Submitted by BirthTUBE Verified Doula, T'Arah Julieta Craig, Mother Bear Doula Services: T'Arah is a Birth Doula and mama of a sweet baby love in Denton, North Texas. She has been involved in the birth world her whole life and believes in helping life givers to feel empowered during their birth experiences.
As a birth doula, many of my clients hire me because they want to know exactly what to do during labor and birth to make it the best experience possible. The main interview question I get from prospective clients is:
“How can we make my birth faster, easier, and gentler?”
I love this question because it means that these powerful birth beings are already envisioning how they want their birth to be, whether it is their first, second, or seventh time around that block, literally and figuratively (Neverending curb walks, anyone?)
My answer to these clients is always:
“What we can do before labor can drastically change how it goes during labor.”
Here is my go-to list for an Easier, Gentler, and Faster* Birth:
* Before we begin I have to note that I cringe whenever I hear the phrase: ‘Faster Birth’. Although the idea of birth finishing faster and meeting your baby sooner is very appealing, it is not always the most pleasant experience to have a baby ‘fast’. I prefer the term: ‘Progressive Birth’ meaning without unnecessary stalling. This is totally achievable and a lot more comfortable than a precipitous birth.
10 Steps to an Easier, Gentler, and Faster Birth!
Now on to the list! :
1. Drink Water
I know that you hear this all of the time but drinking water (about 10 cups a day) is sooooo important during pregnancy and labor (especially for those summer pregnancies). Staying hydrated is good for your skin, getting oxygenated blood pumping through your veins, and keeping your amniotic fluids high (low fluid is a common reason for inductions and drinking water can significantly change the amount). Keep a 30oz (or higher) reusable bottle with you and Sip, Refill, Repeat all day long.
2. Eat Like A Baby
There are many resources out there for the proper pregnancy diet. But if you are like me and have the attention span of a cocker spaniel then this is a great phrase to keep in mind: Eat Like A Baby. Babies eat when they are hungry, usually, every 2-3hrs, and the food they intake is as close to the source as possible: Fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, healthy fats, and protein (animal product or otherwise). A healthier diet leads to healthier weight gain during pregnancy, which keeps you at a lower risk for maternal health concerns down the road, giving you more options for birthing your baby safely and comfortably.
Sleep is so important for regulating your hormones and mood during pregnancy. Resting when you feel tired and getting as close to a good night’s sleep as you can is imperative for your overall body function, especially now that you are functioning for two. When you get good at sleeping early on in your pregnancy, it sets a pattern for your last trimester and labor when sleeping can be a little more challenging. But it is so helpful for boosting that oxytocin flow and keeping it consistent during labor. Many people go into labor at night. Some studies believe that is due to the release of dopamine, melatonin, cortisol-releasing hormone (CRH) and oxytocin. These hormones are important for relaxing your body, making you feel good, and helping you to calm any rising stress levels. All of which are important things for kick-starting a peaceful and easy labor.
A normal, low-risk pregnancy is not a reason to stop exercising. Studies show that labor is the metabolic equivalent of running a 9-mile marathon. That means training! As long as you are comfortable and you have your healthcare provider’s approval, getting your fitness on can benefit your pregnancy and birth in a big way: Lowering blood pressure, regulating those pregnancy migraines, strengthening your body, and reducing the strain your growing body is causing your ligaments. Joining a pregnancy fitness class can be a great way to stay in shape and meet other pregnant people as well.
Spinning Babies, Massage, Chiropractic, and Acupuncture are all great examples of bodywork during pregnancy that can impact the progression of labor. All of these techniques provide support to the pregnant body by loosening the ligaments and muscles of the pelvis, regulating hormone function, and providing physical relief for the body during pregnancy and labor. When we think about pregnancy, there can be a beautiful visual of a baby floating in utero, a free-swimming little human in a big ball of fluid. In reality, our uterus is an expanding muscle surrounded by many bones, muscles, ligaments, and myofascial of the pelvic region. Years of sitting and moving a certain way can create a muscular pattern and shape that affects baby’s positioning and pathway of descent out into the world. I always provide Spinning Babies movement exercises for my clients before and during labor to give their bodies the opportunity for the most progressive and comfortable labor.
