Ease your path to childbirth with as much knowledge as possible...
The words "easy
labour" may not look comfortable next to each other, but there are steps
you can take, both throughout pregnancy and during labour, to make your
delivery experience less stressful and more comfortable, less clinical and more
These tips won't guarantee
a sweat-free, pang free birth, but they can help make your labour more
Start preparing now
Once you're in the grip of labour, it's too late to crack open that
self-hypnosis book or locate a birthing ball. Preparation counts.
Case in point: squatting
increases the size of the pelvic opening by about 28%. But if you wait until
you’re in labour to try it for the first time, your squatting stamina won't add
up to... well, squat.
Seek higher education
Enrol as early as possible to a birthing class: not only do classes fill up
fast, but some run longer than others, which means you need to start in your
Read credible books and
articles on birthing. Learn about the different stages of labour so you know
what to expect. Ask tough questions – and remember there are no stupid ones.
Find out your doctor's
philosophy on epidurals versus holistic ways of managing pain, as well as on
Caesarean sections. Ask whether you can labour in a T-shirt instead of a
hospital gown – many women find a comfortable top makes them feel less like a
The better prepared you
are for childbirth, the more choices you have during labour. You don't want to
arrive at the hospital without any idea of what's going to happen. Once labour
starts, no surprise is a good surprise.
Take a yoga class
The most important thing women learn in yoga is how to focus. Yoga strengthens
the body, increases flexibility and boosts stamina – but more crucially, it
helps your mind relax. This leaves your body free to go about the business of
Hire a certified doula
Doulas are non-medical professionals who are trained to provide emotional and
physical support, as well as information, to women during pregnancy and labour.
Studies show their effectiveness.
"Women who work with
doulas generally have shorter, easier labours, ask for less pain medication,
feel greater satisfaction with their birth experiences and are more satisfied
with their partners' participation," says Tracy Hartley, a certified
doula. Go to www.homebirth.co.za to find a certified
doula in your area.
Give yourself options
Learn several techniques to manage pain, such as self-hypnosis, position
changes, breathing methods and heat packs.
Bring choices of music to
play for relaxation and ask friends, your childbirth instructor or a doula to
act as a "lifeline" if you need someone to lean on, physically and
Remember: if you don't
know what your options are, you don't have any.
See no evil
Learning to tune out negative thoughts and images of birth may not seem like a
critical aspect of preparation, but it can be.
Some childbirth educators
believe graphic images, catastrophic tales and words of discouragement
("You'll never be able to get that monster out without a C-section!")
can affect your subconscious and create a mental block during labour. Seems far
Ask yourself this: when
you're down to the last few pushes, do you really want that episiotomy video
you saw in childbirth class flashing before your eyes? At best, negative
thoughts make labour more tense; at worst, they'll actually intensify pain.
Change the channel, cover
your eyes or walk away when the subject matter makes you uncomfortable. Bonus:
doing this now will train you to ignore all that unwanted advice after the baby
Upright positions – and those include standing, walking, slow dancing, sitting
and squatting – allow gravity to help move the baby down and out.
Rocking back and forth on
your hands and knees may get the baby into position.
Set the mood
For most women, a dark, quiet environment is ideal during labour, so ask your
nurse or partner to dim the lights and minimise noise.
Little touches make a
difference: bring pillows from home, a comfortable pair of socks or soothing
scents. Aromatherapy, especially the scent of lavender, is very calming in
labour – and it makes a hospital seem a little less clinical.
Early in labour, a warm bath is a blessing. Later, the sustained warmth and
weightlessness of water can feel more like a miracle.
If you have access to a
warm tub during labour, take the plunge. (Be sure to get your doctor or
midwife's green light before doing so.) If a soak isn't possible, take a hot
Stand your ground
Labour transforms you, but it won't make you suddenly love New Age music or the
sight of your in-laws. People will press all kinds of suggestions on you during
labour: don't feel you have to go along with them.
Be open-minded, but always
honour yourself. Although you don't know how labour will go, you do know your
preferences, hopes and principles. It's your body, baby and labour, so stick to
Tips for dads-to-be
A man's touch can help relieve a mom's pain and anxiety during labour.
- Lend two helping hands:
Learn a few basic massage techniques (before your partner goes into
- Pack some props:
To combat finger fatigue from giving massages throughout labour, tuck a few
tennis balls in a sock and roll them up and down her back.
- Master the three-finger
Offering a labouring woman two or three fingers instead of your whole hand
may save you from a finger fracture. Sounds weird, but try it – it makes a
difference. Especially at the peak of a contraction.
With a trained doula's support, forceps use dropped by 40%, epidural use by
60%, C-sections by 50%, oxytocin use for induction by 40% and average labour
length by 25%.