These are essential tips for labour and birth, helping you to focus on what can make a difference.
As your bump gets bigger, your thoughts will turn to labour and birth. People can talk about how awful, painful and exhausting it is to give birth. Thanks to a few TV shows, we expect to feel out of control, to be screaming and to be under constant instruction from a midwife. Labour and birth can seem pretty daunting and it might seem scary.
But does birth have to be like that? Is birth just down to luck? Is there anything you can do to make it easier for you? I have worked with expectant parents across Tyneside since 2002 to provide good information and practical skills to provide better preparation for birth. These tips for labour are to make you think about what you can do to work with your contractions, to manage your energy and to get your head in the right place.
Here are some essential tips for labour and birth…
- be assertive – if you need something ask for it so you can be as comfortable, informed and secure as possible. Throughout labour you may have a need for more information, food and drink, warmth, a cuddle, a calm environment, to change position, to have a wee, to go for a walk, to rest, to have pain relief, to have help, to have some space, to be encouraged.
- knowledge is power – it can help to know what to expect and to know what your options might be. Not only can this prevent you having to adjust to new information in labour or help you know which questions to ask your midwife. This could be anything from knowing more about what happens when you go into labour and what your options are for using a birthing pool to how your options change if you are being induced or you are classified as high risk.
- gravity is key – move your ass, rest when you need to and move your ass some more. Listen to your body to make yourself as comfortable as possible and to help your labour flow as it needs to. Your baby may need more room to move and you may need to ease any pressure on your back so get yourself upright – chances are this will feel better and will make your contractions easier to work with.
- take control – this links back to being assertive and thinking about your birth environment. Most of us need medical observation and not medical intervention in labour so we need to do what feels right to labour well. This might seem challenging but it can be really beneficial to say how you want to manage your labour: “I’m going to stay as active as I can” especially if the expectation could be to get on the bed. “I would like the lights dimmed so I can rest and relax more.”
You don’t need permission, just say what you need.
- think about your birth environment – this could be the place where you give birth (home, hospital, birthing centre) and it could also be about making sure your birthing room is quiet, dimly lit and comfortable so you can move about and rest as you need to.
- rest when you need to because labour can be long and exhausting and conserving your energy is important.
- work with your midwife, she’s part of your team. But remember it’s not one way, you need to be able to tell your midwife what you need, she should be able to listen to you so she can support you and encourage you to listen to your body and to do what feels right for you – after all it’s you who is having the contractions. Your midwife is not a mind-reader and she can’t always guess what you need.
- it’s important to remember that there isn’t a right length of labour to aim for – some labours are fast and some plod along. As long as you are ok and as long as your baby is ok, all you can do is take it one contraction at a time and ask for the support and reassurance you need to keep going.
- contractions do hurt, they are a sign that your body is working hard to bring you your baby. It’s not a normal pain, nothing is wrong but that doesn’t mean that your contractions are easy – try to accept them because you need them and all you can do is take them one at a time.
- know how to stay as calm as you can and how to deal with any panicky moments, which can happen in any labour.
- remember the basics – eat, drink, move, rest, breathe.
- prepare well so you can ask questions, gain support, deal with any fears or concerns and have the time to think about what you might need.
- sometimes medical intervention is necessary and your options narrow – but it can still be important to focus on your breathing to stay calm and to ask questions so you can gather information and find out more about what options are available to you.
It can useful to make a note of these tips for labour and birth so you can think more about what could make a difference for you.