You might think that how easy or how long your labour is will be determined by factors outside of your control – the size of the baby or whether it’s your first or second child, for instance. Of course there are lots of variables, but there’s also a lot you can do to prepare yourself mentally and physically and have the most comfortable experience possible while giving birth.
Here are some of the best techniques to ease the birthing experience:-
The soothing power of water
The benefits of a water birth are well known, but there are some more surprising benefits too. Acting as as a form of pain relief, the water provides warmth that helps with the body’s release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain reliever. The water also helps to support your weight and is particularly soothing if you’re getting back pain. Being able to move about more freely during the birth is also a plus.
Some mums choose just to spend part of their labour in water and get out to give birth but, if mums decide to stay in, water births are also thought to reduce the risk of perineal tearing as blood flow is increased to this area. Those who spend the duration in the birthing pool will also find that baby arrives in a more relaxed state, as they’re born into a similar environment to the womb. Once the baby is born they are usually brought to the surface slowly and the exposure to air then triggers the breathing reflex. Generally, water birth babies cry and move much less vigorously than those born in ‘air’.
You can still use gas and air in the pool and can combine it with other techniques such as hypnobirthing. TENS machines obviously can’t be used due to the electrical current and drugs like epidurals are out as they prevent mobility. So all in all it’s a more natural way to give birth.
Mind over matter
Another tried and tested method for avoiding excess pain during labour is hypnobirthing, a form of self-hypnosis during childbirth. Hypnobirthing classes teach you to focus attention inwards through deep relaxation, breathing, visualisation and fear release techniques.
Particularly useful if you are anxious about giving birth or if you’ve had a previously difficult experience, hypnobirthing aims to empower expectant mums to take control of their feelings and bodies, and maintain control through a state of deep relaxation. The use of breathing techniques will help you to stay calm and in control of the contractions. It is in this relaxed state that the body produces more endorphins, the body’s natural tranquiliser.
With hypnobirthing there’s an emphasis on the active role of the birthing partner too. It enables you to prepare for the birthing experience together with your loved one and it has the added benefit of helping you to form a closer bond with your baby too.
All about the position
To help things along a little if you’re having a slow labour you can do some simple exercises on a birthing ball – rocking your body from side to side, bouncing gently or swaying around in circles to spread the pelvis. This can avoid the need for labour inducing drugs, which lead to stronger contractions that are much harder to manage. And what’s also good about a birthing ball is that they are pretty inexpensive and you can use them after the baby’s born to start getting back into shape.
Even without a birthing ball, you can help nature along by moving into different positions or walking around for a while, particularly up and down stairs two steps at a time. Squatting, kneeling on all fours can also all help move the baby into a good position for birth and potentially reduce labour time.