Giving birth is one of the most physically and emotionally challenging experiences a woman can go through. As your due date approaches, you’re likely feeling a mix of excitement and anxiety. You want to be as prepared as possible for the marathon of labor. So you read all the books, take the classes, and stock up on pain relief techniques. But is there really just one tip you need on labor day? I’m here to tell you that yes, there truly is one piece of advice that rises above the rest.
While things like breathing exercises, birth plans, and having a support system are all great tools to have in your labor toolkit, there is one key factor that will help determine how your delivery goes. If you remember nothing else from this article, take this point to heart: when it comes time to push, forget everything you’ve heard and just listen to your body. Your body innately knows how to birth a baby. Trust in its wisdom.
Now let’s look at some other labor tips before circling back to the main event: pushing. But keep that single piece of advice in the back of your mind, as we’re about to find out why it’s the only labor tip you really need.
Understand the Stages of Labor
Labor is divided into 3 stages, each with its own challenges and opportunities. Being familiar with the stages can help you mentally prepare and know what to expect.
The first stage is early labor. Contractions start coming regularly but are relatively mild and short. This stage can last hours or even days for first time moms. Try to rest and save your energy during this time.
Active labor is when contractions become stronger, longer and closer together. This is when your cervix dilates from 4-7cm. Focus on your breathing and have your support team use massage, counterpressure and other comfort measures. Changing positions frequently can help labor progress.
Transition occurs when you are 8-10cm dilated. This stage typically lasts 15 minutes to an hour but contractions are very intense. Use your focal point, breathe deeply and trust the process. This part won’t last long and you’re almost fully dilated!
The pushing stage is the second stage of labor. When you feel the urge, take a deep breath and push as long as you can. Stay in an upright position and have support under each leg. Rest between contractions and change positions if needed. Stay focused and keep breathing!
Before you know it, your baby will be in your arms. Understanding the stages removes some fear of the unknown. You’ve got this mama!
Best Labor Tips Ever
Tip #1 – Relax Your Grip, Power Up Your Push!
Remember that death grip you might have on your partner’s hand during contractions? Yeah, turns out it’s like holding a stress ball for your whole body! Let go, mama, and unleash your inner birthing goddess!
Here’s the magic: by keeping your hands relaxed, you send a signal to the rest of your body to chill out too. Picture this: imagine you’re in a coma (don’t worry, stay with me!). Your amazing body would instinctively handle labor, right? That’s the power you tap into when you relax.
It sounds crazy, but trust me, this hack is gold. During delivery, remember this tip and consciously relax your hands during a push. BOOM! Baby will arrive! It would feel like unlocking a secret level of birthing power.
Here’s how you can make this work:
- Remind yourself: Stick a note on your mirror, have your partner shout it out (gently!), or channel your inner mantra: “Hands loose, mama strong!”
- Feel the freedom: Notice the tension leave your hands, then imagine it flowing out of your entire body with each exhale.
- Channel your inner zen: Picture yourself calm and collected, like a warrior mama radiating serenity.
Bonus tip: Get your partner involved! Have them gently massage your hands or remind you to let go during contractions.
This is just one nugget of wisdom, but remember, mama, you’ve got this! Trust your body, embrace the wild ride, and rock those relaxed hands – they might just be the key to a smoother, more empowered birth experience.
Tip #2 – Forget the Fads, Find What Fits
Let’s talk birthing positions and perineal massage – but ditch the pressure and one-size-fits-all advice. Forget what’s trendy or worked for your friend; your body, your birth, your call!
This post throws a wrench in the “squat for pushing” trend, presenting evidence-based alternatives that might suit your unique needs. Feeling comfy flat on your back? Go for it! Embrace what feels right, not what’s “supposed to” happen.
Now, perineal massage – the verdict is in, and it’s personal. This post sparked valuable conversations with my doctor, shaping a birthing experience tailored to me. Turns out, zero massage worked perfectly for me!
Remember, mama, you are the expert on your body and your baby. Don’t be afraid to challenge the norm, ask questions, and make decisions that feel empowering. Here’s your permission to:
- Ditch the pressure: There’s no “right” way to birth. Find positions that feel natural, comfortable, and powerful for YOU.
- Be your own advocate: Talk to your doctor about perineal massage – do your research, discuss options, and make an informed choice.
- Trust your instincts: You know your body best. Embrace what feels right, and don’t be afraid to say no to interventions that don’t resonate with you.
