Dealing with Complications for the Baby during Childbirth
Only a few hundred years ago, it was not uncommon for babies to be stillborn or die within their first year of life. While these things still happen, your chances of having a healthy baby are pretty good. In fact, complications are not likely for a healthy woman and a normal pregnancy. Nevertheless, it’s not a horrible idea to think about the risks your baby faces with giving birth. This is not about avoiding childbirth or driving yourself crazy with fear. But instead, knowing about possible complications ahead of time can help you make a decision if you need to.
Complications for the Baby
Complications for babies during childbirth abound. That’s why a large number of medical procedures and devices were designed to help babies be born. Unfortunately, intervening with birth usually comes with new complications and risks. Common concerns for babies during and after birth are (listed in no particular order):
- breech birth
- shoulder dystocia
- umbilical cord prolapse
- umbilical cord compression
- baby not breathing at birth
You should know that breech births are not that common. The problem with breech births is that most providers don’t feel comfortable delivering a breech baby. As it is, there are plenty of women who have successfully delivered a breech baby at home unassisted. When giving birth to a breech baby, it’s important to be in a good position (standing, squatting, etc.) that allows gravity to help. You also don’t want to start pushing too early. And finally, you should never pull on the baby’s body.
Shoulder dystocia is also fairly uncommon. But when it happens, you need to act quickly. When the baby’s shoulder is lodged behind the pubic bone, the baby is literally stuck. Fortunately, the baby can be gently rotated by a skilled attendant in order to help the baby to be born. But as with breech births, the birthing position is important, and a laboring woman may instinctively act right by switching positions herself.
Umbilical Cord Prolapse or Compression
Umbilical cord prolapse and umbilical cord compression are similar in a way that they deprive the baby of oxygen. If the umbilical cord comes before any part of the baby is visible, then an immediate C-section is necessary. Umbilical cord compression is usually only noticeable by monitoring the baby’s heartbeat. The problem with monitoring is that in most cases the baby is fine, but because of the constant monitoring women may undergo a C-section even though it’s not necessary at all.
A lot can happen after your baby is born. If you want to give birth at home, you may want to look into newborn resuscitation and CPR techniques, just to be on the safe side. Some babies just need a little more help initially. Fortunately, you don’t need to have any special tools available in order to provide your baby with oxygen. But obviously, you will need to get help if your newborn is not responding and breathing on her own.
For all of the risks your baby faces during childbirth, you may feel overburdened. Some women hire a care provider and trust that everything will turn out right. But you have probably heard of people suing their doctors because they doctor didn’t do what he or she should have done. Some medical professionals will try to mitigate risks by opting for a C-section just to be on the safe side, for example, they may recommend a C-section for a breech baby or for twins.
The problem with C-sections and other interventions is that they are not risk-free, either. A breech baby may even have additional problems because it was born via C-section. That doesn’t mean a C-section is never a good solution. But it definitely shouldn’t be the first choice, even for a breech birth. And since there are never any guarantees, you won’t necessarily know for sure what the best decision is. But you can educate yourself about your options and make the choice that’s right for you, even if your care provider doesn’t necessarily agree.
On the bright side, most of the time, childbirth is a natural, joyous event that ends with a healthy mother and a healthy baby. Of course, you hear more stories about births gone bad because that’s newsworthy. Plus, a woman with that kind of birth trauma is going to want to talk about it. Nevertheless, childbirth is not inherently risky. Otherwise, Earth would be a lot less populated with humans these days.
What If Something Goes Wrong During an Unassisted Birth?
When you talk to people about unassisted childbirth, their first thought is: “What if something goes wrong?”
This is certainly a valid concern. That’s one of the reasons why most people won’t ever attempt to give birth unassisted. The underlying fear in this question shows how childbirth is perceived in our country: as risky and dangerous. Fortunately, it’s neither.
The best thing you can do is to educate yourself thoroughly. Technically, you don’t have to know anything in order to give birth, because your body takes care of it for you. However, in order to make the best decisions regarding the process of childbirth, you should know what you’re doing. This means you need to know:
- What to do in different situations (breech birth etc.)
- When to get help
- What to expect during labor and delivery
Preparing for a homebirth with a midwife is not the same as preparing for an unassisted birth. While you will probably have to get supplies ready (all listed on a list supplied to you by your midwife), you’re not required to know anything about the process. On the other hand, when you plan on giving birth unassisted, you will naturally become very educated about childbirth.
Most complications occur because of unnecessary medical interventions, usually performed at the hospital. At home, where you feel calm and relaxed, you have the greatest chance to have the natural birth that you are wishing for. You won’t be watching the clock, nurses won’t come to prod you under bright lights, and you can eat and drink as much as you want. All in all, giving birth at home is pretty neat compared to doing it anywhere else.
And while you’re not hoping that something goes wrong, it’s important to have a plan B, just in case. Whether this means calling a midwife, going to the hospital, or calling 911 depends on your specific situation.