We start with a disclaimer that labor is not a joke and even if one chooses to use an epidural, the pangs of labor will still be felt. Only a selected few come out of the process unscathed and these are the ones who bandy the words ‘Hebrew birth’ around or the ones who opt for a C-section, which we like to call ‘delayed labor’ as the pain comes after. The bright light at this juncture is usually the fact that the mom-to-be is waiting to meet her princess or prince charming and for her, the prospect of labor cannot diminish it.
After nine months of pregnancy and especially if it has gone beyond the due date, the mother is usually quite anxious to get it over with and she really doesn’t care how the baby comes to the world as long as he comes out. The best thing about pregnancy and labor is that one can actually choose what her labor will be like to some extent, based on the things she chooses to do during pregnancy and during labor. Even though these things will not completely eliminate the pain, they will make labor a lot easier and, like we always say, labor is manageable. To achieve the best labor experience, here is a list of the 10 ways make labor easier (and 10 things that will toughen it up).
20 Do: Keep Fit
Expectant mothers are warned not to overdo things and not to overwork. There are also those aunts, friends, and neighbors who come with opinions that lean on the belief that too much exercise leads to miscarriages, plus other odd myths. Unfortunately, if a mother decides to believe these know it all’s and opts to become a couch potato, this decision will come back to bite during labor.
According to Fit Pregnancy, “Regular exercisers are 75 percent less likely to need a forceps delivery, 55 percent less likely to have an episiotomy and up to four times less likely to have a Cesarean section, research has found.”
19 Do: Have A Good Support System
We all need support and more so during labor. Mothers who enlist the support of a doula or birth attendant and even their spouse have an easier pregnancy as opposed to those who go it alone. A good birth partner will be the person who reminds the mother in labor to breathe and to take it easy while ensuring that things go according to her birth plan.
This will be the person whose fingers she gets to break in the middle of an, especially painful contraction. Emotional attachment to the person offering this support as a plus and one should vet their birth companion before the delivery day.
18 Do: Distract Yourself
Being in labor should be what the laboring mother focuses on. Doing this will make the labor a lot more stressful as this is akin to using a timer to check when the cake will be ready. Laboring mothers are advised to get some form of distraction.
This does not mean she should start dancing in the labor ward. While that sounds cool, she will be overexerted and this will make the labor harder. Having a chat with family and friends can act as a form of distraction and before the mother knows it, the baby will be ready to be pushed out.according to Good to Know. The best technique in labor is to focus on the fact that one is coping with the situation.
17 Do: Snack Carefully
Snacking is something a woman in labor has in her system had learned to snack all through her pregnancy. For some reason, labor tends to come with hunger pangs for some. Hospitals usually have a no food policy, but there are those that allow a woman to eat light snacks.
This should however not be the green light to eat everything in sight. Remember that what goes in has the potential to come out when the baby is going down and if you want a less uncomfortable birth, eating too much while in labor should be avoided.
16 Do: Take A Shower
When labor kicks in, the tension can be relieved if the laboring mother jumps into the shower. This should, however, be done with a lot of caution and she should ensure that she does not do so late in the labor. After all, we really do not want the baby to be born in the shower.
Sometimes labor can go for a long time and there are women who go for more than 48 hours while still in labor. This can be extremely exhausting, not to mention the tension one feels as the contractions come in. Standing in the shower with running water has been known to offer some much-needed relief.
15 Do: Get a Massage
Babies come when they are ready and not a minute earlier, unless of course one decides to use other means apart from the wait and meet. When a woman is in labor, waiting for the baby to come or to dilate to 10 cm can be quite stress inducing.
To prevent this, one is encouraged to get a massage from her birth companion. This will serve as a distraction and it will help relieve tension. This in turn makes the pain a lot more bearable. This is why a woman is encouraged to get a doula as she can help in this. According to Parents, "When you stimulate an area that's in pain, whether with pressure or heat, you soften the pain messages sent to the brain."
14 Do: Refuse The Urge To Lie Down
When women walk into any hospital while in labor, it is hospital policy to put an IV drip on her arm ‘just in case’ and strap an electronic fetal monitor on her stomach. This effectively reduces her laboring positions and relegates her to lay on her back as she awaits the birth of her child. Lying on the back works against gravity and this makes labor a lot harder for the mother.
A woman in labor should be firm and demand to know whether there is any medical reason to have these gadgets strapped to her. If there is none, she may request for intermittent monitoring, which will allow her more freedom to labor more comfortably.
13 Do: Be Open to Medication
Labor has no heroes and there is no shame in asking for medication when the going gets tough. For most of us who have been there, we can attest to the fact that labor is a lot easier and less traumatic with a dose of medication.
Even if a woman is into natural methods of labor, it is advisable to be open to medication because this may be the difference between her having a second child and being put off childbirth altogether. We are not saying that labor is that bad, but we are also not saying it
12 Do: Keep Breathing
When in labor, a woman is advised to keep breathing as this will help in making the process a lot easier.
According to the Baby Center, “Practice before you get to that point by breathing and concentrating on your in-breath and out-breath. The best thing you can do is remember the 7-11 technique or 3-5. What that means is you breath in for 7 (or 3) and out for 11 (or 5). Even if your breath runs out before the 11 count and doesn't breathe in again until you start the 7 again. Just by taking your focus away from the pain and to something familiar, you will regain your cool and hopefully nip the adrenaline in the bud.”
