How to Survive Labor – Tips From a Doula (pt2)
If you read part 1 of my blog, “How to Survive Labor – Tips From a Doula” you’re already going to do so well with those simple and basic preparations! Part 2, the pro tips are for the moms that go the extra mile, and basic info isn’t enough. “Give me every tip you have!” Momma, you’re going to do so well, you’re going to have a beautiful labor and there is nothing to fear. That’s what this part 2 is about. How to prepare throughout your pregnancy to give yourself the best chance at a great birth. It doesn’t matter what kind of birth you are having, natural, cesarean, induction, etc. Good preparation will make any birth have much better results, even in getting a quicker recovery afterward. Thrive in this labor. Have a great story to tell your friends about how you laughed throughout your whole labor, about how there was no pain only enough pressure to let you know what’s happening. These labors happen all the time, but we only hear the horror stories because it is the traumatized people that are compelled to tell their story again and again. You won’t be one of those. Rock your labor with these pro tips!
1. Nutrition is Key
Nutrition is the building block that everything stands on. If you don’t have good nutrition you can be sure there will be problems. So what does good pregnancy nutrition look like? For a healthy you and a healthy baby you need to be taking a good prenatal supplement to start. I recommend Thorne, Seeking Health, or Zahler Prenatal DHA. As far as what you should be eating, it is recommended that a pregnant woman eats:
at least three servings of protein per day (for Iron)
five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day
three or more servings of healthy dairy products per day (for calcium)
foods with essential fats (Omega 3’s and 6’s)
Bone broth is a staple for pregnancy as it provides minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus and is rich in gelatin, collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin, and amino acids. It can also help you overcome morning sickness.
There are plenty of things to avoid and limit as well. You should limit white tuna (albacore) to no more than 6 oz a week. Limit your caffeine as well to about 12 oz a day. And while many people disagree about whether alcohol is allowed in pregnancy or not, it has been proven that even small amounts of alcohol have somewhat of an effect on the baby and your pregnancy. So better just not to risk it in my opinion. Avoid all fish that contain high amounts of mercury, anything unpasteurized or raw meat. Eating good nutrition is going to help you feel better and have more energy, which brings me to my next point.
2. Exercise for Labor
Exercise during labor is a little different during pregnancy because you’re focusing on different things. If you work out all the time, you can keep doing that, but there are certain things that help prepare your body for labor. First is Kegels, I recommend at least 10 minutes of Kegels a day. You can split it into two 5 minute segments. Kegels are fun because you can do this anytime, anywhere. In a boring meeting? Kegels! Washing dishes? Kegels! Try it in all different positions: sitting, standing, squatting, leaning over, laying down legs up, etc. Build up the amount of time they’re held and the pressure with they’re held. In an addition to Kegels Ina May Gaskin recommends 500 squats a day for a quick labor. It may take some time to get to that point. Split it up throughout the day to do as many as you can handle. But you should be up to 500 before the birth of your baby. Walking: many midwives won’t even take on clients unless they agree to walk 5 miles each day, rain or shine. It must be important! And last, is stretching. Some may not consider this an exercise, but it certainly prepares you physically and mentally. Flexibility in labor is very helpful in an of itself, but doing split-like stretches helps open you up and prepares you to release and let go of the tension and muscle gripping in labor. This is especially important if you’re worried about: length of labor, size of the baby, tearing, or the pushing stage in general. Learn more labor exercise HERE.
3. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea and Dates
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea is amazing. It tones the pelvic floor, strengthens the uterus, guards the immune system, and eases morning sickness and more. This is a favorite for doulas, we love the amount of good that comes from drinking a simple delicious tea. You can begin drinking this in your 2nd trimester. Dates are another great way to improve your labor outcome. It is associated with shorter labors, higher bishop scores, going into labor more spontaneously, avoiding Pitocin and many other things. You can begin eating them at 36 weeks, read more about them HERE.
4. Baby Positioning
There are many things you can do to improve the position of your baby. Most of us know that a sunny side up baby (posterior) means a longer harder labor with a ton of pressure on your back. If this is the case you should spend a lot of time on hands and knees every day doing some slight rocking. About 30 minutes to an hour every day can really help encourage your baby to move into optimal positioning. You can find out from your care provider where your baby is sitting, and then do some belly mapping to fill in the missing pieces. From there you can get to work. There is rebozo sifting, yoga, and exercise that can get baby moving. Any movement is said to be good movement because it just gives your baby more opportunity to do what it already knows to do. If your baby is breech at full term it will usually result in a c-section, so it’s best to get to work on that from 30 weeks on. A few things have been shown to help with that. The first thing is frequent deep pool diving, this creates a pressure that has been successful to turn many babies around. Having your partner speak or sing to the baby at your pelvic floor is so great. Your baby is attracted to the familiar sound and will draw near and hopefully engage when this is done regularly. The right kind of massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic care have been shown to help at times as well. If all of these things fail to engage a breech baby head down, then you should turn to Version, a procedure where the doctor will attempt to turn the baby manually. For more information on how to turn a particular position visit spinningbabies.com
5. Perineal Massages
A massage for your perineum can drastically improve your chances of not tearing and avoiding an episiotomy. And not tearing is a big must for surviving labor. It may be hard to do for yourself, you’ll need a mirror and some perseverance… or a partner for this. I recommend using coconut oil or vitamin E for this procedure, and to do it every day from 34 weeks on. Detailed instructions can be found HERE.
6. Stay Loose and Breathe
Now, in labor, there are things to remember and techniques to do. This is why it’s so helpful to have a doula, she knows what these things are and how to help you in those moments. So first thing to remember is that a loose jaw = an open pelvis. There is a direct connection with the tightness in your mouth, and the tension down below. So keeping your sounds low and your jaw slack help keep the looseness needed to avoid fighting your own contractions. Then there are breathing techniques, which there is no ‘right one’ just pick one you like. They are designed to keep you breathing deeply and getting plenty of oxygen to the baby, keeping you calm, and… distracting you. That’s right. Counting those breaths through every contraction really helps to refocus you and distract from any negative feeling.
7. Mental Preparation
I am all about mental preparation. In fact, I include meditation sessions with most of my packages, and will give the instructions on how to do it if they don’t choose that package. I think it single-handedly makes the most difference in the actual labor process. So there are many avenues of mental preparation. There is childbirth classes to educate you, a Bradley or Lamaze class to instruct you, and Hypnobirthing to change your mind. I think they’re all great, but if we are being honest we all have fear during our pregnancy lingering in the back of our minds concerning childbirth. This fear is ingrained in our body and even if we chant positive mantras, our body still reacts to the unknown with fear and negativity. I believe we can have positive labor, a pain free birth, and a glorious experience (even without the medication). Since this is the ‘pro’ tips from a doula I will give you the unconventional wisdom. In addition to meditation and the things mentioned in my last blog, EFT tapping is a way to address your fears and then rid yourself of them. Watch positive labors on Youtube or join BirthTUBE on facebook. Speak out what your birth will be and how you’re creating a pathway for it to be this way. Don’t speak anything that doesn’t feel honest. Speak only the truth. Ground yourself in nature for the meditation and visualize what your birth will be like because of your preparation and incredible birth team.
If you apply all of these things well, then you’re set up for an expert birth. You’re rocking this pregnancy, and you will rock motherhood as well. Just remember to hire your doula; knowing everything does not decrease your need for actual educated support during labor – physically, emotionally, spiritually, or as an advocate.
Let me know if there is anything I missed and how you are preparing for labor!