The final weeks and days of pregnancy can present many emotional challenges for women. I see so many women who are stressed at a time when they should be chilling out with a tub of ice cream.
The reasons for this tend to come down to:
External pressures (ie: obstetric culture and culture conditioning).
Lack of understanding of the physiological processes going on at this time.
Lack of planning for these final weeks/days.
At every medical appointment you are told how far along you are and once you reach a certain gestation (which varies depending on care providers) you will be offered VEs and inductions.
Many care providers will start talking about induction planning before you even reach full term. I once sat in a room and listened to midwives tell women that natural induction should be started at 34 weeks. I also had a midwife tell me (when I was only just 40 weeks) that I must make an induction plan because I’m not allowed to stay pregnant forever…I wonder if that happens a lot?!
Which brings me to that aspect of our cultural conditioning that says that women simply can’t go into labour without help. Whether it be raspberry leaf tea, dates and evening primrose oil that are suggested for ensuring that you don’t go “over” or stretch and sweeps started at 38 weeks, women are constantly being sent the message that they need to actively do things to make labour start.
And at 40 weeks women shouldn’t feel that they need to be worrying about whether they are using the correct technique for induction nipple stimulation, whether one orgasm is enough or multiple are required and how to stomach dates if they don’t like them.
You don't need "help" to go into labour. Your body is perfect as it is.
Which brings me to the second point. Most women (and many care providers…) don’t really have a solid understanding of the physiological processes going on at this time. At least in relation to how the emotional health of the woman can impact on the physiological happenings. Particularly in relation to the hormonal happenings.
It is very widely accepted these days that the baby is the one who initiates labour by releasing a protein when they are ready. And then the mother’s body responds by releasing oxytocin to make the uterus contract (that is a super simplified version – if you would like to read more about hormones I highly recommend checking out Dr Sarah Buckley’s work). Adrenalin, on the other hand, can hinder the release of oxytocin.
So our maternity care system, by way of increasing stress for many mums by focusing so much and so harshly on post dates, is actually a potential contributor to the post dates pregnancies that are causing mums so much stress. Definitely something worth further consideration!
Then we have the post dates planning. While a lot of women have plans for appointments etc they have few plans for their emotional health. I see so many women who are filled with stress about medical appointments and talk of induction, but don’t have a plan to fill their days with anything else.
What makes you happy? What fills you with joy? I’m not saying that you have to skip all the medical appointments (although that is a valid choice!)…but make sure that you balance them out with things that you actually like to do.
I’m currently on my 3rd post 40 weeks pregnancy (soon to be my 3rd post 41 weeks pregnancy…) and my last pregnancy went past 42 weeks. The last weeks of my previous pregnancies were a mix of miserable and frustrating. I understand not just how hard it is to focus on your emotional health, but the true importance of it.
I received standard care throughout my previous pregnancies. I knew how far along I was, how far I was allowed to go, what the policies were and how hard I was going to have to fight.
This time I have received very little standard care. My pregnancy has been mostly unassisted. I don’t have anyone reminding me how far along I am each week, or how imperative it is that I go into labour NOW. No-one is making me feel bad for choosing to wait for my baby to choose their birthday. I don’t have a cut off date.
I’m receiving some complimentary therapies because they make me feel good, not because I want them to induce my labour. I specifically chose my acupuncturist because she doesn’t advertise induction acupuncture…same for my massage therapist. I stocked up on all my fave foods so that I can enjoy a pleasurable snack or meal whenever I want it. My partner is only working school hours in order to help me out with the kids and the house.
The difference between how I felt during my previous pregnancies and how I feel during this one is amazing.
I feel strong and I feel ready. For labour and birth and for mothering a new little human.
Please remember: prioritizing your emotional health is never selfish. Healthy babies NEED healthy mothers.