11 Do: Take a Childbirth Class
The best gift most of us ever gave ourselves were those birth classes. This is where one is given lessons on the dos and don’ts of labor. Breathing techniques can make labor a lot easier and the best thing is that they go beyond labor and provide the mother with knowledge on how to breastfeed, proper latching and even how to swaddle a baby.
Some women opt to skip these classes, arguing that our foremothers never had classes. But the truth is, generation after generation uses some way to impart some knowledge and pass down some wisdom on how to cope in labor and a birth class is one of the best avenues.
10 Don't: Lie On Your Back
Most hospitals have a lie on your back policy while in labor, especially for hospitals that insist on electronic fetal monitors as well as IV drips for the laboring mother.
According to Belly Belly, “Not only does lying on your back put all of the weight of the baby and your uterus on your back (which is not great for blood supply), but your uterus contracts forward, so you’re not working with gravity – you’re working against it.” To make labor easier, it is advisable to request flexibility that will allow for squatting or being on your knees or even a water birth, as all these will make labor a lot easier.
9 Don't: Be Scared
Labor is not easy and yes, it is painful, but like we said before, the process is manageable and women have been going through it since the beginning of time. The best way to make the process smooth is to distract yourself and ditch the fear.
Women who are afraid, tend to push earlier and wind up too exhausted, while others even clamp their legs together during the delivery, which can cause devastating effects on the baby. While going into labor can be quite scary, mothers soon realize that it is the most beautiful experience of all time and hey, bringing a life into the world is pretty cool.
8 Don't: Skip The Doula
Most new mothers are afraid and this fear only intensifies as time goes by. A first-time mother who does not have any idea what birth is like goes into labor filled with fear and this fear will translate to tension and tension during labor leads to pain.
According to Belly Belly, “Studies have shown that a doula is more effective than hospital staff or the mother’s friends or family, due to a support trifecta she can provide unlike anyone else: she is known to the woman, she is experienced in birth, and she can provide continuous, one-to-one support.”
7 Don't: Have Induction or Augmentation With Artificial Oxytocin
There are times in the labor process that it becomes increasingly necessary to get an induction, especially if the woman has been laboring for long and the doctors are afraid that the mother’s energy levels, as well as those of the unborn baby, are getting low.
“While it can be lifesaving for some, being medicated with a drug that was designed to really ramp the labor up to get the baby out quickly can be quite painful for many women. I would not say all, as I have worked with a couple of doula clients who have needed an induction with syntocinon, but not asked for pharmaceutical pain relief.”
6 Don't: Not Consider Natural Pain Relief Options
Labor is painful and at times, a woman finds that she requires some relief from the pain. Medical pain relief solutions are good, but it is better to start the labor process by trying out the natural pain relief methods. Breathing has been known to make labor a lot easier because it gives a laboring woman something to focus on.
Others find relief by slipping into a birth pool, especially later in a woman’s labor. The other great method has always been visualization exercises. Through calm-birth. Natural pain relief methods are quite effective, but since most people are not aware of them, they head straight for the medical relief.
5 Don't: A Posterior Baby
A posterior baby is when the baby’s spine lies against the mothers. In this case, a mother finds that she has debilitating back pain. This happens because as the woman labors and she has labor pains, she finds that she also has back pain that can make labor especially, tough.
This situation can be remedied by looking into optimal fetal positioning which is used to encourage the baby to change position and adopt an anterior position. This can be done by changing your sitting position and ensure that each time you sit, your bum is always above the knees. This will change the pelvis position.
4 Don't: A Stressful Birth Environment
The birth environment has to be peaceful in order for the mother to feel secure and comfortable during labor. Ensure that the people in the labor room do not add to the stress. There are times when the doctor’s bedside manners can be stressful or there may be too much happening around you and all this can add to the stress.
Stress will lead to tension and this prevents the laboring woman from coping well with the pain. If the mother is comfortable and feels safe, she is likely to be more relaxed and this will make her labor a lot easier.
3 Don't: Become Dehydrated
A laboring woman should keep hydrated. This does not involve gulping gallons and gallons of water, rather take a few sips once in a while. One can get a bottle of water and keep it by the bedside and take a sip as labor progresses. If one does not keep hydrated it causes problems in labor and this, in turn, leads to a painful labor.
This happens when one is not hydrated enough. The uterus does not efficiently contract. All the body cells rely on hydration to function properly. Lack of hydration leads to low energy levels, poor concentration and lack of focus during labor.
2 Don't: Snack on Greasy Food
Heavy eating during labor makes it a lot more difficult because while a woman is in labor, her digestion is slowed. It, therefore, becomes difficult for her to digest greasy food and this food is likely to come back up during labor. Most hospitals have a no food policy during labor, but others have a more relaxed take on this.
Even if one attends a hospital with less stringent rules, they would be best advised to snack light and avoid greasy foods as this will come back to haunt them. Snack light and choose the foods that are less greasy.
1 Don't: Scream and Shout
Pain can be devastating to most of us and we find that we cannot cope with it. This pain is what makes a woman scream. Sometimes one cannot help it, but it is advisable to refrain from doing so.
According to We Have Kids, “Screaming irritates your vocal cords and causes you to release the pressure from up above as opposed to directing it below. For example, if you are at the point where you are pushing but are screaming instead, you are releasing your pushing force through your mouth and have less effective pushes." Instead of screaming, make low guttural noises and moan, this will keep the pressure in the diaphragm and will help assist the process of birth.