Your questions about c-sections & labor

I received a few questions by email and post comments about labor and c-sections… I thought I’d try to be helpful to everyone and answer them here:

Question: Did I practice any pain management techniques? Do I think they’d be helpful?
Answer: We decided to do the Bradley Method (husband-coached childbirth). But we didn’t take a class, we only read the book (both Steve and I read it). Honestly, we didn’t find it very helpful. It starts by trying to pump you up- like, yea you can do it! And it talks a lot about why it’s the best method or why it works. Then tells you some tips (squatting is best, like sitting on a birthing ball… use abdominal breathing during early labor and later, keep your elbows out and chin down). And of course, the focus is on the husband and how he should talk to me and help me through it. It just didn’t work. Maybe if we had taken the Bradley class?

What I’d try, personally, is hypnobirthing. The at-home kit to teach yourself is like $300, which I thought was ridiculous. But if it works, I’d be willing to pay much more than that after the labor experience I had.

Also, I said the pain was unbearable… but the pain for each woman is different, so don’t let me scare you. It depends on your pain tolerance, your mindset, and the type of contractions. My contractions were focused in my lower belly, like menstrual cramps. Some women have the pain in their lower backs, wrapped all the way around, or just in the belly area.

Question: Do I think a different doctor would have given me a different result?
Answer: Without a doubt. My main OB didn’t start seeing me until I was 20 weeks along anyway (when we moved here) and she never remembered who I was… after she scared us with the “high-risk” and “full-term placenta” stuff we decided to try the 2 other OBs at that clinic because we weren’t too fond of her anymore. They weren’t much better…. but I ended up going back to the original and discussing my birth plan with her. She was actually great about that–saying she wanted my birth to be the experience I wanted. However…. we didn’t end up in labor with her. We got the doctor on call. If you have a doctor who you know will deliver you and she/he is on board with what you want, I think your chances are WAY better of things going how you want. The doctor we had had no idea who we were or what we wanted. She had no attachment to us and didn’t care. I hope to find a new OB that can become, basically, a friend. So that when I am pregnant again, I have someone familiar and friendly on my side.

As for the rest of the hospital staff… I only had the one nurse to deal with the whole time. Day nurse=awesome, night nurse=terrible. But either way, everything they do has to be passed through the doctor. So if you have your doctor on your side, you hopefully won’t have any issues. Plus, you can ALWAYS request a different nurse. I never even thought of it.

Question: How bad was it for Steve and I (without a doula)? What made us start wavering in our decisions? What would have helped us stick to our plan?
Answer: In the moment (exhausted, confused, in pain…) I basically forgot WHY I wanted the things I did. I knew I didn’t want interventions (water broken, pitocin, etc), but WHY? I thought, in hindsight, having a doula would have helped us stick to what we wanted. She would have spoke for us and said NO for us. But I’ve also heard stories where the doula got just as confused and exhausted. It’s just a really hard situation (for anyone) when the doctor starts talking about possible complications and makes you worry for your baby’s safety or your own. Early on I felt I was very strong with the hospital staff in what I wanted (refused water breaking and pitocin 3 times), but after 24 hours of labor and being exhausted (physically and mentally) and just wanting everything to work out… I broke.

Another thing.. Steve and I didn’t start the Bradley Method until pretty late in our pregnancy. I feel like we could have been more prepared. If your husband really doesn’t want a doula (as mine didn’t either), my best advice is to prepare early, and prepare lots (with regard to pain management).

Question: What should you ask your OB about c-sections, pitocin, etc? When should you talk about your birth plan?
Answer: Talk about your birth plan as soon as you’ve made it–trust me, it’s not premature and your doctor should ┬ábe happy and willing to go over it with you. That way you can be sure your doctor is on board with your wishes (and you have time to switch doctors if needed). Plus, details and more questions will come up as you’re going over it with them.

Ask your doctor their c-section rates and what events may lead to one (if your water breaks/is broken, how long before they’ll want to intervene to prevent infection?; what will they do if you’re “stuck” at a certain dilation for however many hours?; etc). Ask what their max level of pitocin is and what their experience is with its use leading to c-sections. What percentage of births do they use pitocin on? If you get an epidural will you be able to get off the bed at all? (this may be a pointless question if you’re getting an epi regardless).

C-sections are something my OB and I never even discussed because I was so sure I wouldn’t have one. I just figured that if I ended up with one, it’d be an emergency… that’d it’d be absolutely necessary. And I was wrong–so definitely discuss it.

Please let me know if you have any other questions!

