Many women feel that labor is an out-of-control experience that can't be prepared for, there are actually many things pregnant women can do to help ensure an easier delivery for them and their children. Shorter labors, less interventions, and more mental calm are all possible. We just need to incorporate some good practices into our lives while pregnant.
Women are advised to do some of these things, but others aren't usually mentioned to mom by the medical community. However, many have been proven through research to enhance the birthing experience, making it easier for moms both physically and emotionally.
Pregnancy is a time to take care of our bodies, our brains, and our feelings, and we need to do that before labor starts. Labor is hard, but it is the natural end to a pregnancy and allows mom the opportunity to finally meet the child she has carried for so long. Instead of dreading labor, mom needs to look towards it with an open mind while doing everything she can to ensure a good outcome, one she will feel good about.
Most everything on this list is possible for any mom, so start working now to make labor easier in the future.
14 Consistent Exercise
It's not always easy to exercise while pregnant. While we've all seen the pictures and read the stories about women who run marathons or power lift while pregnant, most of us have a hard time finding enough energy to carry on with our daily lives while growing a person.
Still, exercise is important if we want to have a smooth pregnancy and labor. Exercise may help us avoid conditions like high blood pressure or gestational diabetes. Those conditions can complicate labor, making it harder and more dangerous, so doing everything we can to avoid them is essential.
Exercising has also been shown to shorten labor, and even women who didn't exercise before pregnancy are now being encouraged to get physical once they find out they are pregnant. At least 30 minutes of exercise a day is recommended, but listen to the body and see what feels right.
13 Eat Well
Adopting a healthy diet while pregnant helps mom gain the pregnancy weight the right way, and just like exercise this can keep her from conditions that may cause a difficult labor. It may also keep the baby at a healthy weight, and since labor with an extremely large baby is more complicated, having a child who is a healthy weight can help labor along.
Another surprising find that has been confirmed by two studies shows that there is a certain fruit women can eat for a month before they are due to help with labor. Dates, the delicious sweet fruit that nobody minds ingesting, may have magical powers when it comes to labor.
Women who ate six dates a day in the month leading up to labor experienced marked advantages over women who didn't. They didn't need Pitocin to induce labor or move it along as often, and the first phase of labor was shorter. Maybe the most exciting news for moms who are ready to meet the baby is that the dates seemed to cause labor to start spontaneously, leading to less interventions and the opportunity to meet the baby soon.
12 Take Prenatal Vitamins Consistently
It seems logical that women would take their prenatal vitamins consistently to ensure the best start for their kids. In fact, it's recommended that women start taking prenatal vitamins the minute they decide to try to conceive since the first weeks of pregnancy are so important. If a woman doesn't know she is pregnant until the third month, major organs and systems in a child's body have already developed, and without the proper amount of folic acid, there could be problems with that development.
Still, morning sickness and forgetfulness are common during pregnancy, and this can keep women from taking their vitamins. Prenatals help make birth easier because they can help ensure mom receives the nutrients she needs. That leads to a safer, healthier pregnancy, and those pregnancies generally lead to the easiest births.
Women who simply cannot hold down a prenatal vitamin due to morning sickness should talk to their doctors about ways to handle the situation.
11 Take Birthing Classes
It's not a good idea to go into labor unprepared, and a good birthing class can offer tips to help moms be ready when the contractions start. Soon-to-be parents can choose between classes that focus on unmedicated birth to classes that offer of an overview of many different ways to birth. Whatever they choose, knowledge from these classes can make laboring easier.
Birthing classes generally give moms an idea of what to expect when checking into the hospital so she doesn't panic. They may also cover ways to speed labor along, like changing positions and avoiding an epidural as long as possible. They will cover other lifestyle choices that can impact labor, so mom will be able to finish her pregnancy strong, incorporating good practices into her daily routine.
Birthing classes also introduce moms to the inevitable: the prospect of pain. By talking about the stages of labor and what pain is usually experienced with each, mom can prepare and decide how to deal with the upcoming challenges of labor.
10 Understand How To Handle Stress
Labor is not just a physical act, just like pregnancy does not only affect our bodies. Mental and emotional stress play a role, and that's why wise moms learn more about their reactions to stress, pain, and out-of-control situations before going into labor.
Women can use their pregnancy to explore how they handle stress and what their response to pain is. They can enlist their partners to help them figure out what helps them through difficult situations and what doesn't. Some women want a partner close, rubbing their back and offering reassuring words. Others don't want to be touched and prefer the room be silent while they struggle through contractions. There's no wrong way to handle the pain, but moms need to know what helps them.
Learning more about our own desires and needs while pregnant will help us during labor, and it will also be good information to have as parents. Stress does not end when labor is over, and already knowing what we need to push through challenges is essential before becoming a parent.
9 Write A Birth Plan
There are people who laugh at the prospect of writing birth plans, mainly because birth is an event that is impossible to plan. We don't know what is going to happen when we are actually in labor, so some women feel that writing down our desires is pointless.
However, writing a birth plan can help mom during birth, even if things go off course due to an emergency. Birth plans include what mom wants during labor, in case of an emergency, and after the baby is born. Even women who had to have C-sections have been able to refer to parts of their birth plan and still achieve some of what they hoped for from their delivery.
Birth plans also give our care providers a clear idea of what we want from our birth, so everyone goes into the labor room on the same page. The major decisions are already made, and mom doesn't have to worry about figuring out what she wants while fighting contractions. Birth plans free mom's mind up so she can focus fully on birth.