This is your birthing journey – make it one you remember for all the right reasons! ✨
Tip #3 – Pushing Beyond Grunts and Gurning
Let’s face it, the word “pushing” in childbirth sounds kinda barbaric. But fear not, mamas! Pushing is more of an orchestrated dance than a frantic scream-fest.
Forget Hollywood portrayals. Paula, a childbirth whiz, unveils a secret: relaxation is key! Imagine blowing out a candle with purpose, not straining like you’re stuck on the toilet (spoiler alert: different muscles!).
Why is this important? Relaxing your pelvic floor allows your baby to descend smoothly, making pushing more powerful and efficient. Knowing this beforehand, like Paula suggests, can truly demystify the pushing stage and reduce anxiety.
Here’s how to reframe your pushing mindset:
- Channel your inner zen: Relax your face, jaw, and shoulders. Breathe deeply and imagine calmness radiating from within.
- Think “down and out”: Instead of pushing “out,” visualize directing your energy downward, engaging your pelvic floor muscles.
- Embrace the rhythm: Work with your contractions, pushing during the peak and resting afterward. Imagine riding a wave of power.
- Find your mantra: Repeat a calming phrase like “strong and calm” or “baby, come to mama” to focus and empower yourself.
Remember, mama, you’ve got this! Pushing is just one powerful step in your birthing journey. By understanding the process and embracing relaxation, you can transform it into a positive and empowering experience.
Tip #4 – Find Your Roar: Deep Sounds for a Smoother Delivery
Forget high-pitched squeals! Labor is already demanding, so why add tension to the mix? This tip, brought to you by Lindsey VanAlstyne of Mother Rising Birth, encourages you to unleash your inner lioness with deep, low sounds.
Here’s the science: high-pitched noises trigger tension in your body, while deep, resonant sounds have the opposite effect, promoting relaxation and release. So ditch the screams and unleash a powerful hum, moan, or even a primal roar during contractions.
Why is this powerful?
- Reduced tension: By relaxing your body, you create more space for your baby to descend, making labor potentially shorter and less intense.
- Natural pain relief: Deep sounds trigger the release of endorphins, your body’s natural pain relievers, making contractions feel more manageable.
- Boosts confidence: Channeling your inner warrior mama with bold sounds can be empowering and motivating during labor.
Ready to unleash your roar?
- Experiment: Find sounds that resonate with you – a low hum, a drawn-out “oooo,” or even a primal growl.
- Practice makes perfect: Try incorporating these sounds into your prenatal yoga or meditation routine.
- Embrace the power: During contractions, let your chosen sound flow freely, feeling the tension melt away with each exhale.
Remember, mama, this is your birth, your voice, your power. Embrace the low sounds, and let your inner strength guide you through a positive and empowered birthing experience.
Tip #5 – Master the Magic with Online Prenatal Classes!
Imagine this: you’re nestled in your comfy PJs, sipping tea, and learning all about childbirth on your own terms. Sounds pretty amazing, right? Well, ditch the in-person class stress and embrace the convenience and comfort of online prenatal education!
But with so many options out there, where do you start? Here’s why Hilary’s Online Prenatal Class is a game-changer for mamas-to-be:
Expert Knowledge, Delivered Straight to You: Hilary, a rockstar labor and delivery nurse, packs her virtual course with evidence-based info and insider tips. No more scrambling for answers when your water breaks – you’ll be confident and prepared, like a true birthing boss!
Conquer Your Fears (and That Poop Panic!): Let’s be real, childbirth can be daunting. But fear not! Hilary’s calming and informative approach will address your anxieties head-on, even the dreaded “poop during pushing” concern (spoiler alert: it’s normal!).
Learn at Your Own Pace: Gone are the rigid schedules and forced socialization. With online classes, you’re the queen of your learning journey. Rewind lectures, revisit modules, and absorb information at your own pace, all from the comfort of your couch.
Investing in a quality online prenatal class isn’t just about knowledge, it’s about empowerment. You’ll approach childbirth with confidence, calmness, and a healthy dose of humor (thanks, Hilary!). So ditch the stress, mama, and embrace the amazing world of online prenatal education!
P.S. Don’t forget to check out other online resources like birthing blogs, support groups, and meditation apps to complement your learning and build a strong birthing community. You’ve got this, mama!
Related: The Benefits of Hypnobirthing
Tip #6 – Get Plenty of Rest
Adequate rest is crucial in preparing for labor and delivery. As you near your due date, your body needs extra rest to conserve energy for the main event.
