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Giving birth

10 ways to make your labour and delivery easier (yes, it's possible)

We won't lie: Giving birth hurts—a lot. But there are some things you can do before the contractions start to make your labour and delivery go a bit smoother.

10 ways to make your labour and delivery easier (yes, it's possible)

Photo: Stocksy

When Whitney Hilts was pregnant with her first child four years ago, she armed herself with information, anything that might make her labour and delivery as easy as possible. “I took a prenatal class and attempted—and failed—at daily Kegel exercises,” she says. With her second, born in August 2016, she had a different plan. There were a few things she did the same (cord blood banking and bringing just one bag to the hospital when it was go-time), as well as a few new strategies she wished she’d thought of with baby No.1.

“The second time, I brought a sports bra to wear while labouring so that I wasn’t just in that flimsy hospital gown, popping out all over the place,” Hilts says. “I had hoped to have the exact same family members in the delivery room with me—they really helped create a very calming experience—but none of them made it because it was such a quick delivery.” 

There are plenty of ways to ensure you have an easier labour and delivery, and almost all of them start before your contractions do. Here are six things you can do now for a better delivery on labour day.

01Find the right caregiver

If you’re not jiving with your doctor or midwife, now’s the time to find another healthcare provider, one you have a better rapport with. “Find a caregiver you trust and connect with,” says Michele Buchmann, a registered midwife in Brentwood Bay, BC. “One of the most important preparations for childbirth is to limit fear and anxiety around the birthing process. Trusted caregivers, who are well informed and flexible, will help.” You’ll want to choose someone you can be open with—and someone who’s a good communicator from day one. “The first time you have a good chat about the choices and options you have shouldn’t be during childbirth,” says Jessica Austin, a doula in Vancouver. “By having good talks prenatally, you get used to the way your attendants respond and communicate, so it won’t surprise you later on.” Your doctor or midwife should support your choices and birth philosophy, Austin adds. Hilts says her OB/GYN fit beautifully with her personality: “She was very laid-back and didn’t push anything on us.”

a Young pregnant woman is supported by her Doula before a caesarean section. Petri Oeschger / Getty Images

02Eat well

“Nutrition is one of the best ways a woman can set herself up for a smooth and healthy birth,” says Austin. “Eating ample protein, leafy-green veggies and reducing sugar can go a long way for minimizing risks of pregnancy-related conditions and maximizing health.” In a study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, researchers found that women who ate six dates a day during their final four weeks of pregnancy were more dilated when they got to the hospital, were less likely to need oxytocin (Pitocin) or prostin to start and progress labour, and had shorter labours overall. (Hey, it can’t hurt to try—dates have a ton of vitamins and minerals, plus they keep you regular, which can be handy if you suffer from constipation during pregnancy.)

Pregnant Woman Cooking In The Kitchen Fly View Productions / Getty Images

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03Keep fit

Staying active during pregnancy can help you catch your ZZZs, prevent you from packing on too many pounds, increase your stamina and boost your mood. For folks who weren’t big on fitness prior to getting pregnant, most healthcare providers will still give moderate activity (walking, swimming or yoga) most days of the week the go-ahead. “Prenatal yoga is great for minimizing tension in the pelvis and lower back, and is a chance to practice using the mind and breath to stay comfortable during birth,” Austin says.

Black pregnant woman Marc Roura / Getty Images

04Consider a birth plan

A birth plan can really help you feel better prepared for the big day. Do you want your partner to cut the cord? Are you going to try going without an epidural? It’s a chance for you to let your care provider know where your head is at. “Having this clarity can help make any decisions that need to be made during your birth feel less overwhelming,” says Austin. When families bring in birth plans, it’s often an exercise in reducing anxiety, adds Buchmann. “Sometimes it illuminates issues that haven’t yet been discussed.” If you’re not into the idea, though, skip it. “Our doctor told us to avoid making one because things never happen according to plan,” Hilts says. “I’m the type of person who, if I made a plan and didn’t stick with it, it would just cause me more anxiety in the long run.”

