I tell my classes all the time…if you go into labor before the birth rehearsal class in week 6 of the series, (or, if when labor begins, you find you just can’t remember to do anything else) these four things make a huge difference in a woman’s ability to work with and move positively through her labor.
1. Move Your Hips Through Space
Moving your body by walking, rocking, and changing positions assists you in labor in several ways. Moving around can help you be better distracted with interesting activity and more easily cope with the earlier, less intense contractions. Later, as contractions get longer, stronger and closer together, movement helps you cope with the strong contractions that are needed to change the cervix and bring the baby down by allowing the pelvic bones to move apart more. Some women find that movement lessens the painful sensations of the uterus’ contractions and often, while coping becomes easier, movement seems to allow the uterus to work more efficiently.
Generally, to truly move your body (especially your knees and hips), you’ll probably want to be in an upright or semi-upright position. Working with gravity helps your uterus do its jobs of moving the baby down. Having said that, even sitting, on a birth ball, in the tub, or even on the toilet, will work just fine for many women. Any position that allows you to move your hips helps. So, rather trying to find the ideal position, keep it moving. Janet Balaskas, author of New Active Birth, says “being free to change position during labor is more important than finding a single best position.”
I also find that, in addition to changing positions for physical comfort and labor progress, changing positions also encourages a change of environment. Fresh air, (even the air of another room) makes a huge difference,especially in the case of birth that is progressing at a slower pace. These can be challenging births due to the fatigue to the mind as much as to the body. New positions, new environment, fresh air and fresh perspective is crucial. In this case…keep it all moving…BodyMind and Motherbaby.
Which brings me to this point: it so important to trust that the MotherBaby know what to do. When I say “move your hips through space” it is more of an affirmation of what I know you will do instinctively, rather than advice. As midwife, Naoli Vinaver says in her film, The Birth Day, the woman’s body who made the baby knows how to get the baby out. This instinctive movement produces the rhythmic coping that we explore in Confident Birthing in great detail. And given a comfortable, private space, you’ll find your instincts are readily accessible to you.
For more information about the benefits of movement and changing positions in labor check out Lamaze Healthy Birth Practice #2
2. Let Some Sound Out
At Confident Birthing Childbirth Class reunions, there seems to be a common theme to the things women say surprised them most about how they labored. One of these is the sounds they found themselves making. So, like moving your hips through space, this “advice” is, again, really an affirmation of what most women will find themselves doing instinctively, and yet, I find many moms just can’t imagine themselves doing it.
The explanation of this really simple…given a safe enough space, the laboring woman will instinctively use sound to cope with labor and to assist her body in progressing through labor. We explore this concept thoroughly in class, but for now let me just say…keeping your mouth, throat and jaw as lose as possible is key to your labor progressing. You can read more about this essential of labor in Ina May Gaskins’ Guide to Childbirth. This book is not required for your Confident Birthing Class, just HIGHLY recommended to every pregnant woman. Hint, hint.
3. Try the Double Hip Squeeze
If you could do only one physical comfort measure (besides loving touch), my recommendation is to try this one. While there are a few moms who don’t like it, I would say at this point in my career (15 years and 175 births), the overwhelming majority of women I have attended in labor found comfort from the firm, but gentle pressing together of their hips.
We practice this (and many other comfort measures) often in Confident Birthing, so you’ll have it mastered by the time you need it. The key is placement and then with gentle, but firm and evenly distributed pressure through your hand, you simply squeeze her hips together. If you are not in Confident Birthing…ask your doula…she’ll know.
4. Love Her
I don’t really think I need to say much more. It is afterall, the most important thing, yes?