Over 8+ years of witnessing childbirth of over 100 women has taught me a lot about what works and what doesn't.
Here's what you should know.
You wouldn't run a marathon without first training your mind, body, and spirit.
Make sure you have worked with a professional to put together a great birth plan. A birth plan is more than what it seems. It's a way to become fully informed of all your options regarding all routes your birth may take as well as a communication tool between you and your care providers. This is essential.
Don't just go in assuming you're going to have a positive birth experience with no plan of action and no support. Many people do this. Most fail. You MUST understand that the 'system' in place is set up for failure more than success. If you want a positive birth experience - natural or not - you MUST be willing to ask questions, speak up for yourself, and be willing to participate in your care according to your own plan - which you made when you were lucid, not exhausted and in the throes of labor.
This is another reason why a doula is of great value to the birthing process. She knows you, knows your wishes and will be there to remind you what YOU wanted throughout the process. When you're both too tired to remember, feeling overwhelmed with the many things that might be offered to you, or simply ready to throw in the towel - you need someone in your corner who isn't loyal to anyone but you who can be your lighthouse in the fog.
Throughout your pregnancy, diet and exercise will greatly contribute to how you feel while pregnant as well as how your labor will go. Yoga, Belly Dancing & Swimming are three of the best things you can do for your body while pregnant to keep your body in peak physical condition for labor.
In your third trimester, there are many ways you can prepare your body for a much easier birth. I'm not going to give away all of our secrets (gotta leave something to be desired), but, the one secret I will give you is to get serious about Optimal Fetal Positioning. Getting your baby in a good position for birth can mean the difference between a productive, shorter labor and a prolonged labor with positioning complications. Do yourself and your baby a favor and pay attention to this.
More than anything, you must believe you can.
Becoming a mother is an intense experience - as it should be. Preparing your spirit for birth and motherhood is crucial. Unaddressed fears can, and often do, hold a woman back from opening up to her child. I have seen this time and time again. She's so nervous about X, Y, and/or Z - maybe it's the pain, maybe it's becoming a mother, maybe it's how it might affect her relationship with her partner - maybe it's even sexual trauma that she remembers or maybe even doesn't...it could be a number of things that keeps a woman from relaxing into allowing her body to open up and birth this baby.
Prepare your mind by journaling your truest feelings and fears about all of these things, have an open and honest dialog between you and your partner - sometimes couples therapy is a GREAT place to start when pregnant. It doesn't mean anything is "wrong" with the relationship, you just both need to be heard and be able to get these emotions out so you can be on the same page BEFORE the baby comes. It's a responsible and reasonable thing to do.
Find your tribe as well. Plug yourself into pregnancy and/or parenting groups in your area and start talking to other mothers about their experiences. If nothing else, this will probably make you feel much less alone and unique in your experiences. Along with this, positive affirmations regarding birth and parenting can help a LOT.
Avoid ANY Unnecessary Interventions.
The Golden Rule: If It Ain't Broke - DON'T FIX IT.
Remember that you are responsible for advocating for yourself. You do not "need" an induction simply because you're over 40 weeks. No one can accurately measure a baby and be absolutely sure how big or small they are - so, inductions and cesareans based on this are often unnecessary - but, you won't know that until the baby is out. There is nothing wrong with asking questions and practicing INFORMED REFUSAL when necessary. If nothing else, you will feel more informed and an empowered part of the decision making process.
This also applies in labor. The language often used in this process is very matter of fact. The nurse comes in and says "OK, we're going to do _____ now." - and if you don't know any better, it's hard to even recognize that what's happening is in fact an intervention. When it's treated as "routine", you feel as though this is just what happens and tend to go along with it without question.
EVERYTHING should be a conversation and you should always explore your options. IV's, breaking the water, medications, 'pulling' out the baby or the placenta....sometimes these things are necessary, but, you aren't going to know unless you have a conversation with your care provider about it first. These are all things that happen extremely routinely in most hospital births which can lead to problems in your labor.