Pregnant woman preparing bag for the hospital for childbirth ArtMarie / Getty Images

05Take prenatal classes

Enrol now—prenatal classes are still the gold standard when it comes to getting educated and informed on labour and delivery, which can make the whole process a much better experience. It can also give you the opportunity to meet other families who are at the same stage you are. “I like the fact that during these classes, questions often come up that my families may not have thought of,” Buchmann says.

Beautiful mature doula with grey hair examines a pregnant woman MarsBars / Getty Images

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06Stay mobile

Whether you’re doing a home birth or you’re waiting in the delivery room at the hospital, don’t think you have to lie down the entire time. “Just because the bed is in the centre of the room doesn’t mean that’s the best or only place to spend your entire birth,” says Austin, who adds that you should try to keep moving. “Staying out of bed and using the shower, bath or birth ball for comfort can really be helpful.” But don’t resist the bed: Austin also notes that restful positions, like lying on your side, can be very helpful, as can massage and other hands-on comfort techniques.  

07Preparing for a smooth labour with massage

Massage can be a powerful tool during labour and delivery. Manipulating the soft tissues with different types of movement and pressure can relieve muscle aches, improve circulation, reduce swelling, relax muscles, improve flexibility and ease nausea.

It's thought to achieve this through two key mechanisms. The first, the gate control theory of pain, suggests that non-painful sensory input closes the nerve channels to the painful sensations experienced during labour and reduces how much pain the brain perceives. The second mechanism, diffuse noxious inhibitory control, pertains to the idea that intense massage that causes pain itself can trigger the brain to release endorphins, our natural pain relievers, which continue to ease pain during labour.

pregnant woman getting massage nensuria / Getty Images

Visualization for overcoming pain and anxiety

One effective strategy for managing pain and anxiety during labour exists entirely in your mind, and it's called visualization. Visualization involves imagining yourself in a tranquil setting. Walking down the beach at sunset or sitting in a garden on a sunny afternoon are common scenarios that can be calming, but research suggests it may be more effective to relive a personal experience. This technique promotes relaxation and can help reduce pain.

Expecting mothers can also use visualization to see what's happening inside their bodies and envision an uncomplicated birth. While the event might not happen just as you see it, doing this can help you gain a deeper understanding of the process and ease your anxiety in the process.

Pregnant woman enjoying a cup of coffee while sitting by the window with lush gPregnant woman enjoying a cup of coffee while sitting by the window with lush green garden viewreen garden view Oscar Wong / Getty Images

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To enhance comfort and coping: Breathe!

It sounds too simple, but conscious breathing can be a game-changer during labour and delivery. In practice, it's not as easy to keep doing as it sounds, but through intentional and controlled breathing, you can actively manage pain and enhance your overall sense of relaxation. Deep, rhythmic breaths provide a focal point during contractions, allowing you to remain centred and composed. This technique promotes the proper use of oxygen, reducing muscle tension and creating a state of calm.

During the pushing stage, deliberate exhales aid in conserving energy and directing efforts effectively. By prioritizing mindful breathing throughout each stage of labour, you can use its power to stay present, maintain composure and feel confident in your role.

Pregnant woman in delivery room tatyana_tomsickova / Getty Images

Exploring medication options

When it comes to this important but stressful journey, medication can support and provide pain relief. If you're leaning toward pharmaceutical assistance, do a bit of digging into the available options. Medications that can ease labour and delivery include:

  • Epidurals
  • Laughing gas
  • IV medications
  • Local anesthetics
  • Spinal blocks
  • Opioids

These options can help manage discomfort and provide an easier birthing experience. It's important to discuss medication choices with healthcare providers to understand the potential benefits, risks and side effects associated with each option. Educate yourself early on so you can make informed decisions that align with your values and birth preferences.

Read more: 8 epidural myths that way too many women believe 5 strategies for dealing with a long labour

Pregnant asian female patient laying in bed preparing for childbirth with the help of laughing gas Koh Sze Kiat / Getty Images
This article was originally published on Aug 25, 2017

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