In the movies, women push two or three times, and the baby pops out. Perhaps this is why pregnant women are often surprised when labor turns out to be a lengthy process. Active labor can last for an average of eight hours. Subsequent labors generally do not last as long, but first-time mothers tend to take longer.
A vaginal labor involves a great deal of pushing. The accompanying labor pains are to be expected, but when the real pain kicks in, the mood may flip from a blessed childbirth moment to “just get it out.” The objective is to deliver the baby safely and give birth as quickly as possible. There are several ways expecting moms can help.
These are 15 effective methods to assist an efficient birth. One choice is not necessarily better than others, and no one option works for every woman. It’s really just a personal choice. With these techniques, there are benefits, but discuss these options with the maternity team to assess any personal medical risks. What’s most important is what is right for the mom-to-be and the baby.
Of course, these suggestions don’t apply to women who are giving birth by cesarean section. Also, if health issues require a pregnant woman to stay in bed, obviously, she must follow the advice of her medical team. But as long as expecting mothers have their doctor’s permission, she can experiment with these 15 ways to help the baby be born.
15 Use Gravity
Many women give birth lying flat on their backs or resting on their tailbones. Unfortunately, these positions limit the mother’s mobility which restricts the baby’s movement. Under these circumstances, the baby’s route can hit a dead end. Repositioning the laboring mother can sometimes fix the problem.
There are three stages of labor and delivery. In the first stage, the baby slowly descends the cervical canal. When the cervix fully dilates to 10 centimeters, the second stage of labor can begin. Using gravity can help bring about the first stage of labor.
The optimal labor position is one that is gravity-friendly. Standing or squatting are positions that open up the uterus. This gives the baby more room and encouragement to descend the birth canal and maneuver through the pelvic bones.
14 Take A Nap
Childbirth is bound to make a soon-to-be-first-time mother a little nervous. Since an expecting mom has never experienced labor, she doesn’t know what kind of pains to expect. And it’s no secret that delivering a baby is one of the toughest situations a woman can face.
Since labor can create a heightened level of anxiety, some experienced mothers will try to sleep during early labor. While asleep, the expecting mother not only gets some much-needed rest before the workout of a lifetime, but she also helps the baby relax as early contractions flare.
To give birth vaginally, the mouth of the cervix needs to open to 10 centimeters. If a woman sleeps through the first stage of labor, her cervix may begin to dilate. The reason why a nap may work is the simple fact that sleep requires relaxation. Instead of forcing something to happen, the soon-to-be mother surrenders, which allows nature to take its course. If a woman’s pregnancy has been smooth sailing, a good snooze may be the secret to a shorter labor.
13 Walk Around
The first stage of labor can be somewhat boring. During this stage, mom-to-be can keep active while helping the baby by walking. Using the support of a partner, walking can also help the baby to be born during active labor.
Standing upright and walking can be beneficial in labor because moving forward step by step can encourage the baby to move his or her head down. Walking can also help contractions develop into a pattern.
If the expecting mom is connected to an IV or a fetal monitor, her movement may be hampered. But, if she’s not limited, she can try to walk around for a little while. When she feels tired, she can lean forward on a sturdy object, or rest against her partner. If the soon-to-be is walking when the labor pains are intense, her partner should be prepared to support her full body weight.
12 Use Stairs
Walking up and down stairs is one way to jumpstart a slow labor. Climbing stairs sway the hips back and forth. This action moves the pelvis to open up the uterine passageway with every step. In every way, this motion makes room for a little one to fully engage the cervix, allowing a 10-centimeter dilation to occur faster.
During active labor, there may be extreme pain and pressure. The soon-to-be mom may be hooked up to an IV and a heart monitor. Her blood pressure may be checked periodically. So, she may not be physically able to walk up and down stairs in a hospital setting. But no matter where she plans to birth her baby, the early stages of labor can progress faster by walking stairs. If the mother-to-be can manage, she can climb the stairs two at a time, but she should use a partner for support and balance.
11 Use A Birthing Ball
Sometimes, a labor fails to progress. This can happen if the cervix does not completely dilate. As a result, labor slows down or stops completely. A slow labor needs to be diagnosed in the second stage of labor after a woman has dilated to at least 5 cm. (A diagnosis in the first stage of labor would be premature as labor usually progresses slowly in this stage.) A slow labor is a reason for 1 in 3 cesarean births.
