Tips For Easing Labor

Pace Yourself

Some labors can last many hours, and first-time labors often begin slowly. Relax, and create the mind-set that this may be a marathon, not a sprint. It usually takes a number of hours for the cervix to efface ("thin-out") and open to 3-centimeters. Contractions may stop and begin again over a period of days. Early contractions may be fairly mild, but as labor progresses they will become more intense. It will take several contractions before you and your partner get into a rhythm. Drawing on what you learned in classes is important, but you shouldn't expect to do everything by the book. It's ok to improvise in mild ways that make you both comfortable. Your labor is individual, and you should handle it in the way that is best suited to you.

Share This Experience

Your labor partner can give you loving support and encouragement, and be really helpful in keeping you focused with breathing & relaxation. Your labor partner communicates your wishes to the hospital staff, and relays information back to you. Some couples even ask additional friends or relatives to accompany as labor companion. Or you may wish to hire a doula.

Remain Home as Long as Possible

There's no need to leave for the hospital too-early. The longer you're in the hospital, the more likely it is that procedures will be suggested to help move your labor along, so you might as well stay home where you are comfortable and relaxed. Women in the hospital who are less than 4-centimeters dilated (with their amniotic sac intact) are often asked to return home for a while.

Get some rest. If you are tired, or if this is your normal sleep time, take a warm relaxing bath and try to sleep. If possible, sleep between contractions to conserve your energy. The contractions will surely wake you, and then you can get active. If you are rested, stay active.

Use Positive Labor Affirmations

You may find it helpful and comforting to say positive, encouraging things to yourself. You can ask your labor companion, doula or partner to say them to you during your labor and birth. Use labor affirmations that are meaningful to you.

Here are some suggestions:

"My body knows what to do, and I am helping my body to do its job."
"I am calm and confident."
"My baby moves further down my pelvis with each contraction."
"My baby's head fits through my pelvis."
"I have all the energy I need to get my baby born."
"I am relaxed and focused."
"I can breathe deeply and slowly. My partner and I are welcoming our baby with love."
"My uterus is strong and can push my baby out."

Share Your Birth Plan

If you created a birth plan during your pregnancy, bring it with you to the hospital. Include in the plan what you would like as comfort measures, which relaxation techniques you prefer, and other tips about how you want to be supported.

Staying active and moving around help speed your labor along, help your baby get into a better position for birth, and help your body stay as comfortable as possible. Being tense, anxious and passive can slow labor down. You have many options for positions during labor and birth.

Think of every way to keep yourself relaxed and comfortable during labor and birth.

Your labor companion and/or partner is one of your most important sources of comfort, and can help you get comfortable and stay relaxed, offer support and encouragement, and help you with decision making.

A birthing ball (a large plastic ball) may be an option at your birth centers. Lean on it, sit on it, and roll gently back and forth on it during labor. Sitting on the ball encourages pelvic relaxation and may help your baby move through your pelvis.

Touch is a powerful tool for relaxation. Practice with your partner and/or labor companion during pregnancy to discover what kind of touch, gentle or firm, helps you relax. If you feel labor contractions in your lower back, the steady, firm pressure of the heel of your labor companion's hand can relieve pressure.

Heat and cold can provide comfort, reduce pain, and enhance relaxation.

Breathing Techniques for Labor

Your uterus can work harder if you keep it supplied with oxygen and the rest of your body relaxed. That means relaxing and breathing through each contraction. You can endure more hours of labor if you distract yourself with specific breathing techniques, which also keep your uterus supplied with oxygen. During your third trimester, set aside time at home to practice each technique with your labor companion. The more you practice, the more natural it will be for you to use these techniques during your labor and birth.

During your contractions, choose any breathing techniques you learned in your child birth classes or invent one of your own. As contractions intensify, you may find it helpful to use the techniques that require more concentration. At any time in your labor, you can go back and try a simpler technique. There are no rules. Consider these techniques to be tools you can use in any way you like.