My first son was born after a difficult 36 hours of labor. The labor was hard and fast, with contractions 2-3 minutes apart and no more than 4 minutes apart for 30 hours.
By contrast, labor with my second son was a mere 4 hours - start to finish. However with both births - had I not been well versed in the 5 tips below - I know I would not have been able to go the distance and own the birth I wanted.
Whatever kind of birth you envision - whether a physician attended hospital birth with medications or a natural birth with a midwife, the most important point is your birth is your own and no one else's. Every woman should claim their right to the birth they want and deserve.
Here are my top five must have tips for being prepared for your birth. If you are planning for a birth with pain medications, you can still benefit from this post. These tips will help you progress to the point in labor when it is time for the epidural. These tools have been absolutely necessary for me as a childbirth educator, women's health therapist, and most of all, as a mother of two sons, both born naturally.
Before you get started on this list, make sure you have a birth coach. This person does not necessarily have to be your spouse or partner, but they do have to possess a firm knowledge of the birth process and your wishes as a birthing mother. Another option is hiring a doula or having the support of a family member or friend. Having a birthing coach is not just important - I believe it is a necessity. Women should not have to give birth without support. Do not depend on hospital or birth center staff to be your support. They are there to provide care in accordance with hospital policy and their job description - they are not there to coach you through your birth. They have many women to attend to and cannot possibly be there for the continuous support that research shows helps women labor best.
After finding your birth coach, there are 5 tools for empowering you and your birth.
- Acupressure Points. Know or carry with you (my husband had a mini pocket sized cheat sheet he carried and referred to during my labor with our sons) the list of Acupressure Points for both labor induction and pain relief.
- Practice and know Yogic breathing for labor and delivery. I have a concise Labor and Delivery Breathing Practice I teach women. It helps with alveolar ventilation, which is crucial during labor; and, it minimizes the fight or flight reaction and helps a mother stay calm and focused. The birth coach should also know the breathing routine, in case you forget or lose focus during hard labor or transition. I will be sharing this routine with you in future blogs.
- Partner Assisted Therapy Techniques. There is a short but very effective list of manual (hands on) techniques to help relieve pain and open the pelvic outlet during labor. I teach coaches to use these while moms are either on a birthing ball or a sidelying position in bed. For the mom: Asymmetrical lunges have long been used to help open the pelvic outlet and facilitate birth. In general, I use 3 specific yoga postures to assist with pelvic opening, which also help with pain relief, which I will share in future blogs.
- Have a birth plan. A birth plan is list of your wishes for your birth. Here is an explanation of a birth plan. An additional tip: In the birth plan, include what labor positions you want to be able to try. Otherwise, you may end up stuck on your back, which is the worst position to give birth in.
- Hope for the best, and prepare for the worst (meaning a long or difficult labor).
- Know your rights as a woman and a patient. Know the hospital's policy on birth. Most moms enter the hospital or birthing center having no idea of how a birth in that hospital is handled. Read my past blogs on how to interview: your physician, midwife, or hospital. In some hospitals, babies are still (unnecessarily) separated from mothers. Further still, some hospitals still require (yes, require) women to lay in ineffective positions for giving birth. Ignorance is not bliss. Don't miss out on the birth you want. Do your homework.
- Know the stages of labor. For example, transition is often the most difficult (and painful) stage. Not surprisingly, even for the strongest willed of moms, transition can be the stage at which the mom demands (not asks) for pain relief. This can be disheartening for those moms who clearly stated their desires for a natural birth in their birth plan. Transition is a critical time for mothers. It is imperative for the birth coach to be attentive and provide the moral support to help you go the distance.
*Photo taken within hours after my second son's birth.