Sitting on a birth ball can prompt a baby to get into position. Hula hoop circles are effective ways to open up the uterus. The circling motion provides rotation space the little one will need to descend the birth canal. Rocking on a birth ball also allows the mom-to-be to remain upright while giving her feet a deserved break.
To correctly use a birth ball, the laboring mother will need to keep her legs wide open, not only to open the uterus but also to maintain her balance. Once she is supported and comfortable, she should circle her hips from right to left and then left to right.
10 Labor At Home For As Long As Possible
When contractions begin, the mother-to-be and her healthcare provider can determine if she should go to the hospital or spend the early stages of labor at home. If the expecting mom is at least 37 weeks pregnant and she and her baby show no signs of stress, she will have decisions to make. One, she can induce labor as soon as possible, or two, she can wait 24 hours or longer for stronger contractions to begin. (Expectant moms who are between 34-37 weeks may have the same options.)
Allowing nature to take its course has its benefits. By laboring at home, the expecting mom can take a shower to freshen up before her hospital stay. She can eat, and go to the bathroom. And, if her contractions began, she can time them to know exactly when to head to the hospital. More importantly, she can relax in the comforts of her own home, allowing the baby and the woman’s body to prepare for labor.
9 Consider A Water Birth
If a laboring mother is looking for a peaceful way to bring her child into the world, a pool of warm water can help do that. A warm water bath is well-known to be a tranquilizing, and calm place to rest. Many women have tested the waters, praising the benefits of hydrotherapy. Yet, the water has several more benefits than just warmth.
A water birth is a subtle adjustment for a baby coming into the outside world. It simulates the watery atmosphere of the womb. The moment the newborn bursts into the world, he or she will start in a familiar environment in the hands of mom.
The buoyancy of the water also improves circulation. This lowers blood pressure, oxygenates the muscles, and takes the edge off labor pain—all of which helps the mom and the baby relax for birth. Not only that, there is less likelihood of the perineum tearing; this is the section of skin between the vagina and the anus. As the baby is preparing to push into the world, the perineum is stretched. Warm water makes the area more flexible, allowing the baby to descend with less discomfort.
8 Have A Warm Shower
Similar to a birthing pool, a warm shower is a tranquilizing place to labor, and a natural way to induce labor. If there are no complications, there are several advantages of laboring in a warm shower:
- The mother-to-be stands upright, using gravity to progress labor
- In the relaxing water, the expecting mother will secrete endorphins, which helps diminish pain.
- A shower is a non pharmacological way to reduce pain.
- The warm water will distract from aching contractions.
- It’s a hygienic way to start childbirth.
Direct the water to any part of the body that feels the most comfortable, but the lower back will likely need some attention. Remember to drink plenty of fluids upon exiting the shower because 20 minutes of warm water will cause perspiration and dehydration.
7 Change Positions
Some women prefer to stand, while others like to sit. There are those who choose to walk, while many prefer to remain in bed. If an expecting mom says yes to all of the above, she is among a group of women who like to change positions to manage labor.
When a woman in the throes of labor, moving her body position every 20 minutes can help deal with aches. Also, changing positions uses gravity to her advantage. The more she moves and rotates, the more she helps the baby descend the birth canal. Movement encourages momentum in the delivery, however, frequent movements may not be convenient if she is hooked up to machines.
When the mom-to-be is thinking of how she will maneuver her body, she should come up with several positions. She’ll want to keep a few moves up her hospital gown sleeve in case one or two don’t work. What she thinks might be a suitable position could change when she’s in labor. During labor, she’ll need to be flexible. As long as it is doctor-approved, the best method is the one that most benefits the laboring mom and the baby.
6 Rock On All Fours
Getting down on hands and knees is another good way to encourage labor. In the last few weeks of pregnancy, the living quarters of the uterus becomes cramped. Rocking back and forth on all fours is a natural way to open up the uterus, giving the infant space to turn around and descend the birth canal.
Tilting uses gravity that can assist the baby to flip head down. This position also takes pressure off the back and alleviates pressure on hemorrhoids.
Besides rocking on hands and knees, a laboring woman can also rest her forearms and head on a pillow with her butt up in the air. She can incorporate a cat stretch by rounding her back and pointing her butt to the ground. The rhythmic motion and stretching provide rotation space the little one will need.
This exercise should be performed on an empty stomach so the baby will be more active. Practice at home to master these techniques before labor begins.
