IT’S fair to say that I have been more anxious during this pregnancy that my previous two. can’t put my finger on why, but it’s definitely there. Maybe it’s because we are bombarded with stories in the media of birth complications. Or maybe it’s due to the fact that other people love to tell you the horror stories when you’re pregnant. Why is that?
I know that Ireland is a safe place to have a baby. In fact, the perinatal mortality rate (corrected for congenital anomaly) was just 4.3 per 1,000 births in 2017. A healthy baby (and healthy mother) is by far the most common outcome. I’m going to keep repeating that like a mantra to keep the crazy thoughts at bay. But sometimes they just slip out. Like last week when I spoke to my consultant and felt the need to double check that the hospital knows my blood type and has extra blood… just in case.
The last few weeks of pregnancy is a special time but it’s also a time (for me at least) that the fear of the unknown interrupts my positive thoughts. Will I be able to manage three kids under the age of four and still work? Will I love this baby as much as I love my other two? Will Dylan and Alva love their new sibling without feeling neglected? And so these are the thoughts that keep me company as I throw myself into the nesting phase — nothing is safe at the moment! Right now in our home office, I have six plastic boxes piled high full of boy/girl/neutral baby clothes separated into 0-1 months and 0-3 months.
During this past week, I have also have had, more people than I’d like, commenting on how low I am carrying this baby and surprised that I have “so long left”. Cue me running to my laptop and frantically asking Dr Google (I know I shouldn’t) what it means. I was expecting to read that it meant I would go into labour early. The answer I found is depressingly more likely closer to the truth: “Lax muscles from age, previous pregnancies or decreased fitness can cause a women to carry low”. Tick, tick and tick. But just in case, I managed to carve out some time to get my labour and hospital bags ready. So safe to say I am now, in a practical way, ready just in case I do go earlier than expected.
Mentally, however, I’m not sure I am ready for labour and delivery. I have had very different experiences with my last two deliveries. Following my waters breaking without any labour pains, induction and in the end an emergency caesarean section, it was definitely not how I imagined my first birth. However, I never really had any problems with it — I was part of the decision-making process every step of the way and never felt the loss of the chance of a natural delivery that I know many women feel.
I delivered my daughter via VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) in 2016.
Dietitian Aoife Hearne is ready, in a practical way at least, to welcome her baby, but mentally she is not sure she is ready for labour and delivery
However, I remember feeling extremely stressed during that delivery. I really didn’t have a clue when it came to delivery and because this was my second baby everyone seemed to just assume I knew what I was doing, forgetting that C-section is a very different experience. While having a C-section didn’t really bother me the first time around, having a VBAC was important to me. And despite the inevitable pain that goes with labour and delivery, it is my hope to have a natural birth with this baby.
C-section rates are on the rise worldwide (ESRI) and on average in Ireland 25.6% (range 18.2% 35.1)% of babies are born via C-section. This is a fourfold increase compared with 30 years ago. Increasing age of the mother and rates of obesity increase the risk of needing a C-section, which is major surgery and one that if not medically required would be advisable to avoid.
According to Dr Justin Sonnenburg from Stanford University, the things that happen early in life can set a child on a trajectory for a good healthy and robust microbiota or not.
That initial colonisation of bacteria in the gut is dependent on the method of delivery (vaginal vs C-section) and also how baby is fed (breastmilk vs artificial milk). Interestingly, according to research by Sonnenburg, babies born via C-section will have bacteria in their gut more like bacteria found on the skin and also more like the nurse or doctor rather than the mother as they are the first person to touch the baby.
Due to this, breastfeeding becomes even more important for babies born via C-section according to research from the journal Microbiome in 2017. But the good news is that by 24 weeks, if exclusively breastfed, C-section babies had similar gut microbiota composition as babies born vaginally.
From talking to other women, I realise the feelings I have around the birth are normal. If only you could have the naivety of your first pregnancy every time. Tomorrow I meet with my consultant, and I am very hopeful that he will tell me the very active baby I have inside has moved out of breech position.
Either way, I am going to root out my GentleBirth meditation CDs and make it a priority to relax into these last few weeks of pregnancy.
talking to other women, I realise the feelings I have around the birth are normal. If only you could have the naivety of your first pregnancy every time
FINAL PREPARATIONS: The last few weeks of pregnancy is a special time but it’s also a time that the fear of the unknown can creep in.