If you are having regular contractions but aren't dilating, your healthcare provider may suspect that either the baby is too large for your pelvis or is not in a good position. This diagnosis of dystocia cannot be completely prevented, but you can help to avoid it by doing the following:
-- Keep healthy during pregnancy. Eat good foods, exercise and rest. When labor comes, you'll be ready to cope with it in optimal condition.
-- Learn about the normal pattern of labor and birth through classes, books and videos.
-- Become familiar with the place where you will give birth. Tour the birth center or hospital you have chosen, either with your childbirth class or by yourself. Ask questions. Learn what to expect so that when labor starts, you won't be coping with new surroundings, new people and new sensations, too.
-- Use a variety of upright positions for labor and birth.
Not all cesareans can or should be prevented. The technique of cesarean birth is an invaluable one and has saved countless mothers and babies. But by promoting a natural course of labor -- through keeping active during labor and through the use of nonpharmacological pain-relief measures to the greatest degree possible -- you will lessen the probability of your needing this kind of birth.
Mary Brucker, CNM, DNSC, is a past president of the Board of Directors of Lamaze International, and is the dirextor of the Parkland School of Nurse-Midwifery in Dallas, TX.