Pregnancy & Birth
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Focus on birthing. Focus on your body. Focus on your breathing.
Let go of television scenes of women panting desperately and going "hee, hee, hee." During the birthing you want controlled, relaxed breathing.
Let yourself to move when you want and need to. Keep your body relaxed around your baby and birth canal. Breathe normally, gently. These skills will come easily to you in labor if you have conditioned your body during pregnancy.
Your birth skills paired with common-sense, practical comfort measures during labor, will give you confidence and help you stay in control during labor. Check out the pain relief tips and links to get more info on birth skills below:
If you feel the need to make noise during labor, that's OKAY. Women often find that making noise helps them cope. Let out deep, low moans.
High-pitched noises during labor can be counter-productive. You really want to focus on working with your body and opening to prepare for birthing your baby. A low moan with your mouth open releases tension and stress.
Respected midwife Ina May Gaskin ties this into her "sphincter law": If your jaw and mouth are slack so is your bottom (and that's your baby's door to your arms)!
Try it and see. Let your mouth hang open and relax your throat. Feel that your bottom is also relaxed. Tighten up your mouth and throat - your bottom gets tense. You want a relaxed bottom for natural birthing - learn more in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth (read my review).
Letting out low moans lets your jaw (and thus your bottom) open wide.
These moans also help you rise up and over the waves of your contractions. And as each rush passes remember it will never return - and you're one step closer to your baby.
Visualize your body opening up, your baby moving down, or other pictures that help you relax and open:
This is really helpful in the first stage of labor.
Be sure to drink and go to the bathroom often. Your labor attendants should remind you to do this. This will keep you changing positions periodically and give you a chance to labor on the toilet if that works for you.
Eat if you feel the need to eat. If you're in a hospital that limits eating, try and drink nourishing beverages. Some mothers have had snacks snuck in for them. It's especially vital that you be getting some nourishment if your baby's birthing is long.
Your partner hold can you, you can sit in his (or her) lap, dance with them, or simply have them near you during your birthing.
Your partner is there to assist you. Ask for what you need from them during labor. Don't snap - be grateful and love them for what they are doing for you. But don't be afraid to ask for what you need - use your Pink Kit terms and he'll know exactly what you need and the best way to give it to you.
You may want somebody to rub a cool washcloth across your forehead. Or they can hold your drink as you sip through the straw (always have a straw for labor!)
A partner can prepare essential oils for aromatherapy. Many mothers like lavender and find it relaxing during labor. Peppermint scents can be rejuvenating. A gentle massage with essential oil diluted in a carrier oil is especially nice if you're having back labor.
If your baby is posterior during labor you might experience back labor. Women having back labor often find it hard to concentrate and sink into the rhythm of natural birthing.
Your partner, doula, or another labor attendant can offer counter-pressure to relieve your backache.
Tell your attendant where the pain is at. This is precisely where they will need to provide the pressure. Have them use the heel of their hand (a tennis ball also works well) to provide a deep massage. Slow, circular rubbing is best.
You'll have them keep their hand on your back because it can be distracting for a contraction to start and then have an attendant jump in. You may want to practice before the time for your natural birthing arrives. Remind them to rub with the skin, not over the skin.
Your attendant may be rubbing your back for a long time, so let them know to be prepared! It can help you immensely to have a devoted attendant during back labor. Read Carly's birth story for an account of a back rub with essential oils to help a back labor.
Sometimes position changes help back labor. Dancing and swaying your hips can also help.
If your baby feels "stuck" you can and should use one or more of the birth skill techniques from the Pink Kit - these techniques can literally get a stalled labor moving again. Click here to find out how they can help your birthing go more smoothly.
Rhythmic movement can help you relax during labor - slow dancing, belly dancing, or simply swaying back and forth.
Choose music beforehand. If you've been doing prenatal yoga to music, that music will help you relax during labor. Some women choose music that is significant to them and their partner. Music is especially wonderful at muting the sounds of a busy hospital.
You may prefer sitting during labor. You can sit and rock back and forth if you still crave movement.
Try sitting on the toilet during labor, rocking back and forth. There's good reason to like the toilet - you find it easy to relax on the toilet because you relax there every day.
Birth balls give excellent support to your pregnant body and allow you to move relatively freely while sitting on them. You can also drape across them while you're on your knees or squatting.
Try walking around between contractions. When a contraction comes brace yourself on something like a low table or counter top.
You can grab onto somebody and hold them. Putting your arms around someone's neck and letting them support your weight can really help. Some women like to walk outside and find that trees are always willing supports during contractions ;)
A favorite method of pain relief during birthing is water. Laboring in the water is becoming more popular - for good reasons. Water has the ability to relax and relieve pain. For many women getting in the water provides instantaneous relief.