9 comments to Your questions about c-sections & labor

  • Whitney

    I used the Bradley Method with great success. 2 day labor and no pain meds. I did attend the classes and thought they were awesome and provided SO much info concerning birth. But as you said-every woman’s labor pain is different and each woman has to decide what’s best for HER in labor. My friend used Hypnobabies (check for it on be cheaper) and it did not work for her cause she had an intense, quick labor. I think it’s be awesome to try-very cool concepts. Ultimately, you have to do what works for YOU. Thank you for sharing your birth story. I know it was a hard experience for you. I’m so blessed to have had the birth I wanted. Keep up the good work on being a Mamma!!


  • Thank you! We’re going to do at least two classes together (probably Lamaze and Hypnobabies or Lamaze and Bradly) and talk to our OB about these things monday! Great responses!!!


  • Thank you so much for answering these questions! I’m definitely glad we are starting classes early. Thanks again for sharing your experience – it is truly appreciated, and helpful!


  • Miracle Pending

    I just wanted to add something about requesting a different nurse. I had a similar situation: one good nurse, one horrible. The first nurse I had was bad enough that we wanted to file a complaint. We discussed our disappointment with the nurse supervisor and she proceeded to tell other nurses on staff about our complaints. Our second nurse didn’t like that we had any complaints to start with and defended the first nurse wholly. My point is that you shouldn’t be surprised if asking for a different nurse results in defensiveness. At the end of they day, they’re coworkers and will probably share the same views on a lot of issues.


  • Hypnobabies Home Study is only $150, the live classes are usually in the $350 range. I did it for my VBAC. It really worked and was very easy.

    Natural Birth Download is another hypnosis program that is cheaper. I haven’t used it, though.

    I definitely recommend Hypnobabies and a doula. Most doulas don’t say no for you, but they will help you remember what you wanted, why you wanted it and help you stall to think about things and speak for yourself. My VBAC was so fast and my birth team was so supportive, I didn’t have any problems, like that, but it was still great to have my doula. Her presence was just so reassuring that I was able to just let my body go.

    If VBAC is something you are interested in the future, you can definitely do it.


  • Hi there!

    I’m following you on twitter and I think it’s great that you took this opportunity to talk about your experience. I’m sorry you didn’t end up with the experience you hoped and planned for. It is always difficult when this happens, and I hope you are healing both physically and emotionally.

    I just wanted to jump in as a Bradley Method instructor and say that I tell students that Husband Coached Childbirth (by Dr. Robert Bradley) is a great introduction to the Bradley method. It’s got a lot of the “whys” but not really a lot of the “hows.” It’s also nice for dads to understand the importance of their role in the birth process. It was written by a doctor who started his practice in 1947, and it shows in his language and attitudes, but the basic premises and methods ring true 60+ years later. For more nuts-and-bolts of how to use the method, for your future births, may I humbly recommend Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way (by Susan McCutcheon), just for starters. I would also recommend Gentle Birth Choices, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better birth, to name a few. One I haven’t yet read (shamefully!) but that would probably be of great help to you is The VBAC companion.

    All of this being said, a Bradley class series gets WAY more in depth than either of the Bradley books, and gives couples a chance to practice techniques hands-on. If your Bradley instructor is also a doula (as mine was and as I am), this can help dads feel more comfortable and confident in the idea of a doula, knowing that a good doula rooted in the Bradley method (and really, any good doula) would never overstep the father and take over his role but supports the couple. Especially if planning a VBAC would I recommend a doula. My husband did not want to hire a doula at first, but we ended up hiring our Bradley teacher, whom we had come to know and feel comfortable with.

    Best wishes to you, your husband, and your sweet little one. Happy breastfeeding!


  • I used HypnoBabies and I loved it. I won’t say labor was pain-free, but HB worked wonders to keep me calm and when your whole body is tensing up with contractions being able to relax through them makes a huge difference. I was in the transition part of labor and the doc walked in and inquired about my epi (which I hadn’t taken). He assumed I must have had one to be so calm and quiet! This was after hours of awful back-labor too. I will definitely use HypnoBabies again. If you search online you can usually find 20% off coupons for the home study course.


  • Heidi J

    I’m so sorry that things ended up the way they did. I hope your able to successfully have a VBAC in the future. Was a forceps/vacuum delivery ever discussed? I’m just curious as I had a very long labor (25 hours) that came very close to ending in a c-section, but they tried forceps as the last resort before that and it worked. I also had an epidural that may contributed to my labor being so long, but I also don’t regret it. I needed to rest and it allowed me to sleep.

    Background: I was planning giving birth at a birth center, but had a hospital birth due to being mildly pre-eclamptic, but I had both my birth center midwife and a doula in addition to my husband there with me. They were all great.


  • I’m going to be a broken record and say that next time, I think you’d love a Bradley class. They are 10 weeks long and there’s just SO much information that is empowering so that you know what to expect and what a HUGE range ‘normal’ is. We did read the book as a class (although I skipped a lot of it) but still felt completely informed and prepared for birth. I can’t imagine having only read a book and trying to stay strong in labor. That must have been hard!



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