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.
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By the time you hit month 7, you have likely read 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.
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 were happening now, I would be focusing on this blog so I could stay home with my kiddo instead of having to go back to work after.)
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 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 on a personal level?
Here is why I say this is important: When we are in labor, we are vulnerable. It can be an extremely empowering thing to experience our bodies 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 possibly fear, which can lead to 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. And while yes, they will help your partner remain 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 am also a fan of midwives. Why? Because you see the same midwife throughout your pregnancy and into labor/delivery. With our doctors (at least in our area), whoever was on call would be the one who’d attend my birth, so not necessarily the one I’d seen all the way through pregnancy… I wasn’t guaranteed to get someone I’d even met before, let alone who 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. But feel free to say no if you don’t want them there. (Or just don’t tell them when you go into labor.) Check out my recommendations on
who to have in the delivery room with you.
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 many 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 we had 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.
Photo by megan lynette on Unsplash 2) Make deep, throaty sounds. High-pitched sounds can make you tight and tense, but low sounds cause you to relax.
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 two 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 second 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” throughout my first labor, and the vibrations of that sound 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 women who wanted to talk about labor or delivery with me wanted to share their horror stories… OMG, NOT the thing to do to a pregnant woman, let alone one with anxiety! If you have people talking about pain, you may want to read this
surprising truth about the pain of labor.
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. 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 of hours of contractions because it actually didn’t hurt as I expected. (You can read about
my first birth story if you’re interested.) VIDEO
(Just don’t expect the baby to pop out like the ball does; it’s usually it’s not that fast.)
The biggest thing for me with this is that if you think of the balloon as your uterus, all it’s doing is contracting (same thing you do with your arm when you lift 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, 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 having a baby.
4) There is more to pushing than just screaming and “pushing.”
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 out 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 strongly believe that our bodies are these amazing things and if we trust them, the pushing process is easier on us.
The Journey to Building better Self-Trust 5) Keep your jaw relaxed during contractions.
This is gold, and it ties in with making low, throaty sounds (see #2). Believe it or not, 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 a second part of your body, then relax your hands, especially your thumbs.
Photo by Jonas Kakaroto on Unsplash 6) Rethink everything you’ve read about birthing positions and perineal massage, etc.
Basically, I got from this post that unless you spend time daily resting in a squatting posture, squatting during labor is more likely to cause than prevent problems like tearing. If you are a primarily sedentary person, you may do better with a side-lying or hands-and-knees position.
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, others not so much. While you will want to have sympathy for those who had less than their ideal delivery, you don’t need to listen to it, especially if it’s 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 the biggest lifesaver. The first half of the book is all positive birth stories. Anytime someone freaked me out, I pulled out the book and reread one or two of the short stories at the front of the book, which calmed me right down. 8) Learn about the stages of labor.
Things don’t seem so scary when we understand them, and the different
stages of labor that our bodies will go through are no exception. Labor is not just a sudden gush of your water breaking and then screaming in pain. It’s usually a slow buildup of waves as the muscles of your body focus on first positioning baby. After that, your body does this really cool thing to move baby down the pathway to the outside world…
And the best part is you get to meet your baby! Even if you are doing a planned C-section (or emergency one, for that matter), knowing where you are in the labor process can help ease your mind on what is happening within your body.
9) 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 lot of thought. Because let’s 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 practically glued shut with the need to sleep.
Please do yourself a favor and read about
how to take care of your body after a vaginal delivery. Even if you have a C-section, you’ll still want to check out what a postpartum sitz bath is. While it is often recommended after a vaginal delivery, it can also help with menstrual cramps and the cramping caused by your uterus returning to its regular size. Mrs. & Mr. B. Moments away from welcoming Baby G. Labor is HARD.
It can help to acknowledge that no matter how you approach labor, it is hard work. Your choices and preferences right now may not be the way it goes for you 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, plus a really good list of questions to ask your care provider (midwife, doctor, or OB-GYN) so you feel as prepared as you can be. Related: Labor Pain Management: 15 Tips for a Scream-Free Labor
Ok, so I know and completely understand that thinking about labor can be intense and scary, so let me share with you two things. First,
My Pain-Free Birth Story and second, How I Found My Happy Place in the Middle of Giving Birth. Believe me, I did NOT expect that to happen. And yet it totally did.