Getting ready for your first labor is scary! The Best Labor Advice can make a world of difference.
There is so much information and labor advice out there, and while much of it is repetitive it can also seem intimidating to sift through.
By the time you hit month 7 you have likely read so many articles about Kegels and how to pack a hospital bag (for you, baby and dad). Plus all the pages about water births vs squatting births, and how much you should change your positions during labor. If you are like me you are a bit overwhelmed and slightly freaked because of it.
I was blessed in my pregnancy to stumble upon a few absolute gems both in advice and people who helped me calm all the fears. And even set me up to Find my Happy Place in the Middle of Labor.
Having this information took a huge weight off my shoulders and let me focus on other things like planning for after baby came. (If this was happening now I would have been focusing on this blog so I could stay home with my kiddo instead of having to go back to work after).
And having been through my first labor (you can read my birth story here), I can say this stuff is GOLDEN, all women should know this before contractions start!
It doesn’t matter what sort of birth you are trying for – epidural, c-section, or even “all natural” – you really do need to know this stuff!
1) You need a team you trust around you, that is focused on YOU as much as baby
I don’t actually remember anyone telling me this one, so this is from me to you. My biggest tip in birth is having a team you trust to support you.
I know, I know, we have these medical teams around us that know all this great stuff about how to handle emergencies and what to look for in this situation or that. And in theory we trust them to do their job, but do you trust them as a person?
Here is why I say this is important. When we are in labor we are vulnerable, and it can be an extremely empowering thing to see your body giving birth. But if we don’t trust the people around us we are going to be focused on keeping ourselves and our baby safe, which means tension and an increase in pain. Or even labor stopping entirely.
This is why I recommend having a doula in the room, they are literally there for MOM. & while yes they will help with your partner to keep them calm and relaxed (or kick them out if they are stressing you) having that person who is there that knows what to expect and how you would like to see things go, can be a huge confidence boost.
We had a doula with our first and I would say it is the best money I’ve ever spent!
I also am a fan of Midwives, why? Because you see the same people throughout your pregnancy and into labor/delivery. With our doctors (at least in our area) whoever was on call would be the one in the room, so not necessarily going to be the one I saw all the way through pregnancy… I wasn’t guaranteed to get someone who I’d met before, let alone knew what my pregnancy had been like.
Also, family members sometimes offer to help with the labor or be in the room to support you. That’s great, and if you trust them cool, go for it, feel free to say “No” if you don’t want them there. (Or just don’t tell them when you go into labor)
To be clear, I do see and recognize that medical professionals know their stuff! I love our doctor like a family friend and think the world of a number of medical staff I’ve met in my life. I just think we need to recognize that we don’t always automatically trust the ones around us in a stressful situation because we haven’t met them before or a bad first impression. It helps to have someone you’ve built a relationship with prior to the “big event” who can act as a go-between or even prompt you to ask questions.
2) Make the deep throaty sounds. High pitched can make you tight and tense, but low sounds cause you to relax
- courtesy of my Doula from BirthRootsDoulas.com
I liken this to listening to music, you know that deep throbbing bass in some songs? Yeah, how does that make you feel? Relaxed right?
Our bodies have 2 nervous systems, the first is one that we consciously register stuff from. It controls things like our instructions to our hands to make them move.
The 2nd system is our autopilot, it controls things like our heartbeat and breathing. And unsurprisingly it also controls our relaxation response. In the right situation, you can actually trigger it, like with low pitched sounds. I personally used a low hum or “ohm” type sound throughout my first labor and the vibrations it caused helped me to relax immensely.
3) How Contractions actually work… with a good visual
- from Liz Chalmers, Birth Educator
Ok, the part that freaked me out the most was how absolutely painful I expected the contractions to be. And seriously people most of the people who wanted to talk about labor or delivery with me wanted to share the horror stories….. OMG, NOT the thing to do with a pregnant woman with anxiety!
Then one day I stumbled upon a video on facebook about what happens when the cervix dilates that I thought was pretty cool…. and it struck me. This is what a contraction will look like too. The simple explanation and easy visualization in this video took the fear out of it (for me), and you know what? I ended up in denial that I was in labor for a couple hours of contractions because it actually didn’t hurt like I expected.