Our article on this topic, Interventions in Childbirth and the FIVE Secrets to avoiding them, is quite helpful and provides a script to know how to approach these conversations with your Care Providers.
It's not pain that is the enemy. It's exhaustion.
Once you are exhausted, it becomes extremely hard to cope with anything. Pain, hunger, irritation, and, well, basically everything. Usually labors start out slow and not very intense. This is a good thing. This is your time to GO TO SLEEP. If you can't sleep you are still chilling out, laying low, resting and relaxing.
Whatever you do - DO NOT exert all your energy to "get labor going". Labor WILL "go".
No one has ever been pregnant forever...
The problem is, labor usually starts 'getting real' hours (sometimes many hours) later. By then, if you've already walked for miles, danced around, bounced on balls, and ran up and down your stairs - you're hit.
This is epidural city - So, don't do that.
Rest, relax, and SLEEP all you can.
Ignore labor until you can not ignore it anymore.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is getting all excited and running right into the hospital.....where you will get no food and no real sleep. Stay home as long as possible, until you feel like you're having trouble coping and/or feeling an urgency to go in (beyond the normal anxiety feeling that you should run in). The longer you are in the hospital the longer your labor will "feel" - ignoring it helps hours go by before you're really counting "being in labor".
Babies rarely pop right out...and you will know. If you're able to cope at home, then cope at home.
Women get very excited about going into labor. It's completely understandable. You've been patiently (or sometimes impatiently) waiting for 10 months, maybe even seen your "due date" pass you by, and now contractions are starting to feel like they might be more than the normal crampy bull spit you've been dealing with daily. I get it. It's SO exciting!!
Just remember that early labor can last sometimes for days - so, at some point it is NOT going to be as "exciting" and you will have wished you had gotten that rest you needed when you could. Make a plan for early labor that can keep you distracted. Find ways to overcome the excitement and relax and rest during that time. Believe me - there will be a time when you can not rest or relax anymore....THIS is the time to get to work and use those stores of energy.
Hot Baths | CALM | Organic Red Wine (obviously, in moderation) | Watching Comedies | Foot & Hand Massages | Meditation | Yoga | Aromatherapy
Side note of 'when to go into the hospital': If your water breaks before labor starts - don't go in until the morning. Stay home and relax, eat, and sleep in your own bed. There are many ways to monitor yourself the same way they would monitor you in the hospital (simply take a log of your temperature periodically, count kicks, stay hydrated - and if you have a heart monitor, check in every now and then...this is pretty much all they are going to do for you there anyways). "Risk of Infection" is a default concern...as long as you have some common sense about this (ie: don't shove anything in your vagina, stay hydrated - maybe even take some vitamin C), there is little risk of this happening - and there are warning signs. Same thing with inductions....go in in the morning - not at night. If you go in before bed time you're going to miss an entire night of sleep before this all even really begins. Try to get through the night if you can and plan to go in in the morning (after some good breakfast). Remember, THE LONGER YOU ARE IN THE HOSPITAL, THE GREATER THE WINDOW FOR INTERVENTION.
You are NOT in control - and that is OK.
It's so important that you remember that IF YOU FIGHT THIS - IT WILL FIGHT YOU BACK....and it might win.
This is where your team is an important asset to your success. You need people you trust who you will believe when they say that it is OK to surrender.
I know it's hard. It's completely counterintuitive to give in to anything that is causing us discomfort and keeping us from sleep. But, if you can find a way to do this, your body will benefit from the extra energy it doesn't have to waste on fighting what is happening. Practice this during your pregnancy by surrendering to your discomforts, to the pregnancy process, and by visualizing labor and repeating daily affirmations which reinforce your ability to see birth as a normal physiological process that you are more than capable of enduring.
Remember....BRING IT ON.
Don't run away.
Get off your @ss and GET MOVING!!
Once active labor has hit (when you can't ignore it anymore), don't lay around waiting for things to happen to you. This isn't productive and it's far more painful.
Be an active participant in your birth!
