Childbirth is as unique an experience as any other. Many women consider birth to be a great and sometimes daunting challenge to mental, emotional, and physical capabilities, while others believe it to be the most incredible experience of all time!
Either way, new mums everywhere should be given the proper tools, knowledge, and support to facilitate a positive birth experience and overall recovery. So, if you are a new mum approaching her due date, a partner waiting in anticipation, or a health care provider supporting the mother-to-be, here are a few ways that we can promote an easier birthing experience for everyone:
Mum, prepare your birth team!
One of the first steps in promoting a positive birth experience is deciding how you would like that experience to go. See the birth play out in your mind and imagine each detail as if it were happening now. Are you in a hospital? A Birth Centre? At home? Do you have a doctor or a midwife? Do you have the support of a Doula, a partner, or a family member? How are you breathing throughout your labour? What position are you in?
By taking the time to carefully decide how you would like your birth story to go, it becomes easier for you to communicate your needs and wishes to your birth team. During this time, it is also helpful for you to receive feedback about your choices and develop a better understanding of what is expected during labour.
In my practice, I always begin any treatment plan by asking new mums about their birth plans so that I can best support their unique needs with manual therapy, custom exercise programs, and education.
Understand your options
Much like most things in life, childbirth may not always go exactly as planned. We can have the perfect birth story all mapped out and then baby has other ideas of how he or she would like to join the world. Our best defense against unforeseen circumstances is knowing and understanding all birth options before the due date.
I often encourage mums to participate in prenatal classes, talk to their health care providers, and read about the many options surrounding things like labour induction, birth interventions, medication, vaginal delivery versus C-section, etc. As a mum going through labour, it is important to realize that if asked to make a decision quickly or under pressure, you can easily become overwhelmed or frightened by new territory. So to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding, learn about all of your birthing and labour options beforehand in order to reclaim your power at a time when you will need it most!
Create a soothing environment
Once labour has started, the first step should be to create a calm birthing environment. No matter where you plan to have your baby, you should feel safe and supported in the space you have chosen. You should feel free to relax, let go, and allow your body to work its magic. Having a brightly lit room filled with noisy doctors, nurses, and family may not afford the best opportunities to focus on your body’s natural impulses. So instead, consider the following:
- What does your space look like?
- A somewhat dimly lit room can create warmth and comfort
- What can you hear?
- Would you like to listen to music or enjoy silence?
- What do you smell?
- Aromatherapy and the use of essential oils can promote a sense of calm
- Are you hungry?
- Make sure you have your favourite snacks ready in case you get peckish
- Who is with you?
- The people you choose to have around you should be those who bring you an unwavering sense of calming support, there is no place for bickering during labour
If you should ever choose to change your mind about who or what is present in your birth environment, that is absolutely allowed! This is your birth experience and you are in control!
Move about, try different positions, and use hands-on techniques
During labour, gravity and movement are your friends. Moving around is a great way to help baby descend into an optimal position for delivery. I highly recommend engaging in all kinds of movements such as standing, walking, dancing, lunging, squatting, etc. especially during early labour.
In my practice, I teach new mums a variety of different labour positions that don’t only include laying flat on one’s back. We practice everything from side-lying to standing to squatting and so forth. I also encourage new mums to bring their partners or family members to one of our sessions that I like to call: ‘Mock Labour Day’ so that everyone can practice how to best support mum when the time comes.
Also during ‘Mock Labour Day’, I educate partners and mums about different hands-on techniques that can be used to help ease discomfort. Hip squeezing, for example, can reduce low back pain and decrease the discomfort felt during a contraction.
Breathe, breathe, breathe!
Breath is something that is often fraught with differing opinions. Sometimes women are encouraged to force the breath inwards, while others are encouraged to breathe in a relaxed fashion. I speak more about this in my recent article Breathing During Childbirth.
During periods of pain, we have a tendency to want to hold our breath. Unfortunately, this will only increase tension throughout your body, slow blood flow to tissues that need it, and worsen your overall discomfort during labour. So instead, breathe! Make noise! Moan! Whatever works – breath is your power! Many women have told me that during labour their breath was what made all the difference in controlling pain, tearing, and baby’s descent through the birth canal. Be sure to listen to your body and breathe in a manner that feels right. Your birth team should then support and coach your breathing throughout labour.
Push properly… and keep breathing
Once you are 10 cm dilated and your cervix is fully effaced, you should not push outside of the urge to do so. In other words, don’t push just because someone else tells you to. Pushing should not be an act where you hold your breath, count to 10, and turn purple while trying to force a baby out. This will only cause exhaustion to your body and injury to the tissues of your pelvic floor. Instead, breathe in a way that feels most comfortable for you; and practice opening your pelvis to allow gentle passage through the birth canal.
Another good strategy to prevent exhaustion and injury during the push phase of labour is a technique called ‘labouring down’. Labouring down is a between-stages-of-labour technique that allows your body to work its magic. Essentially, it is a way to help baby move from 0 to +2 station without you having to push. You can simply let your body, baby, and gravity work naturally for you. You can safely labour down for up to 90 minutes and continue to transfer between sitting, standing, and lying positions as you did during early labour.
As mentioned, labouring down is beneficial in preventing maternal and fetal distress and exhaustion by allowing some recovery time after the tiring transition phase whereby the cervix is dilating from 8 to 10 cm. Labouring down can also decrease the amount of time spent pushing, reduce injury to the pelvic floor, help prevent a postpartum pelvic organ prolapse, and limit strain to a rectus diastasis.
Surrender your body
One of the most important things to remember while giving birth is to surrender your body to the process. Be confident in knowing that you have the capacity to do what needs to be done to bring a child into the world. Simply surrender to the experience and be amazed at the capabilities of the human body.
Your birth story is just that… yours. You have the power to choose and do what feels right for you. Your birth team is available to support you and ensure that everything progresses smoothly and safely. You are a mom, which means you are also a superhero! You can do this!
Please note that content on this website is intended for informational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other health care professional. Information provided on this site is neither meant to create or substitute a patient-practitioner relationship; nor diagnose or treat a health problem, symptom or disease. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking professional advice because of something you have read on this website. Always speak with your qualified physician or other health care professional before using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.