Some Mums call it their “Bible” – others say they refer to it “religiously” – but either way it’s a phenomenally informative book, written by a Kiwi mother for soon-to-be mothers, and researched alongside leading Obstetricians, Midwives, Paediatricians & Holistic Healers.
New Active Birth- A Concise Guide to Natural Childbirth
Alongside Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, this New Active Birth by Janet Balaskas has always been the other go-to book I would recommend for women striving to achieve a natural labour and normal birth. Reading them both is incredibly empowering. One point of note to Kiwi readers: Because NZ is a midwifery-led maternity healthcare system (meaning that women generally only see Obstetricians when complications have meant that things are no longer ‘normal’) this means that our country’s birth statistics are some of the world’s best, and in general terms you should not need your Midwife to ‘protect’ you from unnecessary Obstetric intervention. In NZ, the Doctors respect Midwives are the more experienced expert on ‘normal’.
I have always strongly advocated that all first-timers hire a TENS machine to assist with managing the pain of Labour. But if you’ve never heard of it, you have to ask what the heck it is! TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.
I always explain it like this: There is something called the Gate Theory in physiology, which hypothesises that only one message at a time of pain can travel up the spinal column to the brain. And that is why, when you stub your toe, your instinct is to vigorously massage the toe, because the rubbing then becomes the dominant signal. And using a TENS machine during Labour is a similar strategy, equivalent to hours of vigorous back massage to dominate over the message of contractions. TENS is especially fantastic for helping manage the pain of active labour at home (and during the drive to the birth facility) – but my advice is: Don’t put it on too early. WAIT until you absolutely feel you really, really need it (save it in reserve) for when the contractions become so strong you can’t talk through them, and are all nearly a minute long, and are starting every 3-4 minutes. [Anything before that is still only Latent Labour which may or may not successfully establish into Active Labour.]
Jane of Natal Care has been one of NZ’s pioneers hiring out TENS machines for childbirth. NB: Many hirers of TENS machines state that the earlier the machine is used the better “to build up endorphins”. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on that point. As a Midwife, I have found it is better for the woman to build up endorphins with simply using breathing techniques until she is close to establishing into strong Active Labour, then she starts to use the TENS. And then, between the TENS, and alternating with the hydrotherapy of soaking in a Labour Pool, (plus homeopathy and aromatherapy), and perhaps with a bit of nitrous gas added in during the advance labour period of Transition, I have subsequently witnessed hundreds of women experience stunning, empowering and beautiful natural births.