5 Do Lunges
Another exercise to help a baby find the way out is the lunge. Performed during contractions, this stretch widens the pelvis, encouraging movement from the baby. Lunges also help stretch the leg muscles through a long labor.
To perform a lunge, the mom-to-be places one foot on a chair. Pointing her knee out, she bends at the hip, stretching towards the bent knee without extending her knee past her foot. Each lunge should last between 5-10 seconds with a rest period of 10 seconds until the contraction is over. Lunge with the left foot and then switch to the right.
To prevent tired legs, both feet should remain on the floor during the rest period. Of course, this exercise should be performed with a partner to support her upper body.
Lunges not only provide a distraction from the pain, but they can also encourage the baby to rotate into position for his or her final descent.
4 Get Support
We all have unique personalities. When faced with physical pain and emotional stress, tensions can run high. Sometimes, people who are involved in labor need to be calmed down. Often, laboring women doubt themselves. Enter midwives. They offer various levels of care based on the patient and her family’s needs, including emotional support that can result in a shorter labor.
For hundreds of years, midwives helped pregnant women deliver babies. Somewhere in history, they became known as labor coaches who boiled water and helped women through childbirth. Despite those who remain skeptical about their qualifications, midwives are trained to deal with situations that fall outside of the norm.
Some couples choose to have both a midwife and a doula because they both provide immeasurable support throughout pregnancy and labor. Both are dedicated to providing a wide array of information and care, but they are two different jobs. Whether choosing an obstetrician, a midwife, or a doula, it’s nice to know there’s a slew of people to support women through childbirth.
3 Stimulate The Nipples
In the late stages of pregnancy, massaging or sucking on the area around the areola can trigger labor. Manipulating the breast and the nipple releases oxytocin into the bloodstream, which stimulates the uterus, causing contractions. This is why medical professional use the drug Pitocin to help accelerate labor; it’s a synthetic form of oxytocin. Rubbing or rolling the nipple to initiate labor is a technique called nipple stimulation.
During a contraction, the uterine muscles tighten and the abdomen becomes hard. This recurrent tightening helps the baby descend the birth canal. Nipple stimulation triggers hormones that help contract the womb. This is the reason some women feel light contractions during lactation.
Women can stimulate their nipples manually or use a breast pump. But be forewarned; nipple stimulation can intensify contractions quickly. With a high-risk pregnancy, this action can be dangerous. A doctor or a midwife can advise if nipple stimulation is right for the mom-to-be.
2 Breathe Deeply
It’s natural that women would become anxious and nervous during childbirth. Breathing can help the expecting mother stay calm. It will not only help facilitate the baby’s descent down the birth canal, but also keep the soon-to-be mom tension-free.
Breathing deeply is a natural tranquilizer. A laboring woman can reduce stress simply by concentrating on her breathing. The baby’s heart rate will calm down when the mom calms down. A smooth and steady pulse will let the baby know that he or she is safe.
Breathe deeply while clearing the mind. Start by focusing on the breath. Inhale deeply. Imagine all of the cells in the body filling with oxygen and energy. Exhale to rid the body and mind of stress. To complete the soothing environment, request a quiet birth. Ask the maternity team to keep their conversations low. Unnecessary chatter should be taken outside of the room. If the medical team does not object, have the room lights dimmed.
Labor can be a taxing, yet awesome process. Deep breathing can provide relaxation and calm during childbirth, and greatly affect the sense of peace into motherhood.
1 Relax The Body
Experts agree that a laboring mom can encourage a baby to move his or her head down just by relaxing. Surrendering the body can provide a positive mindset while guiding the baby in a way that is virtually effortless.
Meditation is a deep mental relaxation that helps relax the body. The goal is to eliminate all external thoughts and distractions. A regular release of anxiety will make room for the little one in every way—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
The reason why meditation may work for a laboring mom is the simple fact that she has to relax. Instead of forcing something to happen, she surrenders and allows nature to take its course.
Going with the body will not only help the baby be born, but it will help with the pain and discomfort of childbirth. In fact, there is proof that unborn babies experience the same emotions as their mothers. When the mom-to-be is calm, her baby is calm. When the mom-to-be is tense, her baby feels the same anxiety.
Women have remarkable strength. Our bodies can stretch and bounce back after delivering a full-term baby. Yes, it will hurt; no, it won’t be easy; and the unknown is scary. But, if labor was completely intolerable, mothers wouldn’t do it over and over again.