6. Create a Birth Plan for ALL Scenarios
Compiling a list of your “Perfect Birth” wishes is a great tool in preparation for labor. Having a list for ALL scenarios is an even better tool. It encourages you to think about how you would want to respond to emergent events and/or a change of plans. Of course, the goal is to have the perfect birth and have all of your wishes met, but sometimes labor and birth can go off the path and having a game plan thought out in that event makes it a lot easier to act quickly and leave you with a positive experience of your birth. What would your preferences be in the case of pain medications, a hospital transfer, induction, and cesarean? Sharing these wishes with your provider, partner, and a birth team can create an even closer community for your birth and leave you with a lower stress level knowing that everyone is on the same page and your wishes are being respected.
7. Choose the Right Provider for YOU
Finding a provider that meets your needs can make or break your birth experience. Interviewing an Obstetrician (OB/GYN), Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), or Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) at the beginning of your pregnancy is your right and can help you find the best provider for you. Asking as many questions as possible beforehand can give you a good understanding of how your provider practices. I encourage taking a copy of your birth wishes to your provider (even after you have found the perfect person) during a prenatal visit and have them review your wishes, discuss any changes, and sign the bottom of your birth plan acknowledging that they approve and respect your wishes. This is a great way to figure out where your provider stands on your choices, and in the case of group care (most common with OBs and CNMs), you have a signature from your OB with approval for your preferences just in case you are in someone else’s care on the big day. Remember: Your provider works for YOU, not the other way around. If ever you don't feel that way, know that you have the option to switch at ANY TIME (Yes, even at 38 weeks. Yes, even walking into your scheduled induction). It is much easier to find another provider than it is to try to deliver a baby in an environment where you don't feel safe and supported.
8. The Acceptance of Being Expectant (AKA Don’t Get Attached to a Timeline)
Getting down to the last weeks of pregnancy can be stressful, but an Estimated Due Date is just that: an estimate. Many first time birthing people naturally go to 41 weeks and 2 days before their babe decides to make their way earthside. If you are like me then 42+ weeks is your timeline, and that is OK, too! Different bodies and babies have their own gestation time and they don’t know how to tell time or read a textbook saying otherwise. Getting antsy near the end is a normal part of pregnancy, and it is hard not to be when you get a phone call from every family member and their mother asking when the baby is going to arrive. Taking those last few weeks to practice being ‘expectant’ can provide a lot of relief to your body. Just because a baby hasn’t arrived yet doesn’t mean that your body is not working the right way. Your hormones are flowing, a baby is growing, and body is loosening up to prepare for the little being(s) on their way. Give yourself the time you are owed.
9. Practice Labor with Your Partner
While you are waiting for that sweet babe to arrive, this is a great time to practice labor and be intimate with your partner. Intimacy doesn’t always mean sex (although, if it does for you, then Get. It. On.), it is ultimately about creating a loving connection with your support person. Practicing labor is an awesome way to create that connection and discover what works for you when the eventual labor begins. Draw a bath, light some candles, play music, slow dance together, and let your partner give you a message. These are all things that will release that oxytocin during labor and make you feel good before it even begins. Allowing your partner to communicate with you and your baby can enhance that bond, help you feel a strong connection to your support person and family unit, and allow your partner to really find their role in this birth. I also want to add that if your support person is not your significant other or romantic partner, you can still utilize this prep time. Having a parent, sibling, best friend, or doula practice massage and care for you creates an even deeper bond of love and community in the path towards your new family member.
10. Hire A Doula
Last but definitely not least: Hire a Doula!! Doulas are a great addition to your birth team. They provide emotional support, comfort measures, knowledge, and at times can be that drill sergeant or advocate that you need during your birth. They are different from your partner (or family member) because they can be unbiased and non-judgmental when it comes to respecting your choices. A Doula's main focus is on the positive emotional outcome for the birthing person and providing full, undivided support during labor. They promote communication between client and provider and are, in my opinion, the glue that brings the birth team together in a cohesive and loving unit around the birthing family.
Submitted by Doula, T'Arah Julieta Craig, Mother Bear Doula Services:
1 - American Pregnancy Association - http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/dehydration-pregnancy/
2 - Mama Natural - https://www.mamanatural.com/pregnancy-diet/
3 - Sleep Foundation - http://sleepdisorders.sleepfoundation.org/chapter-1-normal-sleep/the-physiology-of-sleep-the-endocrine-system-sleep/
4 - Psychology Today - https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201308/poor-sleep-in-pregnancy-can-lead-complications-birth
5 - American Pregnancy Association - http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/exercise-during-pregnancy/
6 - Spinning Babies - https://spinningbabies.com/
Photography Credit: David Cline
*The medical and industry opinions expressed within guest blog posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of BirthTUBE. The accuracy and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. BirthTUBE is not liable for any errors or representations.