Here are ten top tips to help with labour and birth, read it, share it, and talk about it with your closest and the professionals assisting you with labour and birth.
Labour takes time
One thing that really helps women have a normal birth is patience. Labour takes time as your body goes through its natural process so when your contractions start, try not to watch the clock. This is just the beginning so relax as much as possible and remember that each contraction is one less to go before you have your baby. If you have planned a hospital birth, avoid going to the labour ward too soon because you may be sent home again. Stay at home as long as possible and try and keep occupied. In early labour especially, you can carry on doing normal things, including eating, drinking and going to the toilet when you need to.
Create a happy birth environment
Mammals try to find warm, secure, dark places to give birth – and human beings are no exception. Think about how you can create warmth, comfort and privacy in your chosen birth environment. For a home birth, you’ll probably already know the room you want to give birth in. If you plan to go to a hospital or birth centre, try to visit in advance and think about the environment. Ask whether you can change the room temperature, lighting or position of the furniture. Make clear that you value privacy and don’t want interruptions while in labour. Think what you might take from home to make the room more comfortable for you.
Changing position during labour and keeping active can really help you deal with your contractions and encourage your baby through the birth canal in the best position. Try swaying, rocking, or wriggling your hips, walking, and going up and downstairs. Use a birth ball or other means of support, like your birth partner/s or midwife that lets you relax but helps you remain upright and mobile. If you lie on the bed for an examination, ask for help to get off it again once the examination is over.
Understand all your options
Another useful tool for labour and birth is having a good understanding about what might happen and how you want to deal with it. Find out as much as you can about techniques to help you with your contractions, for instance: breathing, using water, massage, a TENS machine, complementary therapies or hypnotherapy (hypnobirthing), as well as other medical forms of pain relief and intervention.
Ask for help or reassurance
If you are finding it difficult to cope during labour or feel that you are losing control, ask your birth partner(s) or midwife for reassurance and support. It’s very normal for women to feel that they can’t cope at some point during labour (usually towards the end) so ask for help if you need it. You could ask for some time alone with your birth partner so that he or she can soothe and encourage you and you can also remind yourself of your birth plan. With some comfort and encouragement, most women find they get a ‘second wind’ and their sense of purpose and ability to cope returns. Don’t be afraid to continue to ask for reassurance, support or help throughout your labour if you need it though.
Make a birth plan
Ahead of labour, it can help to write a birth plan with your birth partner(s) so you both know what your preferences and plans for birth are and ideally how you would like your birth to be. Discuss your plan with your midwife during pregnancy and adapt or change it as you wish over the months. On the day, your birth partner(s) can help remind you of your birth plan and also update the midwife on your preferences during labour.
Trust your body
Women’s bodies are designed to give birth and most healthy women can do so without major medical intervention. Do what feels right for you during labour and try not to feel inhibited. You might want to eat or drink; you might want to make certain noises that help you though contractions. Try to ‘let go’ and allow your body to work with you and for you.
Choose the right birth partner for you
For some women, their partner is the best person to be with them during labour and birth, while others might choose a close female friend or relative or perhaps even an independent midwife or doula. Whoever you choose, it’s important that you feel comfortable with them, that you find them calm and reassuring and that they are someone you can communicate openly with.
During labour, staying positive really does help not only mentally but physically. Feeling strong, happy and confident releases endorphins and a hormone called oxytocin that actually makes your uterus contract strongly and regularly. This in turn will help to relieve pain and also help you achieve a sense of wellbeing. You will produce more oxytocin if you try and avoid feeling afraid, anxious, embarrassed or angry, and if you remain upright and have privacy and support.
Cuddle your baby close after birth
Your baby will have strong instincts to bond and breastfeed straight after birth. Cuddling your baby on your chest skin-to-skin (without clothes, towels or blankets in the way) will help your baby stay warm and secure, begin to bond with you by gazing at your face and start to breastfeed successfully. Your baby may turn towards your nipple and open her mouth. You may like to help her find your nipple. If you have a caesarean, your midwife can still help you have skin-to-skin contact and breastfeed.