Birth Stories No. 3: Resisting Routine Induction: Alexa’s Active Birth

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alexa's birth story
Alexa’s birth story is interesting because it is a typical case of coming up against the routine recommendations to induce when there are no specific medical indications. This is the story of her journey and how she managed to resist interventions she felt were not necessary and gave birth naturally in the end!

“Jamie is our first child and was born 2 weeks and 1 day after his expected due date.  We used a doula and I found her guidance and calmness really helped me in the run-up, particularly as I came under pressure from my hospital to have a sweep and then an induction.

It was difficult ‘pushing back’ and some of the language used was quite frightening but, as there were no problems with my baby or I, I didn’t want to consider chemical induction from 41 weeks + 4 days.  Instead, I walked a lot, swam, did pregnancy yoga, had acupuncture and reflexology, tried really hard to relax, and ate a lot of pineapple!

I also went to the hospital every 2-3 days where Jamie’s heartbeat and my placenta function were checked. The doctor advised me this was only partially helpful as the key things was to really closely monitor his movements myself.  And I turned my phone off for 2 days as I found calls/texts from well-meaning friends and family to be stressful by this point.

I had a ‘show’ on the Sunday afternoon and started to feel stomach tightness while having a massage.  In the evening I had a terrible Chinese take-away and a glass of champagne!  I woke up at 12.30am with strong stomach cramps.  I tried to stay in bed listening to music and not to wake my husband up but the sensations were too intense.  I couldn’t focus on TV or music so instead my husband read to me from his thriller novel for a couple of hours while I sat on the birthing ball having contractions.

He also read a relaxation script from the Hypnobirthing course while I sat on a birthing ball leaning against the bedroom wall which was helpful.  I had a bath and sat on a stool in the shower – both of which eased the contractions so gave me a bit of a rest.

Our doula came to our flat at 2pm and my husband found her presence really reassuring.  When we arrived at the hospital birthing centre at 5pm I was already 8cm dilated.  At first we were told we had to go to the labour ward instead as I was 42 weeks pregnant, but we asked the midwife to double check the hospital policy and when she returned she advised us we could stay there until midnight but then must transfer to the labour ward.

I spent the following hours walking the empty corridors of the birth centre, bouncing on the ball, doing some squats, leaning over a beanbag, and sitting in the birthing pool.  I found my contractions were far more intense if I laid down or sat down.

My doula massaged my legs, encouraged me, suggested labouring positions, and gave me homeopathic pills for nausea and to encourage contractions.  The midwife gave us a lot of space to just get on with things, but was on hand if we sought her advice.  We negotiated for more time in the birth centre several times, and at one point agreed for my waters to be broken (at 9cm dilated) if I was given another hour there.

I was moved to the labour ward at 3am and this was a low point as I felt really deflated and the transfer was difficult – having to sit down on a wheelchair, packing up all our belongings, taking down all the photos my husband had stuck on the wall.  In hindsight, I think we could have pushed for more time and I could have refused to sit in the wheelchair.

Once in the labour ward I declined to lie on the bed to have a continuous monitor attached to check Jamie’s heartbeat as I knew this reclined position was very uncomfortable for me.  Instead, we brought our ball with us which I sat on – the monitor was attached but then fell off so the midwife periodically checked me instead, as she had done in the birth centre.  The doctor advised me to have a Syntocinon drip as she felt I had been in the ‘pushing’ phase too long – before we could make a decision about this she recommended I have a ventouse with an epidural in preparation for a C-section, in case it might be needed.  I was advised that my contractions were not long enough or frequent enough to birth Jamie, that his head had not fully turned yet, and that his heartbeat was not returning enough after each contraction (although when I asked further about this the doctor clarified that the actual concern was that soon his heartbeat might not fully return, but at present it was fine).

Alexa's Birth StoryAt this point we asked all the hospital staff to leave the room as we felt overwhelmed by the sudden change in our situation and the decisions we needed to make.  I felt Jamie had been moving down and then suddenly felt he was going to appear but had not been examined – we called our midwife back who could see him crowning and then things were all go! As I pushed him out, I asked my doula to guide me and remember tuning into her voice only, as she was the person I felt I could really trust and rely on.  He was born an hour after we moved to the labour ward.

Jamie had a short umbilical chord and so could lay on my stomach but not my chest – I declined a drug to speed up delivery of my placenta but agreed for the doctor to pull it out.  The cord pulsed out in a couple of minutes and the midwife called my husband over to watch this before she clamped it, as we’d specified delayed cord clamping in our birth plan.  I declined an anti-haemorrhaging drug and instead asked the midwife to check me regularly.  I tore slightly so was stitched up while I held Jamie and tried to start breastfeeding him – which didn’t really work!

As the birth centre was almost empty we went back to a new room there to rest – this meant the same midwife stayed with and we had a double bed and en suite which was great.  My doula stayed until we were settled and tried to help establish breastfeeding.  My husband and I were on a complete high and so found it very difficult to rest!  We were discharged at 6pm, after our family had brought over pizza for dinner and held Jamie.  We were impressed with the after-care from  the hospital which consisted of visits from three very competent mid-wives and one Health Visitor.

I’m so pleased that I had a natural birth and avoided drugs. I think things went so well because of the full support of my husband, good preparation, using a doula, negotiating a lot, and a healthy dose of luck.”

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