Getting in a tub full of warm water helps you relax and allows you to work with your contractions. The water supports the weight of your body for you. The heat helps relax your muscles.
You can use some positions more easily - such as a squat. The soft bottom of a birthing tub may be easier to kneel on and you can support yourself of the side of the tub for a hands and knees position.
If you rent a commercial birthing tub your partner can probably get into the water with you!
Even if you don't have access to a tub a shower can be wonderful during labor. Allowing the water to wash gently over you can be relaxing and comforting. It also gets you standing up - which can help you open and your baby descend.
If you have a removable shower head you may find you like having the water directed over your belly, or if you're having back labor, over the small of your back.
Read more about water birth.
As your labor progresses and you enter transition labor gets very intense. You can do it!.
Don't try to escape. Thrashing around wildly and trying to get away from the contractions does not help your labor! But when they are coming fast and hard you might need help to remember to breathe and go with the flow.
Stare deeply into a labor companion's eyes and let them ground you through your rushes. You may grasp your partner's hands or feel his strong body holding you. If you and your coach have practiced birth skills throughout your pregnancy you'll be able to work together and get through your labor.
Feel the love of those around you. It helps.
Swaying and rocking are especially helpful as you move through transition. You may want to rock back and forth on all fours. A birth ball is especially handy.
Talk to your baby and encourage him or her to come out.
At this point you may feel like you cannot go on. You can - you are doing it. Ask your labor support to be ready to tell you that you're doing it.
Nausea or vomiting is a normal sign of transition. Throw up if you need to. It may be just what you need to open the rest of the way for your baby. It's not pleasant (I've been there!) but you generally feel better almost instantly.
Go with your body. Move, moan. Allow yourself to move into birthing. Be grateful for your support and feel the love surrounding you. Labor is a powerful force. Your natural childbirth will be a wonderful, wonderful experience for you, but labor may be hard. Prepare yourself for it. Trust your body.
Forget the movies and TV shows you've seen with women pushing in stirrups with veins bulging and nurses screeching "1, 2, 3, 4..." Forget you've seen that on reality baby shows such as "A Baby Story." Erase that from your mind.
Your body knows just how to push your baby out. And it's most likely going to do that all on its own without any directions from anybody.
When you dilate fully and your body is ready, your contractions will change. You'll start to feel an involuntary urge to push. It is a remarkable feeling.
Some women love to push. It gives them great relief to be actively birthing their babies after the hard work of dilation. Other women find that the amazing strength of pushing is overwhelming.
An attendant can support your perineum with warm compresses and allow your baby to be birthed gently.
If you feel overwhelmed an attendant who will look in your eyes and help you through each pushing contraction is great. They may breathe with you. This can be quite helpful when you're pushing because your "brains have gone to your bottom" as Ina May Gaskin says. I really liked this kind of guidance during my slabors. Practicing Pink Kit skills with your partner during pregnancy will give you both the knowledge to communicate effectively during labor - so you get the help you need right then.
You'll normally get a minute or two between each pushing contraction. Your baby takes "two steps forward and one step back." This may seem discouraging, but your baby is being born -- gently. The more time your tissues have to stretch, the better.
If you're having a waterbirth, the water will help to support your perineum and let your tissues stretch around your baby's head.
Push how you want to. Lying flat on your back with your legs in stirrups is almost the worst position for birthing. Stand up if you feel like it - it can help your baby descend. Squatting can open your pelvis up more and gives your baby more room to pass through. Hands and knees can also widen your pelvic outlet - your Pink Kit work will have helped you learn the best position to be in to be most open for your baby.
You may want to hold onto a soft rope or a "birthing bar" (a bar built into some birth center and hospital labor beds) as you bear down. Sometimes having attendants push inward on the top of your pelvis helps widen the opening.
Breathing gently and working with your body are still keys in the second stage. Your uterus will be pushing your baby down. Your baby has a reflex to push off from your uterus as he or she moves through the birth canal. Your body will involuntarily push down when it should. It's a miracle of a process.
The hard part is over! You have your prize. Bring your baby right up to your chest and let him or her begin nursing. Some babies will just want to gaze at you. The movements of your baby and his or her suckling stimulate your uterus to contract.
As your uterus continues to contract the placenta shears off from the uterus. Don't let anyone pull on the cord! It's also best not to cut the cord - this means all the blood from the placenta has time to move into your baby.
Your placenta will come out on its own. You'll feel contractions again and maybe a little urge to push. You can try and push the placenta out from a semi-recline with your baby. Or you can let an attendant hold your baby while other attendants support you as you squat and deliver the placenta.
This is not hard after a natural birthing and not at all painful. The placenta has no bones! It will slip right out. It's a wonderful feeling - you are completely done! Congratulations Mama! Sit back and enjoy your new baby.
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Pregnancy & Birth