving. Unfortunately, now I was "on the clock" at the hospital and it was expected that I keep dilating 1cm per hour.
Spoiler: I did not. 8 hours passed and I kept declining checks, but eventually I was pressured to agree to another one because things weren't really moving and we had been doing so many spinning babies positions. I was not permitted to get back in the pool where I most wanted to be. Basically, my labor was being controlled even in my own home as I felt that pressure to "perform".
The very last cervix check in that labor was horrifically painful and in that moment I realized all I wanted was to go to bed and send everyone home. My labor stopped after that.
I had gone from 6cm to closing right back up to 3! If I had been in the hospital that would have been labeled "Failure to Progress", but because I knew my rights and had made up my mind to not give in to outside pressure I just sent the doula and midwife home.
The next night I went back into labor and almost gave birth unassisted. The midwife arrived just as my daughter's head was on the way out and I learned a powerful lesson: Physiological birth rarely follows the textbook! In fact, expecting it to follow the textbook is what causes an otherwise healthy pregnancy to turn into a heavily managed labor and birth. I know this from my own experience and through the stories shared by my friends, clients, and women I've connected with over the last decade who have had a physiological labor and birth.
That's what led to me develop my powerful system that actually supports the physiological birth process and helps you recognize when you need medical intervention vs when someone else is just expecting you to follow the textbook (that doesn't work). I call this system my 5 Pillars of Empowered Birth, which you can learn more about if you grab my ebook Your Empowered Birth below.
In this book you will learn the entire Empowered Birth System and how you can use it to get your dream birth experience and avoid the biggest traps when it comes to planning a natural birth.
You'll be able to avoid crumbling under the pressure of an OB or midwife who is pushing for you to have a vaginal exam (even though you now know that your cervix is not a crystal ball).
You won't feel like you have to get into labor by your due date, which will allow you to rest as you need to and just not worry about it. You won't get tricked into the many traps that lead to "failure to progress" and you won't automatically transfer to the hospital unless you want to go in.
You also won't hire anyone who doesn't fully support you and believe in your ability to birth your baby in your own time, in your own way.
The best part about using this system is that anyone can do it!
You can use this system to plan your b