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10 Secrets to make your Birth more Comfortable | Rotterdam Doula

Being pregnant with your first baby, or with your first baby in a foreign country can be quite overwhelming

Especially when it comes to a Rotterdam birth, or anywhere in the Netherlands, where homebirth is considered a national heritage.
So I've made a list of 10 things that will help you feel more in control, and that will help you make your decisions when it comes to planning your birth.
 

You don't have to give birth at home. 

If I was still living in South Africa, this heading would have been “you don’t have to give birth in a hospital.”  But here in Rotterdam I very often get asked whether a hospital birth is possible. Specifically when your birth is not considered medical; meaning you have to give birth in hospital due to medical reasons.  The short answer is yes.  In Rotterdam, and the rest of the Netherlands, you can opt to give birth in a birth center or in a hospital.  I would recommend that you find out from your health insurance exactly what they cover, and that you adjust it accordingly, if needed. (Remember, you can only change your health insurance plan once a year at the end of December). 

That being said, I would highly recommend that you talk to your midwife, doula and other people who have experience with homebirth about what it is like giving birth at home. Even though it might not be your first choice, it is always good to educate yourself about the options. You never know what you might learn.  Remember, wherever you choose to give birth, the point is that you feel relaxed, supported and safe, so that you can have a comfortable and magical birth.    

Question for your midwife: Would she be able to come with you if you opt for a hospital birth, or will you be transferred to the clinical team? 

There are many forms of pain relief available during labour. 

If you are feeling scared about how you will deal with the pain from labour and birth, but you also don’t really feel like you want to go for an epidural, then I’ve got some good news for you.  There are so many other forms that you can try.  From natural methods like hypnobirthing, having a doula, counter pressure, movement and water, to other medical forms like Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) and morphine.   

In Rotterdam, and the rest of the Netherlands, it is common to only have Nitrous Oxide available in a birth centre and not in hospital, and hospitals could have different policies around administering morphine, so it is important to ask your midwife or doctor what your options will be at the locations you are considering to give birth. 

The Pain Relief in Labour episode from Welcome to the womb is my absolute favourite when it comes to this topic. Listen on Spotify or Apple

 

Set the mood by bringing your own music to the delivery room. 

Even if you are not someone who knows the names of songs or bands, you will know exactly what I mean when I say that music can have a powerful impact on our emotions. I heard a Blink 182 song again the other day for the first time in years and in that moment, I was back in Grabouw High with my classmates, just chilling and having a laugh during break.

Music can help bring up your oxytocin levels (this is the hormone of love, and you want loads of this during labour and birth).  It can also create a calm and soothing environment for you during birth. I recommend that you make 2 playlists; a more upbeat one that you might even dance to for early labour, and a more calming one to listen to during active labour and birth. Don’t forget to also bring a small speaker. 

Tip: Make sure your birth partner or doula has a copy of your playlist, or that they know how to access it on your phone.  This way they will make sure to set the vibe for you and you can focus on your body. 

 

Birthing pools can add magic to your time in labour. 

Warm water is considered a form of pain relief. Being in a birth pool also allows you to move around more easily, which can help the baby move down the birth canal. Birthing pools can also provide a sense of privacy and intimacy during labor.  Even if you do not plan to give birth in water, a pool could be a great way to ease the discomfort of your contractions as you go through labour. 

Planning on giving birth in a birth center or hospital? Check with your midwife if there are birthing pools available.  A lot of hospitals have at least one, but they cannot guarantee that it will be available when you go into labour.  You can also check if it is possible to bring your own pool. 

 

MOST women poop when they give birth. 

There, I said it.  It's a normal and natural part of the birthing process.  But it is not something to feel embarred about, in fact, most midwives get super excited when they see you poop, because it means you are pushing correctly, and that baby is getting closer to being born.  And the chances of you remembering (or even knowing) if you pooped or not is very small.  So now you know this is nothing to be worried about. 

 

Birthing positions – you have many options. 

There are various birthing positions that can help make the birthing process easier, such as standing up, sitting down, on your hands and knees, or even lying on your side. You can use props like birth balls or peanut balls or your partner.   

It is important to listen to your body and go into a position that feels good at that moment.  Movement is also very important, so get your partner to remind you to change positions every 30 minutes or so. 

Tip: Laying on your back is not the ideal position to give birth, but if you are feeling most comfortable on your back, put some pillows under your back to put yourself in a more seated position.  When opening your legs remember “knees in, ankles out” as this creates more space.   

 

Birth Doulas create a safe environment and support for you and your partner. 

A doula is a non-medical professional that will walk a path with you during your pregnancy to build a relationship and trust.  During your labour and birth your doula will provide physical support to you and emotional support to you and your partner. Doulas play a key role in keeping your environment a safe space and making sure you are being heard. 

 

You can eat and drink during labor. 

In fact, it is important to make sure you have healthy snacks at hand to keep your energy levels up.  Make sure to add some healthy, high-energy snacks to your birth bag if you are going to hospital, or to have some snacks ready in your house leading up to birth. In some countries women are still advised not to eat during labour and birth, but in the Netherlands, this is not an issue.  Woman are encouraged to keep their energy up. 

Drink ideas:  Water, herbal tea, isotonic drinks, bone broth (in the Rotterdam hospitals they usually have straws available, if you are not sure if they will be provided, make sure to pack a few as it is really handy to have) 

Food ideas: Fresh fruit, sandwich, breakfast bar, energy bar, nuts.  As long as it is something that is easy to eat, but that is not high in fat or processed sugar. 

 

Prepare your mind and body for birth. 

Preparing for birth is like preparing for a marathon.  You can, and should, train your mind and body for this special occasion.  You can’t just show up and hope for the best.  Breathing techniques, visualization and relaxation can help you stay calm and focused during labor. Staying focused and calm also allows your body to release more oxytocin and endorphins, which are essential for birth. 

 

Capture your story. 

You are growing a person inside you, and your pregnancy is the story of how you kept that baby safe.  Your birth is the first day of the rest of your life, and the start of a new story.  Your first months together is the story of the start of your new family.  It is a big deal!  It is something worth remembering and worth documenting.  Remember to take photos, write journals and cherish the moments.  You can also hire a professional photographer to capture these special moments for you.  In Rotterdam you have a lot of choice when it comes to Birth Photography.   

Tip: For your baby shower, ask your friends for a gift voucher for a professional shoot. 

 

There you go.   Your idea of comfortable will look different to other people’s idea of comfortable, so it is important that you take this information and make it your own.   
 

 
Read more about ways to prepare your body for labour and birth, and, if you are still looking for a Rotterdam Doula or Photographer, you can click here to see my Doula packages and here to see my Photography packages.