Birth is tranformative, important, and essential. It’s vital that the birth team is respectful, knowledgeable, and trusting of women and birth. When your planning an event (say a wedding); buying a house; or going to school, surrounding yourself with the right team makes all the difference.
Birth is no different.
So who should be on your birth team?
Birth Team Members
- Care Provider
- Birth Place
- Childbirth Education
- Birth Photographer
Remember you can hire and fire whoever will serve your birth best at any time. If you realize you’re not on the same page with any person on your team, think hard about whether you want them at your birth. Every team member needs to be someone you can completely relax in front of and be very vulnerable. If you’re feeling not-heard, or condescended, or disrespected during your pregnancy, these feelings are worth paying attention to.
In NYS, families can hire a midwife, obstetrician, or family physician to attend your birth.
In Northern NY, there are currently no family physicians attending births (I would love to be wrong on this, despite my enthusiastic search, so feel free to let me know I’m wrong!).
Obstetricians are surgeons who have specialized in high-risk births. They are highly skilled at what they do and tend to be on the lookout for any complication that may or may not arise during an average pregnancy. Prenatally, appointments will be about 15 minutes long and regularly include weight checks, a urinalysis, blood pressure check, fundal height measurement (how big your uterus is), and listening to the baby’s heartbeat with a doppler (hand-held ultrasound that transmit’s audio, but not imagery). Throughout your pregnancy, you will be expected to undergo periodic screenings to rule out various potential complications.
In Plattsburgh, there are two OBGYN offices that have privileges at CVPH. Both practices have several OBs on staff as well as a midwife. The practices share on-call time, meaning that the practice you say prenatally may or may not be the practice available for your birth at CVPH.
In Malone, there are two obstetricians who practice out of the local hospital and work closely with the two midwives working in the same practice.
In Saranac Lake, there maternity care is also hospital based. This means that practitioner works at the hospital, including prenatal appointments.
Midwives in NYS are either Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) or Direct Entry Midwives, both of which are licensed by the state and have a master’s level of education.
Midwives tend to trust women’s ability to birth. They are highly skilled in birth and are competent in referring families to specialists as needed if a pregnancy moves outside of the realm of typical.
Prenatal appointments may be 15mins to an hour in length and encompass weight checks, blood pressure checks, fundal height measurements, etc as well as conversations around emotional health and nutritional health of the pregnant person.
In Plattsburgh, there are two midwives who have privileges at CVPH, and there is one working out of each of the OB offices in town.
In Saranac Lake, a midwife with a long history at Adirondack Health serves the area. She works closely with the OB and provides prenatal care from the hospital.
In Malone, a similar model is followed. Two young and enthusiastic midwives serve the Malone community and work closely with the two OBs on staff.
In all of these areas, there are a few home birth midwives who serve the North Country. Full service prenatal care is provided by these home birth midwives and appointments tend to be an hour in length at a minimum.
Just as with any aspect of your birth team, birth place also will influence your birth experience. It’s important to research options and find the one that will work best for your family.
In our area the birth place options are: home or hospital. We have no local birth centers. Your research may include finding a birth place that grants your chosen provider privileges, provides the support and respect you desire during your birth, and statistics that show routine birth practices.
Here is more information about the three hospitals in our area and 15 reasons you may consider a homebirth.
Finding a location that makes you feel empowered, secure, and respected is vital.
A doula provides non-medical emotional, physical, and informational support during labor. This birth team member reminds you of your goals and helps give space for advocating for yourself. A doula also offers relief and reassurance to your partner so s/he can better support you. As a birth professional, a doula is an incredible informational asset when you’re in the midst of birth and being pressed to make decisions. A doula also provide suggestions for your partner in how you can best be supported. Research shows that the presence of a doula increases birth satisfaction including feelings of empowerment for the birthing family. This is a powerful way to transition into the role of parent of your newest baby.
As a birth doula, I am aware of the important role to be played by a quiet, confident, and knowledgeable support person on the birth team. My goal is that you don’t remember I was at your birth. I want my support to be quiet and steady. At the end of the day, I want you to feel empowered and fall in love with your partner in a whole new way.
Historically, birth was supported by family and community members. People understood that this support was essential and important. This support is still essential. Invite those in your community who trust you and trust birth.
It can be hard to be a family member in a birth room as our experience with birth is limited in our culture. Birth is intense. That intensity can be hard for those that love you to witness. There can be a feeling of helplessness. This leads to support people trying to “fix it” and sometimes birth means, just doing it. This is why it’s important to only invite family and friends who are confident in birth and you.
Understanding that witnessing the one you love face the challenges of birth is important knowledge for your partner. This is another area a doula is helpful, in reassuring partners that this is normal and you’re working beautifully.
Perhaps considered a part of your Pre Birth Team, a childbirth educator can provide helpful information prenatally and knowledge is power.
Culturally we are underexposed to birth. Childbirth education is a way to fill in the knowledge-gap. This is an opportunity to connect with your partner weekly as you attend classes.
Classes may take place in the hospital (all the area hospitals offer a childbirth education series) or privately (there are a few local options). Classes are comprehensive in terms of the physiology of birth. Hospital based classes typically emphasize interventions more than private classes and have a reputation for setting expectations for birth based on their policies. Private classes tend to be more inclusive, dynamic, and offer a broader range of information.
We document important life events – weddings, birthdays, celebrations – and there is no bigger life event than birth. Documenting this story is an incredible gift you’re giving your future self. The experience is intense when you’re in it. Sometimes it’s fast – or moments are fast. The concentration and focus needed means you are missing out on other aspects of the story. One mother said to me after seeing her birth pictures: “I was so happy to see the pictures of my husband at the moment of birth. I didn’t realize until I saw the pictures that he cried!”
No matter your birth experience, visual documentation helps you as you process your experience.
When choosing a birth photographer, it’s important to hire someone who has the necessary photography experience – birth photography brings a unique set of challenges for the photographer – and someone who has the necessary birth knowledge to have the ability to anticipate which images to be framing where and when.
No matter the particulars of your birth story, the single most important aspect of a birth experience, is how the mother was made to feel during her birth. When choosing your birth team, consider how each person will contribute to your feelings of empowerment (or not).