Yes, we know – the words “childbirth” and “easy” aren’t used in the same sentence all that often. That being said, there are women who experience shorter labors – and that typically denotes “easier labors”, unless the said labor resulted in a cesarean section.
On average, for singleton pregnancies, first-time mothers can prepare for at least a 14-hour labor, although it’s not unusual for a woman to go 20-hours or more from the first sign of a contraction or leaky amniotic fluid. Second-time mothers get a bit of a break, with average, complete labor times of about eight-hours.
7 Things You Can do to Make Childbirth Easier
In either case, that’s a long time to be at the mercy of your body’s natural processes – with no say in the matter – and no ability to hit a pause button.
There are things you can do, however, to make the childbirth process a little easier or less stressful for you, baby and your partner. Here are our top 7 tips:
- Take childbirth education classes. The more you know about what is happening – and what to expect during pre- and active labor stages – the more on top of things you’ll feel. Yes, you’re forced to ride the waves of contractions, but that wave loses a bit of its mystery when you are acquainted with the various stages of labor, the things you can expect to feel or experience, and when you and your partner have been given – and practiced – some coping strategies. Check with your OB, birthing center and/or hospital; odds are they offer a birth preparation course. Otherwise, Click Here for a list of birthing classes in the Bellevue area.
- Keep fit and active. Childbirth is a marathon-like event and it requires as much stamina as you can muster. The more fit and prepared your body is beforehand, the better. Ideally, you were exercising before you got pregnant. If that’s true for you, keep with the regularly scheduled program and then scale back as your pregnancy moves into the third trimester. If you’re an extreme exerciser or athlete, read, Exercising While Pregnant: What’s Safe & What’s Not to check-in. Water exercise and prenatal yoga classes are always a great way to keep in shape, strong and limber. If you haven’t exercised much, talk to your OB or midwife about a safe, gentle exercise program to get you started.
- Choose a midwife or doctor you’re completely comfortable with. It’s important that you feel safe and secure in the care of your OB, midwife and birth team. If you aren’t, it’s time to start the search for one who’s right for you. Fear, anxiety and other negative emotions can stymie your labor and that can start the intervention train you’re trying to avoid.
- Have a birth plan. The funny thing is, birth plans rarely actually go as written. However, what they are good at is keeping your partner reminded of the various techniques/ideas/relief and support tips you’ve practiced and requested for when the going gets tough. They also let your birthing team know what interventions you want or which ones you vehemently don’t want unless absolutely necessary. Reviewing the plan with your care provider, and making copies for the day of the event, informs your birth team – and that prevents an excess of unnecessary questions or pressures that get increasingly irritating as your labor progresses.
- Don’t arrive to the hospital too early. Most first-timers are so excited they’re finally in labor – that they wind up in the hospital before its necessary. The goal is to make it to the hospital before you’re in the final stages of labor, but not so early that you don’t get to labor the way you want. Instead, spend the early stages of labor snacking lightly, napping as much as you can and hydrating. Walk and breathe deep to help “breathe that baby down” into the birth canal. Read our Pregnancy Monthly Guide: It’s Time… for more specific information about the stages of labor and when to head to the birthing center or hospital.
- Get adequate sleep. We all know there’s a connection between healthy sleep habits, good health and well-being. However, now we know that adequate sleep can actually shorten the length of your labor AND reduce your chances of having a C-Section. A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found, “…women who slept less than 6 hours at night had longer labors and were 4.5 times more likely to have cesarean deliveries. Women with severely disrupted sleep had longer labors and were 5.2 times more likely to have cesarean deliveries.”
Authors, Kathryn A. Lee, RN, PhD, FAAN and Caryl L. Gay, PhD, recommend that pregnant women try to get an average of 8-hours of sleep during their third trimester. This may require separate beds or a new sleeping arrangement for the partner if that’s what it takes, says Lee.
- Push when you’re ready, and let the uterus do the work. There are a lot of myths out there about pushing – and when and what’s required. These myths have even made their way into the medical field. In truth, those unbelievably intense contractions in your uterus are doing the bulk of the work for you – or at least they should be. In a normal, uncomplicated delivery, you should only push when you’re absolutely ready to – pushing too soon, or too hard and for too long will wear you out and can cause unnecessary tears or rips in your perineum. We love this article on fitpregnancy.com titled, The Push Paradox, and recommend all pregnant women read it during their third-trimester. You may also want to share it with your OB…
Furthermore, evidence-based research says “pushing” should be more of a diaphragm action – rather than a bearing down of the pelvic floor – to reduce post-natal complications such as pelvic organ prolapse. Use your daily bowel movements to practice the technique; when you feel the urge to go, let the sphincter relax and open on your own as much as possible – and then push from the diaphragm while keeping the pelvic floor as relaxed as possible.
It’s rare that labor and delivery are easy, but they can certainly be easier if women are educated, prepared and informed enough to feel empowered. Your body is made to do this work, and we look forward to welcoming your new baby into the world.