Especially for first-time mums, childbirth can seem like a daunting event. Uncertainty breeds fear and anxiety, and while these emotions are understandable, they are not ideal for labour. When your body is distressed in any way, it releases stress hormones that can impede the production of oxytocin, a hormone that plays an important role during labour. Fear and anxiety also makes the labour process more painful and stressful.
There are many childbirth classes out there that can educate you on the stages of childbirth, what to expect, and what you can do to make it easier. By being mentally prepared, you can make the delivery process less stressful for yourself. Childbirth classes also teach you comfort measures such as breathing techniques that can help to make delivery less painful and easier.
2. Stay active and fit
Exercising during pregnancy is extremely beneficial for both you and your baby’s health. Regular exercise helps you to improve cardiovascular health, tone your muscles, increase flexibility and help your body to become stronger. Your body is better able to withstand the added stress that pregnancy puts on your joints and muscles.
A study in 1990 found that pregnant women who regularly performed aerobic exercises throughout their pregnancy had shorter active labor time. Fetal stress (measured by fetal heart pattern, Apgar score and meconium) was also less frequent among those who exercised regularly.
Taking regular walks during pregnancy can also be beneficial for labor. Walking has been known to be a natural method of inducing labour. When you walk, the weight of your baby puts pressure on the cervix and encourages dilation. Walking also moves the baby further down the pelvis and prepares him/her to move through the birth canal during delivery.
Squats are also a great exercise to help prepare for labour. According to the American Pregnancy Association, squatting during labour can help to open up your pelvic outlet by 10%. However, it is worth noting that you should avoid squatting if your baby is in breech position as you could move the little one further down the birth canal in a non-ideal delivery position.
3. Distract yourself
Labour can last up to 14 hours, that’s a long time! It can feel excruciatingly long, but you can make it less so by distracting yourself and doing other things while waiting for your cervix to dilate. Read a book, watch TV or take a walk. By focusing on other things rather than the pain, labour becomes more bearable.
4. Don’t lie down!
Unlike what we often see in movies, TV shows or dramas, lying down is perhaps one of the worst positions to be in during labour. When you sit or stand upright, gravity works to your advantage. The baby’s head exerts pressure on the cervix, causing it to dilate. By moving around, you also push your baby deeper down the birth canal, allowing delivery to be smoother and faster.
5. Pregnancy Yoga
Pregnancy yoga classes teaches you different breathing techniques that can help you to relax more in difficult situations such as active labour. By learning how to breathe correctly, you are better able to tolerate pain and to manage your stress and anxiety.
Pregnancy yoga also helps to increase flexibility and strength in your lower back, your shoulders and your hip. These areas play an especially important role during labour and learning how to make use of them and to release tension in them will help to make your labor process easier.
Massage may help to ease the pain and reduce anxiety during labour. You can ask your partner to massage your shoulders or your lower back slowly and gently. Massage can help you to feel more relaxed and less tense during labour. Physical touch can also give you a greater sense of support and love from your partner, which can help you to push through this difficult time.
7. Have a light snack
Labour will be time-consuming and physically draining, so be sure to keep your energy levels up by having a light snack during the early stages of labour. You can eat foods like fruits, soups, sandwiches and eggs. Avoid fried, fatty, hard-to-digest foods as they can make you feel nauseated and cause vomiting during the later active stages of labour.
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