My first son was born after a difficult 36 hours of labor. The labor was hard and fast, with protracted contractions 2-3 minutes apart and no more than 4 minutes apart for 30 hours.By contrast, labor with my second son was a mere 4 hours from start to finish. And my third son was again, only 5 hours long. The flip side of short labors though, is that they are very intense.
However without the tips below I would not have been able to go the distance for the birth experience I wanted. Whatever kind of birth you envision, whether a physician attended hospital birth with medications or a natural birth with a midwife, the most important point is your birth is your own and no one else’s.
Every woman should claim their right to the birth they want and deserve.
Here are my top seven must-have tips for being prepared for your birth. These tools have been absolutely essential for me as a childbirth educator, women’s health physical therapist, and most of all, as a mother of three sons, all born naturally.
Note: If you are planning for a birth with pain medications, you can still benefit from this post. These tips will help you progress to the point in labor when it is time for the epidural.
Your Birth Coach
Women should not have to give birth without support. Having a birthing coach is not just important, it is a necessity. A 2002 study of over 5000 laboring mothers showed better outcomes for both mother and baby if continuous support was given during birth (that means you are never alone during labor and delivery). Moms reported having a better birth experience, even when there were complications.
In addition, the study showed continuous support reduced the need for pain medication during labour, the need for operative vaginal delivery, caesarean delivery, and improved 5 minute Apgar scores in infants. Caregiver support also “increased the likelihood of fully breast feeding 4 to 6 weeks after delivery in two studies and showed more favorable maternal views of the childbirth experience.”
The best reason to have a birth coach? Length of labor was found to be shorter when moms had continuous support.
So before you get started on this list, make sure you have a birth coach.
- This person does not necessarily have to be your spouse or partner, but they do have to possess a firm knowledge of the birth process and your wishes as a birthing mother.
- Another option is hiring a doula or having the support of someone who has already given birth, in your family or friendship circle. Find a doula
After finding your birth coach, here are seven tools for empowering you during birth:
1. Acupressure Points
Know or carry with you (my husband had a mini pocket sized cheat sheet he carried and referred to during my labor with our sons) the list of Acupressure Points for both labor induction and pain relief.
2. Practice and Know Yogic Breathing
I have a concise Labor and Delivery Breathing Practice I teach women. It helps with alveolar ventilation, which is crucial during labor; and, it minimizes the fight or flight reaction and helps a mother stay calm and focused. The birth coach should also know the breathing routine, in case you forget or lose focus during hard labor or transition.
3. Partner Assisted Therapy Techniques
There is a short but very effective list of manual (hands on) techniques to help relieve pain and open the pelvic outlet during labor. I teach coaches to use these while moms are either on a birthing ball or a sidelying position in bed. In general, I use 3 specific yoga postures to assist with pelvic opening, which also help with pain relief, which I will share in future blogs.
One example I use for the laboring mom experiencing a lot of pain: Asymmetrical lunges have long been used to help open the pelvic outlet and facilitate birth.
4. Have a Birth Plan
A birth plan is list of your wishes for your birth. Here is an explanation of a birth plan. An additional tip: In the birth plan, include what labor positions you want to be able to try. Otherwise, you may end up stuck on your back, which is the worst position to give birth in. [Create a Birth Plan]
5. Discuss Birth Positions with Your Caregiver
The “typical” lithotomy (flat on back legs in stirrups) position is not only a more difficult position to give birth in (think pushing uphill), it also markedly narrows the pelvic opening (about 10%), and closing the pelvic outlet is definitely not desirable during birth. Further, the lithotomy position has been proven over and over to be nothing more than a “convenience” position for doctors. So make sure your hospital and caregiver do not require this position for birth.
I labored in all positions possible (I even took my yoga mat for comfort and safety so I would not slip on the slick hospital floors) and ended up choosing the sidelying position for all three of my births. [Read more about birth positioning ]
6. Know Your Rights as a Woman and a Patient
Know the hospital’s policy on birth. Most moms enter the hospital or birthing center having no idea of how a birth in that hospital is handled. Read my past blogs on how to interview: your physician, midwife, or hospital. In some hospitals, babies are still (unnecessarily) separated from mothers. Further still, some hospitals still require (yes, require) women to lay in ineffective positions for giving birth. Ignorance is not bliss. Don’t miss out on the birth you want. Do your homework.
Here are two previous posts I wrote to help with knowing your rights:
7. Know the Stages of Labor
For example, transition is often the most difficult (and painful) stage. Not surprisingly, even for the strongest willed of moms, transition can be the stage at which the mom demands (not asks) for pain relief.
This can be disheartening for those moms who clearly stated their desires for a natural birth in their birth plan. Transition is a critical time for mothers. It is imperative for the birth coach to be attentive and provide the moral support to help you go the distance. [Stages of labor]
The support of your birth coach, empowering yourself with knowledge about birth, and your own steadfast belief in the power of your body, will provide you with the fortitude and grace to be in charge of your own birth.
Knowledge is power. These tools are part of the process of empowering yourself and your birth, one of the most powerful manifestation of our existence as women.
*Photo taken within hours after my second son’s birth.