Whether you’re a first-timer or you’re expecting your 10th little peanut, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of going into labor. Of course, everyone’s preparations for birth and labor stories will be different, and we LIVE for that individuality. So how can we help those mamas who are preparing to welcome their baby into the world? Here are our top labor tips.
Let’s start with some frequently asked questions!
1. How can I make labor easier?
Making labor “easier” will look different for every mama-to-be. But, what we can try to do is encourage baby into a position that might help labor go more smoothly. Ideally, we want baby in an anterior heads-down position for birth.
This means their head is down and engaged in your pelvis, and their spine is against your tummy, not your back. In the final weeks of pregnancy, encourage your baby into a good birthing position by avoiding long periods of reclined sitting (the usual type of lounging we do on the couch). Instead, try sitting on an exercise ball, spending time on all-fours, standing, or sitting backward on a dining chair, leaning forwards.
2. How can I prepare for labor pains?
As any mama will tell you, there’s nothing quite like the pain of labor, and everyone’s pain threshold is different. It might help to know your pain relief options before going into labor, and also to work on simple pain management techniques like deep breathing or having a warm shower.
3. How do you push a baby out?
Many people compare pushing a baby out to having a bowel movement, and for some, this is the best way to imagine it. Others prefer envisioning their body as a coffee press, squeezing all the way down with each contraction.
If you don’t have an epidural, you will be able to feel the contractions and your body’s natural urge to push will take over. If you have an epidural, you might find it more difficult to feel your contractions and know when to push, but don’t worry. Your birth team will help guide you.
Although it might seem like the most important part of labor, pushing is usually the shortest phase. You are so close to meeting your baby at this point!
4. How long does labor last for first time moms?
First time mom labor worries are common, so if this is your first time, remember it’s normal to feel a bit nervous, especially about how long your labor might last. On average, the active labor phase for first time moms is around 8 hours.
Tips for labor
5. Go to a birth class — with your birth partner
Prenatal classes are a great way to pick up helpful information. Information about how to know when you’re in labor, pain relief options, explaining different forms of birth (like induction methods and c-sections), and some newborn care are usually covered. Taking your birth partner along with you means it’s not all on you (and your baby-brain) to remember everything.
6. Be happy with your birth team
Birth is possibly THE most intimate experience of your life, so you should feel comfortable with, and supported by, your OB or midwife. Take the time to do your research and pick who’s right for you, and don’t be afraid to make a change during your pregnancy if something doesn’t feel right.
7. Hire a doula
If you think you need extra support during labor and/or the postpartum period, hiring a doula could be for you. Your very own birth cheerleader can fill an important role in a positive birth experience.
8. Educate yourself
Do your own research. Rock up to your OB appointments with a list of questions if you have them. If your doctor talks about something you don’t like the sound of or don’t understand, ask them to explain what they mean. This is YOUR birth. Don’t feel like you can’t take control.
9. Tour your birthing facility
If you’re feeling anxious at the thought of arriving at the hospital or birthing facility and not knowing where to park the car, what entrance to use, or what to do, see if you can book a tour. Being able to visualize the birthing suites or ward rooms before the big day can help with a sense of familiarity. In turn, this can help quash any feelings of panic or unease and help you remain calm and in control.
10. Make a birth plan
Many providers will recommend you have at least a few “birth preferences” that can come in a birth plan – your thoughts around ideal pain relief options, the people in the room with you, or music, lighting, or aromatherapy, for example. And once the baby is born, how you might feel about skin-to-skin time, cord clamping, immunizations, and placenta delivery. There may be lots of options to consider, but don’t worry if you don’t have an answer for everything. Labor is a very fluid and changeable situation.
11. Organize a hospital bag
Having your hospital bag packed by around 34 weeks is a good idea, and you can keep it in the trunk of your car or by your front door for any emergency dashes to the hospital. Include a few changes of clothes, comfy underwear and pajamas, maternity pads and snacks for you, and a few outfits, diapers, wipes, swaddles, and blankets for baby.
12. Inducing labor at home
While there are lots of theories, there’s little evidence to support many of the natural ways to induce labor. However, once your contractions start, staying home for early labor can be beneficial. It can help promote the natural levels of oxytocin (the hormone that encourages uterine contractions) by being in comfortable and familiar surroundings. You might feel happier going through the early stages of contractions in your own shower or on your own bed or birthing ball, and therefore progress may be quicker and calmer. But, it’s always good to…
13. Know when to go to hospital
This can be individual to your specific hospital and your specific pregnancy, so double-check at your prenatal appointments about when exactly you’re supposed to head to the birthing facility. During early labor, call your OB with the timings of your contractions and pain levels for specific advice.
14. Relax your pelvic floor
During contractions, it might feel instinctive to tense up and hold your breath through the pain, and many laboring women might find themselves with their shoulders drawn up, squeezing the life out of their birth partner’s hands, and their jaw clenched. However, this can hinder your progress. Try to relax through your contractions by keeping your hands, lips, and jaw loose. You can help do this by shaking your hands and doing “horse lips” (blowing your lips out together). These muscles are linked to your pelvic floor, so if you have a loose jaw, your pelvic floor will be relaxed too, which is a good thing for the baby trying to get down your birth canal and out into the big wide world.
15. Don’t watch the clock
Everyone’s birth story will be different, and that’s what is so amazing. No matter how slowly your neighbor’s first birth progressed, or how quickly your sister’s third baby was delivered, this is YOUR birth. It takes the time it takes. And however frustrated you may feel as yet another hour ticks passed, every contraction is one step closer to meeting your baby. You’ve got this!
And if you’re still wondering…
Things to know about labor
When it comes to vaginal delivery, there can be a lot of fear and uncertainty about how your birth is going to work out. Having a certain amount of acceptance over this “unknown” can help you relax and lean into the experience. It might help to know that:
16. Labor is painful, but this needn’t be scary.
Remember that although it will hurt, you have control over your pain relief options, and whatever pain you do experience is temporary and will end (with the arrival of a beautiful baby)!
17. You probably will poop…
But you might not even notice, and your attendants really won’t care. In fact, it’s a good sign that baby is moving down your birth canal, so try to stay chill about it. And keep your partner at the head-end of the bed if you’re especially worried!
18. Tears (that rhymes with “pears” not “fears”) “down there” are common
But try not to panic, and be assured that they will heal. Promise.