Time always seems to slow down when you are pregnant, but at last the long-awaited day is here. You’re in labour, and this will be your baby’s birth day. You have lots to think about now, but perhaps these tips from other moms will help make the experience a positive one.
1. Gather your support people. For most women, that means their partners and perhaps a doula, family member or close friend. Make sure they know what issues are important to you before you head to the hospital. Your nurse (or midwife or doctor) is part of your support system, too. Personality clashes do happen, and finding a nurse you can connect with can make a big difference. Be prepared to negotiate, but be nice about it. Says Kat Murphy, mother of three: “Pick the most important things and discuss them before they become an issue. Forget a birth plan – think Top Ten List.”
Have your partner bring a toothbrush and toothpaste (labour can be long, and many labouring women are really bothered by bad breath) and, of course, a camera.
2. Create the environment you want. Make that labour room your own. You can bring in pictures if you like, wear your own nightgown (instead of a hospital gown), and bring in music of your choice to block out some of the institutional noises in the hallway. Ask if the lights of the room can be dimmed (more light may be needed at times for medical procedures).
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3. Stay on your feet as long as possible. Research has shown that walking through labour makes for shorter labours, with fewer interventions and fewer complications. When you can’t walk any more, try to sit up or squat. If you end up sitting or lying on the bed, try changing positions frequently. As labour progresses, a position that was (relatively) comfortable an hour ago may not work now.
4. Use visualization that helps you focus your energy. “I unexpectedly found myself imagining the doors of the Star Trek Enterprise opening, with that swish noise. I also thought of myself as riding the pain of the contractions like a wave,” says mother of three Karen Lee. Some women imagine the cervix opening like a flower blossoming.
5. Eat, drink and pee. Eat if you are hungry; once labour is moving along well, you are unlikely to feel like eating, but in the early stages you may want a snack. And all through labour it’s important to make sure you drink enough water. It’s easy to get dehydrated if you are labouring without an IV; you’re working hard and hospital rooms usually have dry air. Also make sure you go to the bathroom frequently. Often it’s a good idea to try to pee every hour.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Mother of four Melisande Neal says: “Ask about exactly what is being proposed, what the potential side effects are – and there are always side effects – and what the result might be if you don’t do what they’re suggesting.” It can be hard to muster up coherent questions when you are dealing with contractions, so your partner or doula may be able to help with this.
7. Don’t worry about making a lot of noise. Many women find it helps to moan, yell or make other sounds during labour. Pam Martin, mother of two, says: “My husband said I sounded like a cow, which is something we have laughed about ever since!” (You may have other embarrassing moments, too – throwing up during contractions, having your water break as you walk in the hallway, or pooping on the bed when you start to push. These are all normal and common during labour and nothing the hospital staff hasn’t seen before.)
8. Wait for the urge to push. Your cervix may be fully dilated, but the baby might not be in the right position or your body may not be ready for the baby to move through. Research has shown that waiting until your body initiates the desire to push the baby out leads to an easier birth with fewer complications. When that urge comes, push or “bear down” according to your body’s signals. This approach has been shown in research to maximize the oxygen the baby gets and to lead to an easier birth.
9. Make contact. Reach down and touch the top of your baby’s head as he or she emerges, recommends doula Karen Herriot. It’s an amazing feeling and helps encourage you to keep pushing. Relax and blow out if you feel a burning sensation as the baby’s head crowns. This is when you want to stop any deliberate pushing and let just the contractions of your uterus move the baby out, to reduce the chance of tearing.
If possible – even if your baby has been born by Cesarean – have the baby placed skin-to-skin with you immediately. If you aren’t able to do this, dad can remove his shirt and give the baby that all-important skin-to-skin time until mom is able to take him. That physical contact is a wonderful “welcome to the world” for your newborn.
10. Just let go. Mother of two Linda Boissinot says, “Do all your preparations ahead of time, consider getting a doula, be informed, but when you get there, just let it happen. It may not turn out as you expected or hoped, but you need to go with the flow, open up to the experience and let go of your preconceived ideas.”
Information is current as of the original date of publication.