“Fatigue during late pregnancy can make it harder for your body to cope with the stress of labor. Make sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night,” says Dr. Sarah Wilson, OB/GYN.
Your quality of sleep also matters. Finding comfortable sleeping positions can be challenging as your belly grows. Try propping yourself up with pillows or sleeping in a recliner. Nap during the day if you need extra rest.
“Listen to your body’s signals. Take naps or go to bed early if you’re feeling tired. Don’t overexert yourself in the weeks leading up to delivery,” advises Dr. Mark Jones, obstetrician.
Getting good sleep now will help you adjust when your baby arrives. Newborns need round-the-clock care, so rest up while you can! Proper rest ensures you have the endurance needed for delivery and caring for a newborn.
Tip #7 – Stay Hydrated During Labor – It’s Absolutely Essential
Staying hydrated during labor is critically important. Your body needs adequate fluids to have the energy and stamina to withstand the marathon of childbirth. Dehydration can lead to dizziness, headaches, cramping, and an increased risk of interventions like Pitocin or an epidural.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends drinking at least 6-8 glasses of water daily in the weeks leading up to your due date. During early labor at home, keep sipping water, juice, ice chips or popsicles to stay hydrated. Once you are admitted to the hospital, ask for an IV to get fluids intravenously if you are unable to keep drinking on your own.
Hydration provides several key benefits:
- It prevents dehydration and keeps your energy levels up
- It improves blood flow and circulation
- It may help dilate the cervix and induce labor naturally
- It aids the placenta in providing oxygen and nutrients to your baby
Don’t underestimate the importance of staying hydrated! Drink up during pregnancy and labor for your health and your baby’s.
Tip #8 – Have a Birth Plan
Having a birth plan is one of the most important things an expectant mother can do to prepare for delivery. A birth plan outlines your preferences and expectations for labor and delivery. While childbirth can be unpredictable, having a plan helps provide focus and gives you a voice in the process.
There are many pros to having a birth plan:
- It allows you to think through options and make decisions ahead of time when you’re not in pain or emotional. This makes it easier to advocate for yourself during labor.
- It helps you communicate your preferences to your birthing team. This includes things like pain management, birthing positions, people in the room, and more.
- It reduces anxiety and fear of the unknown by allowing you to visualize how you want things to go.
- It provides documentation so hospital staff knows your wishes even if your regular doctor is not present.
There are a few potential cons to having a birth plan:
- You may have to alter your plan if complications arise. However, you can still include back-up options and preferences.
- Some medical staff may dismiss your plan entirely. Be ready to advocate for yourself.
- You may feel disappointed if things don’t go according to plan. Remember that a healthy mom and baby are the ultimate goals.
Key parts of a birth plan often include your preferences for:
- Pain management (epidural, breathing techniques, etc)
- Labor positions (squatting, hands and knees, etc)
- Pushing positions (squatting, semi-reclined, etc)
- Who will catch the baby (doctor or nurse)
- Who will cut the umbilical cord
- Other people you want in the room (partner, friend, doula etc)
- Immediate newborn procedures (delayed cord clamping, skin-to-skin, etc)
Having a well-thought-out birth plan empowers you to have the labor experience you envision. While you may need to remain flexible, a plan helps you communicate your wishes and have more control in the process.
Tip #9 – Choose Your Support Team
Who you have present during childbirth can greatly impact your experience. Consider carefully who will provide the support you need.
Many women choose to have their partner or spouse be their primary support person. As the baby’s other parent, they have a special role in welcoming their child into the world. Partners can provide physical comfort, encouragement, and advocacy during the intensity of labor. Discuss your needs and expectations beforehand so they know how best to assist you.
You may also want to hire a doula. Doulas are trained professionals who provide continuous physical, emotional and informational support during childbirth. Studies show having a doula reduces the need for interventions and medications, while improving satisfaction with the birth experience. A doula can help you through painful contractions with massage, soothing words, and positions. They’ll encourage you during the challenging moments and empower you to trust in your body’s ability to give birth.
Some women feel most comfortable with a midwife guiding them through labor and delivery. Midwives take a more holistic, low-intervention approach focused on your individual needs. They can monitor you and the baby while also providing hands-on support. If you used a midwife for your prenatal care, having them at the birth can provide valuable continuity.
Think about who will best help you feel safe, respected, and cared for during this vulnerable time. Having patient, compassionate support gives you the strength to see the process through.
