Every pregnant woman wants to know if there is anything they can do to help them have an easier and faster labor. Well, you’re in luck, mamas. I have supported hundreds of women during labor and birth. And I know a few tricks that can help ease and speed up your labor process. Today I’m sharing with you my 9 tips on how to have an easier labor.
1. Eat Dates
Studies show that women who eat dates daily during the last 6 weeks of their pregnancy are less likely to be induced or need Pitocin to help the progression of labor. They were also more dilated upon arrival at the hospital and labored seven hours less. Eat your dates! Learn more about the benefits of eating dates during pregnancy here.
2. Get Active & Do Squats
Out of all the births that I have gone to, the women who stayed active and in shape during their pregnancy were able to tolerate labor better. They also tended to have shorter labors. A recent study shows that women who continue to exercise during their pregnancy, especially in the last trimester, will be in labor for a shorter duration. Of course, get approval from your doctor or midwife first before beginning an exercise routine.
When in labor, it’s also beneficial to stay active. Upright and leaning forward positions allow gravity to help baby move into the optimal position, which can help shorten the duration of your labor by an hour. It’s common to get tired with all of this activity while also experiencing contractions, so strengthening your legs is key.
3. Hire a Doula
Even with your partner and family by your side, you may also want to have additional professional help. This help can guide and support you continuously throughout your labor. According to studies, women who had continuous care provided by a doula were 50% less likely to need a C-section and 30% less likely to need pain medication, and they experienced a labor 25% shorter than those without doula care.
4. Get Some Sleep
A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women who slept fewer than six hours during their last month of pregnancy labored for 11 hours longer and had C-sections four times more frequently compared to women who slept seven hours or more. That means you have to make sleep a priority as you approach your due date. Here are some tips if you want more/better sleep or if you are experiencing pregnancy insomnia.
5. Get in the Water
It’s a common reaction to tense your muscles when you feel pain. Unfortunately, that is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing while in labor. Tensing and tightening your muscles can cause more discomfort and lengthen your time in labor. Getting into the shower or the tub can counter that response.
Hydrotherapy is a natural epidural. It can relieve a fair amount of discomfort during labor. A shower is fine at any stage of labor. However, you want to make sure that you are in (at least) active labor but preferably transition if you get into a tub. (We don’t want the water to slow down or stall your labor pattern.) The water can help relax your muscles and allow your body to open and speed up your labor time.
6. Get a Massage
When stimulating an area where you feel pain, whether with pressure or with heat, you are softening the pain messages that are being sent to the brain. This is why it is normal to immediately respond by putting your hands and placing pressure on a body part that is in pain. This is why massage during labor is very beneficial.
It has been proven in a study from the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine that laboring women who received massages during labor reported feeling less pain and anxiety than those who were not massaged. Talk to your partner or doula about massage during labor. Let them know what feels good and what doesn’t. Even if you prefer not to be touched during certain times in labor, that is normal and okay too.
7. Being Open-Minded and Flexible
It is important to mentally and physically prepare yourself for your labor and birth experience. This is why I recommend taking a childbirth class and hiring a doula. However, no one can predict what your labor will be like. It differs from woman to woman and from baby to baby. Your first birth could be completely different from your second birth. This is why I tell all of my clients that yes, it is good to have goals for your birth experience, but it is also good to remain open-minded and flexible when it comes to your birth plan. You may not be able to get an epidural as you wanted, or your epidural may not work like you were expecting, or you may need an epidural or a C-section even though you didn’t want or plan for one. Women who remained more relaxed and did what their body told them to and didn’t fight the process had better, easier, and more satisfying birth experiences.
8. Keep Breathing
This may seem silly to say that you need to remember to keep breathing, but what I mean is you need to keep a consistent pace of slow, deep breaths during labor. There are times when women hold their breath in labor or begin to hyperventilate because they are not focusing on their breathing pattern. The more oxygen that you are taking in, the better. It can help you stay relaxed and remain focused through each contraction.
9. Remain Calm
This is probably one of the most important points of labor and birthing. Your mindset and emotional state are connected to how your body can respond to the sensations you’re feeling. If you’re scared, stressed, rushed, and or feeling pressured, it can (and usually will) negatively affect your labor progress. The opposite applies as well. If you feel comfortable and supported during labor, that you’re free to labor at your own pace, and you’re able to focus inward on your body, you’ll have a more successful time at allowing your body and baby to do what they need to do. Keep calm, mama. You will soon meet your baby.
Above all, remember that although there are few certainties when it comes to labor and birth, there is one certainty that you can count on… Every labor will eventually end, and you will soon give birth to your baby. By using these nine tips, you should be able to meet your little one a little bit sooner. 😉