Let's dive into each piece and how to apply this in your support when you arrive to labor day.
The birthing mother needs privacy, respect, and continuous support to best cope with her labor and maintain the balance of hormones to progress labor. Maintaining this balance will keep her labor effective and her discomfort manageable. The environment surrounding you during labor influences these hormones, as well as your mind’s ability to enter into the deep relaxation.
So in reflecting on your ideal environment/birthing space:
The birthing mother is encouraged to stay well-hydrated for the duration of her labor as evidence supports those who took in more fluids had shorter labors by about 30 minutes, in comparison to those with mild dehydration could contribute to slightly longer labors. With so much fluid flowing through the the birthing mother means urinating every 45 minutes to an hour can help decrease the size of her bladder to make more room in the pelvis for the descending baby.
The birthing mother is encouraged to move into 2-3 positions within an hour. Even changing how the birthing mother moves is included in the number of positions changes, because it causes their pelvis to be more dynamic to invite baby to descend. So, while they are on the birth ball hula-hoop the hips into a clockwise direction through 20-30 min of contractions, and then counter the hula-hoop movement for another 20-30min.
The big position changes and small movements all help the birthing mother find her rhythm and ritual to achieve effective relaxation to continue to work with her labor process.
Remind the birthing mother often how amazing she is, how powerful and strong she is. Partners, repeat your love for her. Tell her you are so proud of the hard work she is doing and thank her for taking this on for your family. Remind her she has everything she needs right there, right now and that she is safe and you will stay by her side.
Out of Bed/Open Pelvis:
Research suggests laboring and giving birth in an upright position can have several benefits: gravity can help bring baby down & out, less risk of compressing the mother's aorta so better oxygen supply to the baby, it will help the uterus contract more strongly and efficiently, AND helps the baby get in a better position to pass through the pelvis.
So even if continuous monitoring is needed for medical reasons, the birthing mother can still be upright by asking for wireless monitors or if needed to stay in one area she can consider sitting on the birth ball with more freedom to move.
If choosing or needing to spend time in bed, use a peanut ball to place between the birther’s knees to keep the pelvis open to encourage baby’s descent.
Rest between/Relax during contractions:
In between contractions, the birthing mother and her partner should rest to reserve energy. Evidence supports in a 12-hour labor, only 2 of those hours are actually spent contracting, while the remaining time is the body resting. If the body is resting, the birthing mother along with her partner should rest too. Think pillows, soft places to lie into, blankets, quiet room, cushioned knees, leaning over a birth ball, leaning into partner, etc.
Relaxing during the contractions by taking a deep cleansing breath and soften the jaw, mouth and then your pelvic floor to communicate directly to the cervix and vagina to open, allowing a more effective descent for baby. This is the basics of the Spincter Law.
Touch & Massage:
Using the power of touch and massage to reduce stress and anxiety during labor helps heighten the production of oxytocin and thus more endorphins to aid the birthing mother in a more comfortable labor experience.
Touch during and in between contractions in early labor promotes rest as the body learns how to labor during this phase. As the birther progresses in her labor journey, she tends to prefer massage as a form of full relaxation in between contractions. She may ask for counterpressure and/or massage on her lower back, bottom, hips, and/or thighs during contractions. Follow her lead and if she says no to touch, respect her boundaries and let her know you are willing to touch/massage again if her needs change. Using heat along with your touch can also be comforting.
Remind yourself that early labor contractions are your body working very hard, building up to stronger, longer contractions. So this is very little reason to feel disappointed!
So here are my top 5 tips to cope with early labor:
Tip #1: Avoid Telling Family and Friends! -- You are probably already sick of people asking you if the baby has arrived yet (uh, yeah, we would've told you!), so you can imagine how frustrating things could get if you tell them you are in early labor. Because it’s going to take some time before the baby is actually ready to be born, telling others that you are in labor only serves to heighten the anticipation and pressure.
Tip #2: Rest, Rest, Rest! -- This is the number one tip I mention over and over in all my classes, REST. Labor takes a lot of energy and you need to reserve it for when labor intensifies. Rest does not mean sleep; if you can sleep that is great, but some moms feel anxious and cannot fall asleep so instead lay down and watch a favorite movie/show or read a book/magazine. Your partners biggest, and hardest, job will be to tell you to go rest. Depleting what energy you have now can lead you to feeling exhausted too early. Wait on a bath until active or transitional labor; the weightlessness works against gravity and can result in slower or stalled labor. If you do want to use water for pain relief, soak under the shower instead.
Tip #3: Keep Yourself Distracted - Start a Simple Project or Finish Packing Your Labor Bag -- Plan some things now with your partner to keep you distracted, especially in the form of some simple projects you have been meaning to do. Bake a treat for your nurses or yourself when you return home, gets your nails done, go get a massage, write in your journal, scrapbooking, knitting, file away photos or recipes, rearrange things you have been meaning to in a while. This way time will pass a little faster and you will have achieved something at a time when you might feel like you are not achieving much at all (even though your body is doing a lot of work)! Plus this one is silly to mention, but double check your labor bag for any last minute items and throw it in the car. Just another thing to keep you distracted.
Tip #4: Eat and Drink Lightly -- Keep up your water levels to avoid dehydration, while visiting the bathroom often to make room for baby to come down. Food wise, you want to eat foods that are going to give you lasting energy, so carbs are a great option (I'm a fan of Oatmeal). Some women might say that they don’t like to eat prior to labor, out of concern they will only throw up, but it’s very important for your energy levels and for baby to eat in early labor. Some women will throw up regardless due to hormones – I’m sure most of us would rather throw up food than bile! Yuck!
Tip #5: Don’t Feel Disappointed! -- If your labor is taking longer to establish than you hoped, don’t feel disappointed! Your body is working very hard – and if it’s any consolation, some women find that when they have longer early labors, they have a shorter active labor. The early part of your labor is not in any way a sign of what is to come. The time it takes to get to active labor does not mean that it will take that long to get to the next phase. Remember, feeling anxiety or stress can slow or stall your labor – and that’s the last thing you want to do! Enjoy this special time before your baby arrives – you have got a great big job ahead of you and you can totally rock it!
Happy Birthing, Alexia
Many movies and TV shows portray birth with lots of screams that all started with a gush from the mothers water breaking in the middle of a mall. Or if you google birth stories all you find are the horror stories.
What happen to the positive birth stories? Where mom and dad meet their baby in joy?
Well, let's fill you up with positive images/videos of birth!
Here are 10 birth videos where moms and dads meet their babies in complete, euphoric joy!
If videos are not your cup of tea, how about stories that you can read to boost your confidence and reassure your mind that your body knows exactly how to labor and birth that baby to meet the world.
Here and Here are two websites FILLED with positive birth stories. And one of my favorite hospital birth stories to read.
Positive thinking is expecting, talking, believing, and visualizing what you want to achieve. Make your achievement to be 'Meeting your baby in JOY' no matter what your birth story will entail.
Alexia the Doula
Birth Doula, Childbirth Educator & Postpartum Doula serving Minneapolis, St Paul and the greater Twin Cities area.