3 Decisions Made During Labor that Affect Your Baby’s Health and Your Recovery Time


Intervention Free Birth

The environment you labor in and the interventions that you have during labor can not only affect your baby’s health, but can also affect your recovery time.  Thinking about these early on and making a decision about what you would do in different scenarios can ensure that you understand the risks and benefits of different options.  When you’re in the middle of a contraction, or in the whirl-wind of just walking into the hospital during labor, you don’t have the time, energy, or mental capacity to give each decision consideration and thoughtfully choose what is right for you.

These are three decisions that you  will need to make during labor, their pros and cons, and how they can affect your newborn’s health and your recovery time as well.

1.  IV Fluids during labor

Most hospitals place an IV with fluids as soon as you are admitted into Labor and Delivery.  Those fluids are usually normal saline, but medication like Pitocin can also be put in through the IV.

This can affect your birth and recovery time:

  • Having an IV placed will inhibit you from freely moving around during labor.  Women who move are better able to listen to their body’s signals of what position is most comfortable and productive for labor.  For example, mothers who squat or birth on hands and knees increase their pelvic opening through this position change, and allow their babies to be born easier.
  • Medications can be added to the IV bag without the laboring mother noticing. Most notable is Pitocin, synthetic oxytocin, which causes stronger contractions.  Pitocin should only be used after understanding the pros and cons of the medication.
  • The excess fluid can cause swelling in your body, which is uncomfortable, and causes the kidneys to work to extract it.  It’s not uncommon for a first time mother to be in labor 24 hours or longer, and with an IV running the whole time, that’s a lot of fluid!
  • IV fluids are not shown to be more effective than allowing the mother to drink to thirst during labor. (source)

This can affect your baby:

  • Babies also are receiving an excess amount of fluids during labor when the mother has an IV placed (source).  After birth as they lose these fluids and return to normal, care providers can become alarmed because it looks like too much weight has been lost.  Mothers can be pressured to supplement with formula due to this large drop in weight, and the breastfeeding relationship is less likely to be successful.

2.  Your Environment Immediately After Birth

The baby has been born, is nice and pink and is crying.  Everything’s all okay now, right?

Not so fast.

The environment after birth is important both for baby to latch on and start the nursing relationship, and for mom to deliver the placenta safely and prevent postpartum hemorrhage.  Skin-to-skin contact promotes temperature regulation in the newborn (source), helps them regulate their breathing, and allows them to breastfeed.  Early breastfeeding provides the newborn with colostrum for nutrition, antibodies, and it may even help with establishing good gut flora (source).

Oxytocin is produced during labor and after delivery by both the mom and baby.  This hormone is responsible both for the letting down of milk and the clamping down of the uterus.  When left undisturbed, with the lights and voices low, oxytocin levels are high in baby and mom for at least the first hour after birth.  When disturbed by bright lights, and even the happy excitement of family and friends, adrenaline competes with oxytocin within the body, which lowers the oxytocin levels (source).

Keep the lights dim, diaper the baby if desired, or just let him be skin-to-skin with mom for at least the first hour, covered in a receiving blanket. Leave the hat off of baby to allow the natural bonding take place between the parents and the baby that involves smelling the baby’s head, stroking his hair, and giving him kisses and nuzzles.  Any vitals needed can be taken while baby is resting on mom, but a pink baby who is alert and breastfeeding can usually have the newborn exam put off for an hour or two.

3.  Internal exams during labor

Internal (vaginal) exams are just a part of giving birth, right?


I’ve had three children and have never had a vaginal exam during labor. (I’m busy when I’m in labor doing other things, like, you know, birthing the baby!)

This is good news! Nobody likes vaginal checks, and they really don’t tell us much (source).  A woman who is dilated to 3 can easily stay at a 3 for hours longer, or can quickly dilate up to a 10 in the next few minutes.  Vaginal exams introduce bacteria into the birth canal, can cause distress to the mother (see above about adrenaline and oxytocin not getting along), and can be discouraging to a woman who has been in labor for hours only to hear that she’s just now dilated to a 5.

With internal exams comes the risk of rupturing the membranes (source), which can cause the water to be broken before real labor has started, can cause cord prolapse with the prematurely breaking water, and increases the risk of needing a cesarean delivery.

Can I refuse vaginal exams?  Yes, you can.  It may be hospital policy, or your doctor’s standard procedure, but you are well within your rights to refuse vaginal exams that you do not wish to have (some women do want to be checked to see if labor is progressing, some women check themselves, and some women opt out all together).

Educating yourself during pregnancy is important

It’s important to understand your choices well before you present to the L&D floor.  You want to know what is and isn’t important to do during pregnancy, labor, and delivery.  Reading about the pros and cons of different protocols and procedures well before you are in labor is imperative.  When you’re in labor you won’t have time to thoroughly consider your options.

Need help advocating for yourself?

Doulas are wonderful advocates for the laboring woman. A doula can help remind you of your birth plan, can prompt you to ask questions of your care provider, and can help you achieve the birth you want – both in the hospital and at home.  I strongly encourage families to interview local doulas while they are pregnant, and choose one that they feel comfortable with to help them during the birth.


A 42-week guide to the decisions made during pregnancy, birth, and the baby's first few weeks.

A 42-week guide to the decisions made during pregnancy, birth, and the baby’s first few weeks.