8 Shop Birthing Centers
New soon-to-be moms may think a hospital is the only place they can have a child. In many areas, it's assumed women will choose hospitals, and birthing centers aren't even discussed. They are considered too risky or women don't even know they exist to begin with.
Every woman needs to make an informed decision when it comes to where to birth. A hospital is not a bad choice, but for women with low-risk pregnancies who have a fully certified midwife, birthing centers may be a better choice.
Women are less likely to experience interventions when delivering at a birthing center. They are allowed to move freely, and labor is treated like a natural process instead of a medical condition to be treated. For women who want that more relaxed feeling, birthing centers can offer it.
Being comfortable in the birthing environment can help mom's labor move along, and she may feel less stress during the process.
7 Interview Doulas
No matter where a woman chooses to birth, hiring a doula is not a bad idea. Doulas are birth assistants who offer support during labor. They also stay around after the baby is born to meet mom's needs and help her establish a good breastfeeding relationship with the baby.
Doulas are not midwives; they are birth assistants who know how mom likes to handle stress and pain. They anticipate her needs and keep her as comfortable as possible. They can also advocate for her rights should a nurse or doctor become pushy or impatient.
Though partners can offer support for the soon-to-be moms in their lives, partners are also nervous and stressed since they have to watch a loved one be in pain and wonder if their child is okay. A doula is slightly removed and able to stay calm while still engaging with mom.
Plus, research highly supports the use of a doula. Women who have doulas at their births are less likely to receive a C-section, request an epidural, or experience a long labor. The use of Pitocin also decreases when a doula is with mom.
6 Pack A Snack Bag
For decades women have been told not to eat during labor. Though the word labor says very clearly that a woman is going to be working to get the baby out, women in labor have been limited to ice chips and water to survive deliveries that can sometimes exceed 20 hours.
The reason medical professionals clung to this idea was the fear that women might need to be put under general anesthetic. There is a slight chance that when this happens, a woman can cough up and then choke on or inhale the contents of her stomach.
General anesthetic is not used during labor much anymore due to epidurals, and research now shows that eating light snacks during labor may help mom keep her strength up and shorten her birth. Since the uterus is a muscle, researchers theorize that having carbs in our system will help it work better, as will staying hydrated. A better functioning uterus can lead to an easier birth.
5 Face The Prospect Of Pain
Labor is going to hurt. Sure, some women report less pain than others, but it stands to reason that evicting a child from the body is not going to be painless. The problem is most of us are understandably petrified of pain.
Pregnant women do best when they stop avoiding the idea of pain and go ahead and face it. When they say, "yes, this will hurt" and then embrace that fact, they can start letting go of the fear and moving on with a plan. Pain can be managed, through medication, meditation, and support, so women need to decide what methods they want to try and then learn everything they can.
Embracing the idea of pain lets a woman feel empowered. She can go through the pain, as many birthing classes recommend, knowing she will come out on the other side. She can also see the pain as purposeful, leading her to her child one contraction at a time.
4 Visualize The Birth
This may sound like a joke, but it's a good idea to think about the birth mom wants to have while pregnant. There's no guarantee that everything will go as planned, but bathing in positive thoughts and emotions isn't bad for us, and it might actually help us relax and encourage labor.
Constantly worrying, stressing, and dreading labor is not good for our minds or bodies, and that's why many women receive advice to relax from their doctors as they reach the end of pregnancy. We absolutely do not want to carry any stress into labor with us if we can avoid it, because stress can cause labor to slow to a halt. As previously mentioned, labor is not a strictly physical act.
By visualizing the birth we want, we are able to release fears and worries about labor. No matter the outcome, we go into the experience having let go of our concerns as much as possible, and that gives us a head start on a good birth.
3 Write The Invite List
It may sound harsh, but mom needs to decide up front who she wants in the room during labor and who she doesn't. Many family members and some friends will usually sign themselves up as observers, but mom gets to make the final call on who will actually be allowed in the room.
Having too many people around, especially if mom is modest and wants privacy, can cause stress that leads to labor stalling. Mom needs to feel free to be nude, to be loud, and to do whatever she needs to do to get through labor. That may mean keeping people out.
Family members who are difficult or people who bring negative energy with them wherever they go need to steer clear of a birthing mom. Many parents even decide to wait to notify family and friends until labor is over. That way they can focus on labor and not managing all the people who showed up to "help".
2 Pack The Supplies
Besides some snacks, mom needs to pack a bag that is full of tools to help her through labor. Some women bring their birthing balls while others reach for their phone that has a perfect play list for them to chill to during labor.
Pictures of other children waiting at home or items that have a special meaning for mom are also good to have on hand. It may not seem like these small items aren't important, but labor is such a new feeling for mom that anything familiar can offer her comfort. She can focus on photos or hold a blanket that always brings her comfort and try to relax a bit more.
Hospitals may provide birthing balls or other tools for labor, but mom needs to check before she arrives. It's always smart to pack the essentials to make sure they're available no matter what.
1 Plan On An Under-the-Radar Entrance
Even women who want family members at the birth are often calmed by the thought that they don't have to call them right away. New moms especially may have problems distinguishing between real and false labor, and it's disheartening to call everyone and then be sent home from the hospital 30 minutes later.
People who plan on waiting give themselves room to feel what their bodies are trying to tell them, and this may lessen their anxiety about being wrong when it comes to deciding if birth is really happening. It also gives them time to just enjoy the moment, contractions and all, since this is usually the beginning of the process that will lead to holding their children.
Moms don't need to feel like the weight of the world is on them or like everyone is just waiting for them to make the call. Mom needs to feel relaxed and ready to let the baby cook as long as necessary to ensure she enters birth in a mellow state of mind.