We all worry about how we are going to cope with labour and it is daunting the first time around. Of course each labour is different so there is always some apprehension, even for mums heading into their second or subsequent labour. If you feel prepared and understand labour, it somehow helps you and your partner to cope more effectively. Here are my top tips for coping in labour once you get their!
1. Keep upright
While in labour, staying upright for as long as possible will help you to progress. By this I mean walking around, sitting on the birthing ball, kneeling on all fours on the floor or bed, standing out of bed, leaning on the bed, leaning on the wall ... many options and your body will tell you what is best. You will feel the urge to change positions according to how you feel and what stage in the labour you are at! Feel free to lie into the bed for a rest too if you feel you need to. Sitting in the bath or standing in the shower can have a wonderfully relaxing effect, which will allow your labour to progress with ease. As labour progresses to the second stage (pushing stage), again positions and needs change! Go with what is best for you but kneeling on all fours, standing out or kneeling up on the bed holding the backrest are optimum positions for enlarging your pelvis for delivery. If you choose to avail of epidural pain relief you will be confined to bed and side to side positioning is best.
2. Drink plenty
It is so important to drink during labour to prevent dehydration. Dehydration can slow down your labour and cause your baby distress. In early labour it is absolutely fine to eat if you feel like it! Light meals and high carb snacks are best. As labour progresses, you probably won't feel like eating, but continue to drink water or isotonic drinks or juices and the like. When in established active labour, take a sip of water after every contraction, your mouth will feel dry anyway after breathing through the contraction. Make a plan with your birth partner to hand you the water every time and have a bottle in the labour bag for ease of use, especially if you are in a kneeling position.
3. Breath rhythmically
A rhythmical breathing technique is a very effective tool for coping with labour! Learning and practicing the technique in pregnancy is very important. Using slow deep breaths in the early stages of your labour is helpful. As Labour progresses, alter your breathing to start slow but become quicker as the contraction intensifies. Avoid holding your breath or forgetting to breathe. Practice abdominal breathing to become in tune with your breathing capabilities. Combine breathing with mantra or visualisation for best effect during labour.
As you enter into the second (pushing) stage of labour, a good breathing/ pushing/ panting technique is very useful at this stage. Listen to your midwife and let her guide you through the transition of labour and the delivery of your baby.
Most importantly keep your body relaxed. Shoulders down, palms open!! Avoid clenching your fists and your jaws!! Relaxation techniques such as; breathing, meditation, affirmations, visualisation, hypnosis are powerful coping mechanisms for labour. Learn a technique in pregnancy and you will have it for a lifetime. In very early labour distraction is best, try to stay relaxed, but it is good to get on with daily routine if you can! As you progress in labour, you will need to become more focused on your relaxation techniques. Meditation is a great way to tune out of everything going on around you, just focusing on your breathing, and repeating a positive mantra can get you through each contraction. Try downloading a meditation app on your phone now and with a little practice you will feel the benefits, even during your pregnancy.
Keep the lines of communication open at all times during your labour. Make a birth plan with your partner and have a mutual understanding on what your hopes are. Sometimes labour can be unpredictable so it is important to talk to your midwife and doctor! Never be afraid to ask questions at any time. If you are informed you will feel in control of the situation and you will be able to cope with deviations from your birth plan. If things are not going to plan, make sure you understand what is happening and then you can redirect your energy to deal with the situation at hand.
6. Stay Positive
Ok, so you have all the up to date information and a birth plan. But the 'what if's' cause you to be worried or to doubt yourself. Don't doubt yourself. Keep positive. Use positive affirmations to help with this. Write some down and put them in your bag or pop them around the house to look at, when fear or doubt creep in. Visualise the positive outcome; your beautiful baby in your arms but also visualise the process; you coping well and your labour progressing smoothly. Repeat your positive mantra such as “I can do this” or whatever line you choose.
Breathe, Relax, You can do it!!