How to Survive Labor – Tips From a Doula (pt 1)
Labor and delivery can be extremely daunting. We are counting down the days from the beginning, dreading the labor, but excited to meet our little one. But the thing is, it doesn’t have to be. Honestly, you can rock your birth so well that the word survival doesn’t resonate with you anymore. As a doula, I have the amazing opportunity to guide women through pregnancy and labor and find out what works, and what doesn’t. And I have found unsurprisingly that those who prepare the most, handle their labors the best. I have some basic tips for you if you’re a first-time mom, or a mom that wants a better labor experience than before – oh that’s all of you? Okay, let’s delve into this topic and learn how to not just survive but have an incredible experience in your birth.
1. Get a Doula, or at Least a Childbirth Class.
We all knew I had to say it. It’s my highest recommendation I believe in them more than words can tell you. It makes a massive difference in your birth. And I haven’t met anyone that regretted getting a doula (maybe the wrong doula, but not a doula in general) if there are none in your area or in your budget, take a class. It will give you understanding, ease your mind, and make you more confident about your upcoming birth. Find a doula in your area HERE
2. Make a Detailed Birth Plan
Now, I have to give you the disclaimer that you probably won’t get it to happen exactly according to plan. But it goes along the lines of “Shoot for the moon, even if you fall short you’ll land among the stars.” Which may be incorrect astronomy, but you understand. Making a detailed birth plan increases your chances of having the birth you want. You’re not going to remember everything you want in those intense moments, but having someone remind you to change positions, or turning down the lights for you, adding some relaxing music, these little things make a big difference in your labor. In your birth plan also you should have procedure protocol ready for you and your baby as well. A good place online to make a birth plan (if you’re not hiring a doula) is HERE.
3. Release Your Fears
Since we know you don’t progress well unless you’re relaxed, and fear fights your natural hormones from releasing, it becomes extremely important to ward off fear. How? First, through education, learn all you can about birth, WARD AWAY FROM THE HORROR STORIES. Secondly, through prayer/meditation, take time every day to focus on the birth you want and remind yourself that you will get it. Pain-free, easy births are possible and they happen all the time. Remind yourself of all the measures that can be easily taken if something were to go wrong. Contractions are just flexing muscles and like a wave to embrace and ride. Think of pushing your baby out is like pooping out a stick of butter, easy because your body has already opened like it’s designed to and made way for your baby.
4. Relieve the Pain
The #1 pain relief option that people go for is an epidural. Epidurals have some pros and cons like everything, but after studying if you feel this is your best option, read this. There is also Nitrous Oxide which wouldn’t be my first choice as it has some seriously dangerous side effects. Then there is natural pain relief: water birth has been called ‘the natural epidural’ for good reason, the temperature and weightlessness contribute to major relief. If you’re not able to do water birth you can use similar techniques with a hot water bottle, warm cloths, or your partner holding you up to relieve you of any muscle usage (the weightlessness factor). There are instinctive position changes, massage, distraction, focus, oils, counter pressure, rebozo sifting, kissing, and many other natural ways to decrease or eliminate your pain. Your brain only has so many sensory receptors and if you combine as many of these things as you can, chances are you won’t have the space to feel pain.
5. Beat Exhaustion
Many moms confess that although they did all the right things and had a great labor in many regards they were just totally exhausted. Early labor is anywhere from a few hours to a few days or even weeks in some cases! Active labor can last up to 20+ hours, but from 6cm it’s usually between 4-8 hours. When you have to focus intensely through every contraction, those hours get very long. So first thing is preventative care. When you are in early labor many moms get excited about impending labor and find it hard to sleep. Don’t be that mom. Pretend it’s not happening and take a nap. Even if you can’t actually sleep, lying there is better than walking around trying to provoke labor to get rolling. If you were going to run a marathon in the evening would you exercise all day? No. Exercise should have happened in preparation for this day, but delivery day requires all the rest you can get. Also if you’re able to nap between contractions early on it’s a very good way to get you through the finish line. Secondly, you need fuel. Unless you’re planning on a C-Section (or believe you may need one) you have every right and responsibility to eat something. I recommend a smoothie as it is easily digestible and is good healthy energy to burn without the crash (try these yummy recipes!).
These are the basic tips to survive labor. If you don’t prepare you can expect to run into problems and pain. Every woman needs to be well prepared before undertaking this amazing feat. My next blog (part 2) is the expert tips for surviving labor and delivery. This has more to do with preparation in your body and is for someone who is very dedicated to having a great labor and delivery, and a healthier body and baby. You can expect better results when you put in the time and effort. Let me know what you did to prepare for labor!