When couples learn they are expecting a baby, a surge of elation and happiness hits both parents. We are expecting a baby! This amazing news is shared with the world and the both parents then begin to prepare for the arrival of their baby.
For first time parents, planning for the arrival of a baby typically involves these main priorities:
- Baby shower
- Preparing the baby room
- Purchasing clothes, strollers, car seats, toys, diapers and wipes and more
- Attending a Lamaze class
When I speak to new mothers and even second or third time mom’s, there is one key component I notice is missing from their preparation list: positive labor support techniques.
Since my own experience with birthing two children naturally, one of my main objectives with pregnant mothers is to speak about labor preparation and making this one of the priorities. Why is this so important to me? For several reasons
One of the main reasons is empowerment and feeling in control. The second is decreasing* the probability of having a traumatic event which may lead to post-partum depression. Here is a great paper from the Journal of Perinatal Education
For many women, and perhaps yourself, having a natural birth is the preference. But seems daunting to attempt it. In this article, I want to share with you the techniques that have helped mother’s throughout he world achieve a positive laboring experience
The essence of hypnobirthing is to teach you how to be calm and free of fear during labor. I personally did the Mongan Method but there me other variations of hypnobirthing in your area.
As one of the most profound midwives, Ina May Gaskin put it, in times of fear, think of your cervix as a sphincter. When you are tense, your cervix will tighten, making birthing much more difficult and painful. This may physiologically happen or may be a metaphoric description but either way, hypnotherapy has adapted this idea and helped pregnant women learn how to work with their body and relax, from the inside out.
2. Hire a Doula
For first time moms, having a doula can really be the help you need during pinnacle moments of your labor. To have a trained professional in the room that is there to strictly support your needs can really help decrease* your anxiety (or even your husbands).
A meta-analysis of eleven randomized control trials examined women under the care of doulas and midwives and observed how their care affected outcomes. A reduction* was found in the following:
- Duration of labor
- Medications for pain relief
- Operative vaginal delivery
- Caesarian deliveries
3. Physical Touch
Several studies have shown that touch, either in the form of massage, holding or light caressing have helped women during labor and postpartum. For those that received touch during labor reported less anxiety, shorter labors, shorter hospital stay and less postpartum depression.
4. Be Unrestricted And Free To Move During Labor
Every woman in labor should be entitled to move freely. Having any type of restraint can add stress and anxiety. There may be specific reasons why you need to be stationary in order to be monitored and if you do, make sure to at least lie on your side along with changing from side to side. By doing so, you will alleviate pressure on your back. Because fetal monitoring can be intermittent, try to walk around, sit, get in the shower, squat or get into a birthing pool if that is available to you. Sitting on an exercise ball can be very comfortable in the early stages of labor.
In terms of helping decrease* discomfort, different positions can either increase* or decrease* pain. For example, if you are lying on your back and your baby is positioned posteriorly (which your doctor or midwife can determine via leopold’s maneuver), you can have severe low back pain. The best thing to do is switch to being on all fours or going into the fetal position. These positions can really help reduce* the discomfort.
When you are lying down, there is compression on your sacrum, restricting the pelvis from opening 30% or 2.5cm more. This is important to be aware of because it could be the difference between a caesarean and giving birth naturally.
In addition, you are compressing the inferior vena cava, potentially causing hypotension, as a result of reducing* blood return to the heart. You are also compressing the descending aorta, which contains oxygen rich blood. Compressing both the inferior vena cava a aorta is now termed Aortocaval Compression, which can pose problems for either you or your baby.
How could being in a different position assist with labor?
Simple – working with gravity as opposed to against it. When you are kneeling or squatting, you are utilizing gravity to help your baby descend, making birthing easier and potentially decreasing* labor time.
Overall, you should be given the opportunity to explore. Allow your body to move in whichever position brings you most comfort.
Get in it! Wherever you choose to give birth, either in a hospital or at home, make sure you utilize water to help relax your body. Water can greatly reduce* your discomfort and give you more comfort during active labor. According to a Cochrane Review, water immersion significantly benefits women in labor, particularly the first stage, which is the contraction prior to pushing. Being in water has shown to provide pain relief, relaxation and comfort. The article states:
“Water immersion during the first stage of labor significantly reduces* epidural/spinal analgesia requirements and reported maternal pain, without adversely affecting labor duration, operative delivery rates, or neonatal wellbeing. Immersion in water during the second stage of labor increased women’s reported satisfaction with pushing.”
Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of medicine and has helped people all around the world with different concerns. During labor, it has been found women may experience less pain and require less analgesic medication, according to a new study in The Clinical Journal of Pain. A large majority of women receiving acupuncture treatments during labor said they would want it again if they were going to have more children.
If you are afraid of needles, you can alternatively do acupressure points. To make acupressure more effective, use acupuncture seeds, which simply stick onto your skin and you press to simulate the acupuncture point.
Homeopathic remedies have been used for over 300 years and have proven to its users how effective it is. The remedies are one of the safest and incredibly effective help alleviate discomfort during labor – either contractions or low back pain. There are a variety of different remedies that can be used so you should consult a professional before you start purchasing. I also prescribe homeopathy to women starting at 34 weeks to help prepare the body for the delivery.
A TENS machine (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is a small portable, battery operated device that you can apply to your body via two electrodes. These two electrodes are placed on areas of pain, excluding your abdomen. Most women use it for lower back pain, which some have found to be very effective.
One randomized control trial compared the use of acupuncture with a TENS machine verses the use of traditional analgesics. They found the women who were given acupuncture and TENS required significantly less pharmacological use and intervention during their labor compared the control group.
My Personal Experience that Helped Me
When I birthed my son, I found leaning over the side of the birthing pool the best position for me. This allowed me to relax during each push and be in a rather comfortable position. I did the exact same thing when I birthed my daughter. In addition, I had my husband squeeze the outside of my pelvis. This really helped decrease* discomfort when each of them were descending through the vaginal canal.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this. Even if you don’t use any of these suggestions, I hope you are at least aware of the alternative options that are out there for you. Remember, you are the one birthing this child so do what feels right for your body as long as it isn’t harming you or your baby. To happy and healthy babies!
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In-Post Image: Shutterstock.com
2.Penny Simkin PT and April Bolding PT. Update on Nonpharmacologic Approaches to Relieve Labor Pain and Prevent Suffering. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health. Volume 49, Issue 6, pages 489–504, November-December 2004
3. http://www.spiritualbirth.net/positions-for-labour-and-birth. September 5th, 2014
4. Gaskin IM. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. New York: Bantam Dell, Random House, 2003.
5. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1651-2227.1997.tb14800.x/abstract. August 31, 14
6. T. Field, M. Hemandez-Reif, S. Taylor, O. Quintino and . Burman. Labour pain is reduced by massage therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Obsetrics & Gynecology. http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/01674829709080701 . August 31, 14