Tip #10 – Use Breathing Techniques
Controlling your breathing during labor can help you manage pain and stay focused. There are a few different breathing techniques commonly used:
- Patterned breathing involves breathing in and out to a certain count or rhythm. For example, breathe in for 5 counts, breathe out for 5 counts. This can help you focus and give you something specific to concentrate on during contractions.
- Deep breathing means taking slow, deep breaths from your diaphragm. Fill your lungs fully by breathing deep into your belly. Exhaling slowly and fully helps your muscles relax. This can counteract the body’s stress response during labor.
- Focal point breathing involves choosing a focal point like a spot on the wall to stare at while breathing slowly and deeply. Having something to focus your eyes on can help distract you from the intensity of contractions.
- Cleansing breaths are quick, shallow breath in through the nose and long forceful breaths out through your mouth. Use these in between contractions to oxygenate and help you relax.
Patterned breathing, deep breathing, having a focal point, and cleansing breaths are all techniques you can practice during pregnancy and childbirth classes. Finding the method that works best for you can help you stay in control during the hard work of labor.
Tip #11 – Stay Active During Pregnancy
Staying physically active during pregnancy is one of the best things an expecting mother can do to prepare her body for labor and delivery. Regular exercise keeps muscles toned and improves stamina, both of which will be needed during labor. It also prevents back pain, improves sleep, and boosts mood.
What’s more, research shows that regular, moderate exercise can help prevent gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. It may even shorten labor and lead to fewer interventions like cesarean sections.
Some great pregnancy exercises include:
- Walking – This gentle, low-impact exercise increases heart rate and improves circulation. Aim for 30 minutes per day.
- Swimming – The water supports your weight while providing an all-over body workout.
- Prenatal yoga – Yoga increases flexibility, strength, and balance. Look for “prenatal yoga” classes.
- Low-impact aerobics – Low-impact cardio like using an elliptical machine gets your heart pumping without high-impact moves like jumping.
- Kegel exercises – Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles now helps prepare them for birth.
Always talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program during pregnancy. Start slow, listen to your body, stay hydrated, and avoid getting overheated. The benefits will pay off during labor and delivery!
Tip #12 – Use Movement and Positions
Remaining upright and mobile during labor has many benefits. Walking, swaying, lunging, squatting, and changing positions can all help the labor progress. Here’s why movement matters:
- Walking gets gravity working for you. Vertical positions allow the baby to move down and apply pressure to the cervix. Many women find walking speeds up contractions and dilation.
- Squatting opens up the pelvic outlet up to 30% more than standing. Opening the hips and pelvis can help the baby descend lower in the birth canal. Squat against a wall or held up by your partner during contractions.
- Swaying your hips side to side helps the pelvic bones flex and make space for the baby to pass through. Sway and circle while standing or on hands and knees.
- Lunging mimics a runner’s stance to open the hips. Step forward with one foot and bend the knee while keeping the back leg straight. Switch legs and repeat.
- Position changes ensure the baby’s head is well-positioned against the cervix. Move from sitting to standing, from hands and knees to side-lying in between contractions. Different positions help relieve pain in certain areas as well.
Remaining upright and active is preferable to lying in bed. Let gravity help move the baby down and engage with positions that open your hips. Listen to your body and change positions frequently for comfort.
Tip #13 – Relaxation Techniques
Labor can be intense and using relaxation techniques can help you handle contractions in a calm and focused way. There are several excellent options to explore:
- Breathing – Practice breathing techniques such as deep, slow breathing, counting breaths, breathing in sync with contractions, and more. Finding a breathing rhythm that works for you can make labor more manageable.
- Massage – Having your partner or doula gently massage your shoulders, feet, hands, and back can provide soothing touch and pain relief. Massage may also aid relaxation between contractions.
- Aromatherapy – Scenting the air with essential oils like lavender, chamomile, and clary sage can promote calmness and relaxation. Add a few drops to a diffuser, linen spray, massage oil, or room spray. Inhale the scent between contractions.
- Hypnobirthing – This method uses self-hypnosis and deep relaxation techniques to achieve a calm birthing mindset. Take a class to learn techniques to direct your focus inward, release fear, and work with your body during labor. Guided imagery and affirmations can promote confidence.
Using proven relaxation methods allows you to approach labor with inner peace. Experiment to find the techniques that instill calm and reduce your pain perceptions. With practice, you can birth in a relaxed yet empowered state.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP LABOR TIPS FOR MOM THAT DIDN’T MAKE MY LIST? LET ME KNOW!