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3 Causes of Diaper Rash that Most Parents Don’t Know About


3 causes of diaper rash most parents don't know about

As parents, we know that changing our baby’s diaper often is important. We know that they’re prone to getting a little red as teeth erupt.  And we know that cleaning well after each bowel movement is necessary to keep the rashes away. What if you’re changing promptly, even giving baby soothing soaks in the tub and some fresh air on their bum daily, and they STILL have rashes?

So many parents are unaware of the toxins that are present in their baby’s diapers. While some babies do fine with regular diapers, other babies are too sensitive, and a quick switch of diaper or wipes brands can make the difference.

1.  Diapers and wipes with added scents, bleach, and toxic materials

If your baby only has a rash in her ‘diaper area’, what’s one of the first things we should look at? The diapers!

Disposable Diapers

Disposable diapers come in a variety of types. Some of the most popular, the ones you see advertised on TV and in parenting magazines, are known to contain:

  • Dioxin (trace amounts from the bleaching process)
  • Polyacrylic acid (the gel beads that make up the absorbent part of most diapers)
  • BPA (part of the plastic)

These are some of the chemicals that babies may be sensitive to in disposable diapers.  When a less toxic alternative is used, often diaper rash clears right up. Some babies do fine with a particular type of diaper for a while, and then they develop a sensitivity – this may be because the toxins have built up in their system, or the diaper manufacturer may have changed the materials slightly.

Some alternatives to Huggies, Pampers, and other mainstream brands:

I’ve used both of these brands with my children, and they do work well. More frequent changing is required, but it’s not excessive. I tend to change my babies right before nursing them.


  • Naty Baby Care (plant-based materials. GMO free, oxygen bleached  – not chlorine) I don’t think these have the gel beads in them, but I wasn’t able to confirm that.
  • Nurtured by Nature (plant-based materials, oxygen bleached – not chlorine)  I believe these have the gel beads in them, but there is enough of a barrier between the gel and my baby’s skin that they don’t come out through the diaper like other brands do (yuck).

With diapers, as well as all other things, be careful of ‘greenwashing’.  Green washing is where a company heavily advertises some part of their product that is natural but in reality the product is not natural or healthy at all.  Some mainstream brands have a ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ line, but they may only incorporate a very small amount of organic material in their diapers, so they really are not much better than the conventional brand.

Disposable Wipes

My children have reacted more to disposable wipes than they have to diapers. Because they are wet, wipes must contain some sort of preservative to prevent bacteria growth and mold.  In addition to preservatives, most wipes are made out of chlorine bleached wood pulp, and have added fragrance.

Some chemicals found in mainstream wipes that bother babies:

  • Dioxins, again, from the chlorine bleaching process
  • Methylisothiazolinone (preservative)
  • Phenoxyethanol (preservative)
  • Fragrance (petroleum based)

Some natural alternatives:

  • Naty baby wipes (these contain benzyl alcohol as the main preservative, which also can cause skin irritation, but it is naturally sourced and more environmentally friendly – these are what I use when I’m not using cloth)
  • Cloth wipes – these aren’t as difficult to use as you might imagine.  I just run them under warm water in the bathroom and then place in a wet bag until I do laundry.

Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers aren’t all created equal either.  Some babies get irritated by having the wet cloth against their skin, so they do better with a microfiber moisture barrier. Some babies are sensitive to the synthetic fiber in the microfiber and they do better with a diaper that only has cotton against their skin.

I use and recommend Grovia diapers, but there are many other great brands out there. If your baby is getting a rash despite frequent changing and they are in cloth diapers, I recommend checking to see what materials are up against baby’s skin and changing to a natural option if it’s a synthetic.

Grovia diapers come with an outer shell, and a snap in absorbent layer. You can also use a prefold in the shell as well.

Thankfully food sensitivities are often outgrown in the infant.

2.  Food allergy

Food allergies or sensitivities can show up as diaper rash.  Very sensitive babies can even be affected by what mom is eating, and they may get a rash on their bottom in connection to common allergens such as milk or wheat in the breastfeeding mother’s diet.

It’s more common for a baby to show a sensativity once he starts solids.  Food passes through the immature digestive tract without being fully digested, and this can cause irritation when it comes out as poop.

Some common allergens that may be causing a diaper rash in your baby’s diet:

  • Raw fruits and vegetables (cooked are easier to digest)
  • Dairy
  • Grains (including wheat, rice, oats, barley)
  • Wheat
  • Corn

The good news is that as the baby grows, his gut is maturing and sealing up, so if he’s getting a rash from a food during infancy, this doesn’t usually mean that it is a lifelong intolerance, but rather, is something he’ll grow out of.

3.  Yeast

Yeast is normally present and balanced in our gastrointestinal tract, but when it gets out of balance it can cause yeast infections.  Yeast live in warm, moist places, so it can be difficult to get rid of a yeast infection diaper rash.  If mom or baby has been on a round of antibiotics, as is common in the case of Group B Strep during delivery, they may both struggle with yeast infections.  Yeast rash is something to be considered if after changing the type of diaper, changing soiled diapers promptly, and using zinc oxide cream, the baby still has a persistent or even worsening diaper rash.

A yeast rash may need advise of a doctor, please contact your doctor if you have any questions.

Some natural solutions for yeast rash: 

  • Green french clay can be used like powder and can stop the spread of yeast
  • Kefir or yogurt has active beneficial bacteria in it. When applied to baby’s clean bottom, it can help re-establish a healthy flora balance ont he skin.


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Free printable with causes and solutions!

Print this out and keep it near your changing table to remind you what to do if your little one develops a rash.
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