(Just don’t expect the baby to pop out like the ball does 😉 usually it’s not that fast)
The biggest thing for me with this is that if you think of the ballon like your uterus all it’s doing is contracting (same thing you do with your arm when you life something). That’s it. That’s all a contraction is… a muscle contracting.
The other part is that contractions are your body trying to position baby so it can “get out”, and for the record, the baby is helping you. This is where a Doula comes in handy with some of the position ideas and training they have. Ours helped me shift kiddo from trying to come out my hip to being more centered… and BAM an hour later we were on our way to having a baby.
4) There is more to pushing that just screaming and “pushing”
- I mean really, what does it mean to “push” during labor? – from How to Push During Labor by Paula @ Easy Baby Life
You’ve probably seen some drama on TV where a woman goes into the pushing stage screaming and red-faced being told to “Push”. Reality is much different and (for me at least) a bit more relaxed.
There will be an urge to push, or (again like me) an urge to just relax and let go. But like Paula says “in real life, it is (or at least should be) the baby’s position that will trigger the pushing in most cases. So the urge to push actually comes naturally from within you.”
And Paula states it simply as “try to relax the muscles in your pelvic floor and envision yourself blowing our a candle with some force. Those are the muscles you should use while pushing. (Not the same as all as the ones used when going to the bathroom!)
I also belive that our bodies are these amazing things, and if we trust them the pushing process is easier on us.
5) Keep your jaw relaxed during contractions
- again courtesy of my Doula from BirthRootsDoulas.com
This is gold, and ties in with keeping low throaty sounds from #2. Believe it or not but everything in your body is connected! And some parts have a deeper connection than others.
For some reason (I’m sure it’s scientific but I don’t know what it is) when you clench your jaw most of your body tightens up, including all the muscles you are using to position the baby.
Tight muscles = more work for you, and also more pain. So if you need to focus on relaxing one thing, relax your jaw.
If you can focus on relaxing the second thing then relax your hands, especially your thumbs.
6) Re-think everything you’re reading about birthing positions and perineal massage etc
- from How to Prevent Tearing by Lindsey @ Mother Rising
Basically, I got from this post that unless you are normally resting in a squat daily it’s more likely to cause you problems like tearing then prevent them. If you are a primarily sedentary person in all likelihood you will need a more side-laying or hands and knees.
As I typically sat at a computer to work all day I started changing how I expected to deliver, there was no way that I could squat for 5 – 10 minutes without stressing myself out (and likely hurting my knees in the process). I ended up delivering in a big tub of water on my hands and knees… guess what? No tears 😀
7) Find positive stories to refer back to
Let’s be honest, many women have stories they are going to want to share with you. Some will be awesome, some not so much, and while you will want to have sympathy for those who had less then their ideal delivery you don’t need to listen to it, especially if they are upsetting you.
I had this little trick I carried around a book called Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth everywhere with me. And next to my Doula investment, this book was a total lifesaver. The first half of the book is all positive birth stories. Any time someone freaked me out, I pulled out the book and re-read one or two of the short stories at the front of the book which calmed me right down.
8) How to take care of yourself After Childbirth
This is another one of those things that I found out on my own, there are some really great ways that you can take care of yourself postpartum that don’t take a bunch of thought. Because lets face it, when kiddo arrives you are going to be exhausted from all the hard work. Knowing how to take care of yourself postpartum is critical to a speedy recovery.
The things I’ve learned about how to take care of myself postpartum all came through things I figured out myself or researched a bunch AFTER delivery when my eyes were pratcially glued shut with sleep.
Please do yourself a favor and check out how to take care of your body after a vaginal delivery and even if you have a c-section you’ll likely want to check out what a postpartum sitz bath is, while it is often said to help after a vaginal delivery they can also help with things like menstrual cramps and the cramps of your uterus has when it goes back down to
Labor is HARD.
Acknowledging that no matter how you approach labor it is hard work can help. Your choices and preferences right now may not look the way you want them to go during labor and delivery, but being aware of what can go RIGHT, is just as important as any other advice you will ever get.
It’s understandable to be nervous if you haven’t done this before. It’s also understandable to be nervous if you’ve done this a lot already too! At the very least take a peek at the book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth it will give you so much more insight on all the things that can go right, and a really good list of questions to ask your care provider (Midwife, Doctor or OBGYN) so you feel as prepared as you can be.
(Ok, so I know and totally understand that thinking about labor can be intense and scary, so let me share with you two things first My