If you lay in bed or stay in ANY one position too long the baby can get in a funky spot which might prolong labor, dilate the cervix unevenly, and cause far more discomfort (ie: "back labor"). When babies get stuck, they might need help getting out. If you wish to avoid the medical version of this, the get that booty moving and shaking! This is the number one reason you should wait as long as absolutely possible to get an epidural (if that is something you are considering). If you get the epidural too soon you will not be able to move in the way that is most helpful to facilitate birth and you will greatly increase your chances of a cesarean. Remember, when you can't move - your baby has a hard time moving, too.
Check it out.
Don't forget to breeeeeeathe.
I know, I know. This is no secret. But, there is a technique I have been teaching people for years that seems to really help.
Incorporating mindfulness to your breathing will take you a long way in birth.
You will sort of 'know' the contraction is coming before it fully comes - at the very first inkling that it is coming you draw in your first slow, conscious breath and bring your awareness to the crown of your head.
As you breathe out - slowly (the same amount of time you drew your breath in) - you release any and all tension from your head down.
Focusing on your brow,
then your jaw,
then your tongue (always an open mouth),
then your neck and shoulders,
down your back,
through your hips,
down your legs and
out your feet....
the whole time breathing in and out slowly and evenly (count if that helps - 5 seconds in = 5 seconds out). By the time you get around your shoulders/hips the contraction will already be subsiding. continue to release that energy through your feet if you so desire.
Practice this at night when you are going to sleep for more restful nights and to master this before your birth. It also helps to have your doula/partner look for places of tension in your face/body and to gently bring your attention there and be reminded to release it.
Here are a few other breathing techniques - find what works for you and don't forget to PRACTICE!
First and foremost - wait for the uncontrollable urge to push. Even if you are 10 cm, it is best to "labor down" and allow your baby to come down naturally through contractions until you feel this urge. What does the urge to push feel like?? The best way I can describe it is like throwing up. It's involuntary and it feels as though your body is trying to purge your baby from you. There's no mistaking it when you feel it. It becomes the hardest thing in the world NOT to push at this phase....this is when to go ahead and allow yourself to push (IF your cervix is fully open).
Push in a position that feels good and productive for you. Your care provider will likely want you on your back or in a semi-seated / semi-recline position. We hear them say things like "You know, there are actually a lot of studies that show it doesn't matter what position you are in to push." We know this isn't true - that physiologically the pelvis is NOT at it's maximum capacity when on your back. But, by their own logic - if it doesn't matter which position, then why not let the mom do what feels good and productive for her?
WHY ARE WE MAKING THIS PART OF THE JOB EASIEST FOR THE CARE PROVIDER?!
Why are we making ANY part of this "easier" for the care provider?? This isn't about them. They get paid a LOT of money to work FOR YOU, so, remember that it is about you and as long as you and your baby are healthy, there is no reason not to allow you to do what you need to do to get your baby out.
...and guess what?? Babies tend to come out just fine without being pulled out manually (which, in my experience is done 9 times out of 10 - they seem to have a real hard time NOT 'doing' anything). Being in a position like hand and knees, squatting, or standing makes it more difficult for your Care Provider to 'get up in it' and manually pull your baby out - which can lead to injury of your baby and most of the time will lead to lacerations of the vagina. Slow and steady wins the race. No pulling.
Do yourself a favor and DO WHAT YOU WANT (even if that means being in a semi-recline position). If they truly think you need to be in a different position, ask them to tell you why. No one should be telling you what to do or how to be without some kind of logical explanation - and don't be afraid to call bull shit. Wearing a white coat doesn't make anyone infallible and you would be very surprised how little the medical field knows about normal birth. They are not trained in this - and with most hospitals epidural rate residing between 75-90% and cesareans happening to 1 out of every 3 women - they just almost never see it. So.... Show them.
IF something goes wrong and you actually need the help, THAT is when it's necessary.
Remember - The Golden Rule with all of birth is: If it ain't broke - DON'T FIX IT.
There's a lot of ways you can cope with labor, find what works for you and make it happen! Remember - it's not stronger than you because it IS you!