Want less pain and strain at the birth? Amazingly, it really is possible if you know how.
As your due date draws nearer, it’s good to know that pain-relieving drugs aren’t your only option to ease your way through labour. There are great tried and tested tips to try - from before your contractions begin to when you’re in labour.
During the later stages of your pregnancy, encourage your baby to get into the best position for labour. From 34 weeks, kneel on the floor over a birthing ball or chair.
“My midwife told me to keep my knees lower than my bottom to help turn my baby into a good position for birth,” says Nicola, 37, mum to Freddie, 15 weeks.” I also swam twice a week. I had no problems in labour, so it was certainly worth doing.”
Research shows that women who are fit and healthy tend to have a more straightforward labour. So try to go for a walk each day, or ask your midwife about local yoga or aquanatal classes.
This can help to prepare your womb for labour when taken four times a day after 36 weeks of pregnancy. There’s scientific evidence that women who drink raspberry leaf tea will have shorter labours and need less pain relief.
The facts are that women who have had a straightforward pregnancy and opt for a home birth have far fewer interventions and are more likely to have a normal delivery.
In my experience, I’ve found that mums-to-be who have found out lots of information beforehand feel much more able to make decisions about their care. This helps them to feel in control of their labour.
Doulas (experienced mothers who offer emotional and practical support during pregnancy and labour) may be a great help. Research shows that benefits can include a shorter labour and fewer painkillers.
From 34 weeks, start massaging your perineum (the area between the opening of your vagina and your anus) using wheatgerm oil or sweet almond oil, to help prevent tears.
“Weeks of massage made me more aware of that area when it came to giving birth,” says Chrissie, 29, mum to Ollie, 4 weeks. “I was able to focus on relaxing as I pushed my baby out – it still wasn’t easy, but I didn’t tear!”
Take some birth hypnotherapy classes where you’ll learn about relaxation, breathing and visualisation techniques, which can reduce your fears and tension and so lessen any pain in labour. You can also buy hypnotherapy CDs to listen to.
Don’t assume that it’s up to others to make decisions on your behalf: this is your birth, so speak up.
Anne Richley, midwife
A lot of energy is used during labour – you need to build up your stamina and feed your muscles. Snacking regularly and drinking plenty can make a huge difference.
“I felt like a hamster turning up to the labour ward with my pockets stuffed with cereal bars,” says Kathryn, 31, mum to Jake, 8 months.
Continual monitoring isn’t recommended in a ‘low-risk’ labour, as it means you’re not able to move around. This can cause anxiety, slow your labour down and make it more difficult to cope with contractions.
“My partner, Pete, kept telling me how brilliant I was during labour and encouraged me right through. Now, when people ask me what pain relief I had, I just say, ‘My husband!’”
Jessie, 27, mum to Otto, 4 weeks
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