Labour’s probably the one thing you’re trying not to think about. But, converting any thoughts or fears in those last weeks into actions will help you feel mentally and physically ready for labour. What’s more, you could end up having a quicker and (whisper it) easier birth. Get your head round these simple tips in the weeks running up to labour to help you give birth with confidence...
The power of breathing
You may wonder what a few inhales and exhales can do in the face of an intense contraction but, in The Journal Of Perinatal Education, it was cited as key to decreasing the body’s stress hormones, making birth shorter. ‘Breathing through labour allows you to relax, which stimulates oxytocin, the hormone that helps to thin and open the cervix and move your baby down faster,’ explains antenatal teacher Philippa Bennett. When you’re taking a deep breath, a contraction will feel much less painful, as you’re less tense.
Research best labour positions
Ask mums who’ve been there. ‘Rather than asking for their birth story, ask specifically about positions that worked best,’ says Philippa, who swears by the mantra UFO – upright, forward and open – for when you’re sitting on a ball or kneeling at a coffee table. Another popular labour position is on your knees, leaning against a bed for support. This means gravity encourages your baby to move down and it also keeps your pelvis open.
Save your energy
Getting enough sleep in the run-up to your labour is important for giving you enough strength and energy to deal with it, yet sleeping with a big bump can sometimes be tricky. ‘In the final weeks of pregnancy, try sprinkling dried lavender under your pillow or add a couple of drops of lavender oil onto a muslin cloth, as it’s a natural relaxant,’ says Philippa.
Rely on your birth partner
Not just there to hold your hand, birth partners can play a significant practical role, too. They can be the one to ask midwives for whatever you need, from a birth ball to a shower. They can also help with breathing, getting you into positions or keeping you fuelled with food and drink.
Go to hospital at the right time
It’s easy to make the mistake of going into hospital too soon. ‘Research has shown that the longer you’re in hospital, the more likely you are to have a longer labour, so stay home as long as you can,’ says midwife Amanda Gwynne. If your contractions are infrequent, mild or less than 30 seconds long, you should stay at home and wait for things to intensify.
Pain relief in labour
You take paracetamol for headaches, so why not in early labour, too? ‘Self-help pain relief is how many women get through labour and it can include anything from a warm bath and changing positions to being distracted by the TV,’ says Philippa. ‘Some women take co-codamol, which
also contains codeine, but always check with your midwife first.’
Fuel up with the right foods
In the days around your due date, the right diet can make all the difference. Starchy carbohydrates, such as pasta, cereals, bananas or sandwiches, are best for energy, as they’re easily digested. But make sure you avoid anything with high sugar, as you need to keep your energy levels even, rather than crashing too early.
Get as much rest as possible
Even if you have to work right up to your baby’s arrival, take as much time as you can to relax in the evenings and at weekends. You may feel that you have lots to do, but taking it easy needs to come top of that list.