Let’s not beat around the bush here: labour is challenging. And it can have a sizeable impact on your physical and emotional wellbeing. Of course, it’s immensely exciting, too – it’s the final leg of your pregnancy journey before you can meet that beautiful little nut you’ve been carrying around for 9 months. Typically, most first-time mums will spend around 8 hours in labour. To make the experience less painful and more joyful, it’s important to lay some of the groundwork before your due date. Here are 5 labour hacks that can make your birth much easier.
Join a class
Antenatal classes can help both you and your partner prepare for labour, birth, and parenthood. These educational sessions will arm you with a slew of useful tools, such as choosing the best place to have your baby, communicating your birthing preferences, managing your pain with medication or naturally, helping you understand when to contact your health professional, and lots more. Above all, these classes aim to inform, so there shouldn’t be any hairy surprises during labour.
Another class to try? Prenatal yoga. Yoga teaches expectant mothers to trust their bodies will open up naturally. The soothing combination of mindful breathing and deep relaxation encourages the body to loosen and enter that ‘mammalian place’, where it intuitively and instinctively knows what to do.
Avoid negative talk
In moments of curiosity, it can be easy to turn to social media threads, blogs, or images to answer questions about birth. But while we’re all guilty of those late-night Googling-sessions, proceed with caution. Some experts believe catastrophic anecdotes, words of discouragement, or uncomfortable subject matter can cultivate a mental block during labour. These negative thoughts won’t only make birth more stressful, but they can actually intensify the pain. Do yourself a favour: shield yourself from any scary content!! Turn off the TV. Close Facebook. And bin that magazine.
For some women, hypnobirthing is the best antidote to what can seem like a pretty terrifying and alien experience. In essence, hypnobirthing teaches women how to enter a state of deep relaxation during labour. A bulk of research purports self-hypnosis can better equip mums-to-be to deal with any discomfort and anxiety that arises in birth. If hypnobirthing is one step too far for you, you could try visualisation. It can be helpful, for instance, to imagine yourself cycling up a challenging mountain between each contraction.
Sure – the thought of more pressure on your body during labour may sound nauseating, but trust us when we say massage is in a different league. Massage releases feel-good endorphins, which could alleviate – or at least distract you from – the pain of childbirth. A foot or neck rub can work wonders for you during each contraction. Teach your birthing partner to apply some of the following techniques.
Standing behind you, your partner places his hands on your hips and draws them back firmly as you experience each contraction.
During each contraction, your partner applies pressure to your tailbone with a tennis ball or the heel of his hand.
Your partner runs his fingertips over your shoulders and down your back with gentle pressure.
Don’t be afraid to change position during labour. Upright positions – walking, kneeling, squatting, sitting or slow dancing, for instance – can help pry baby down and out, thanks to the role of gravity. Remember, people may push all sorts of suggestions on you; take them on board but don’t feel to have to follow them to the letter. It’s your body, your birth, your baby – do whatever feels right for YOU.