The age-old question of what to wear rears its head again, this time for labor. You actually do have options besides the hospital gown. Let's talk about this for a bit before deciding...
Years ago, I heard it said that a vaginal exam doesn't need to be performed to tell how far dilated a woman is. You can judge by the amount of clothes she is wearing. If she's about to push a baby out, there's a good chance she's naked! I believe this to be fairly accurate in an unmedicated labor. This won't be the case if you have an epidural, however, but don't let that scare you out of an epidural-free labor!
Is a gown necessary?
Let's be honest. Clothing can be irritating during labor. Even tipping your head back to drink from a regular glass is often too much effort. Give the lady a straw! So clothing rubbing against your skin when you are experiencing so many other sensations can overwhelm a mom who is moving around in labor. Understanding that nurses are used to women laboring naked can put your mind at ease. Everyone knows the gown is there and can be utilized at any time, but you are not obligated to use it.
Some women have a hard time believing they won't care about modesty in labor and take comfort in purchasing something special to labor in. If this plays into your emotional relaxation, by all means! There are a number of companies that sell clothing meant for labor and birth. For example, this dress from Motherhood is functional and cute. This labor gown on Amazon is also cute - a little more formal - and about half the price!
Yay or Nay on the labor gown? Consider the following:
* The entire front of the gown can be shifted or easily removed to have baby placed on belly AND breasts. You have no idea how long the umbilical cord will be, and you may not get much more immediate skin-to-skin than on the belly. All that fluid and goo is good to actually be on you, not your gown! Where is the gown during pushing? Seriously, you are all exposed when you are pushing your baby out. No one but you cares about that gown. What's the purpose of the gown at that point? And I'm telling you - it's in the way when you have your baby. Hold your baby skin-to-skin and have a blanket over the two of you, not something between the two of you!
* Length of the gown. If the gown is too long, it really will be in the way. Even the rustle of it around your knees will likely irritate you during labor. If you are kneeling on a birth ball or spend time on hands and knees (which most moms without an epidural do), a long "sagging" dress will very likely be annoying.
* The gown may be in the way with the monitors, when going to the bathroom, and getting in and out of the shower/tub. Sometimes women feel like they spent the money on it, so by golly, they are going to wear it! Trust me, if something isn't working during labor, toss it aside and move on! If you need to spend a fair amount of time walking the halls in labor, by all means, put it back on.
* Why do you feel you need a gown? You might really ponder this question. Do you trust your birth team? Are you comfortable with them? Labor is a unique time in your life. It is a primal activity and the thinking part of your brain can get in the way.
* A bikini top may be what you need. It gives enough coverage on the top and can be easily removed when you are pushing your baby out so you are sure to have immediate skin-to-skin with your fresh baby. Here are a number of samples of birthing skirts in case you want to cover the bottom. I do like these better than the gowns because they are not in the way like the gowns are. Plus, who doesn't love to show off their baby belly before it disappears?
Ultimately, this is your decision. I encourage you to consider your options and be thoughtful as you make the decision about what to wear (or not wear) in labor. What did I do during my unmedicated births? I wore nothing! I found clothing to be incredibly irritating and distracting. I kept the room and bathroom warm. I trusted my birth teams. I was confident in my body (regardless of how much weight I had gained) and what it was doing.
I am a proponent of taking lots of pictures of labor/birth-day. My pictures and videos were special to me. Of course, there was no Facebook when I was having babies so I wasn't concerned with showing them to anyone. Whatever your decision, remember, immediate skin-to-skin is so important. Important enough to plan your entire outfit around it!
This blog is written by Mallory and Donna - at Black Hills Birth Boot Camp. Expect birthy topics, parenting triumphs and trials, and community resources and interviews. Have a topic idea you’d like us to address? Drop us a note!