Do your perineal massage… religiously
Start massaging the area between your anus and your vagina from 34 weeks. You can use wheatgerm oil or sweet almond oil. Ask your midwife for advice. You’re doing this to help minimise the risk of tearing when you give birth, so it’s very important.
Don’t get too anxious
“The more anxious you get, the more it can slow labour down,” says Simon Mehigan, consultant midwife at Liverpool Women’s Hospital. “So look at ways to stay calm, which can then help you avoid getting to the stage where you need an assisted birth. Ask lots of questions while you’re in labour.”
Stop worrying about whether you’ll poo
“The thing mums always ask is will they poo in labour!” says Simon. So, will you? Practical Parenting’s midwife Anne Richley says: “Chances are that nature will kick in and give you a good ‘clear out’ in the early stages of labour, and when it comes to the birth whether or not you poo is irrelevant as it feels that you’re doing one anyway, even if you’re not.” So, there’s no point worrying about it, then.
Choose your birth partner carefully
“Your birth partner should be someone you can rely on to support you, and ideally someone who wants to be there and whom you want to be there!” says Anne Richley. “For some women this isn’t their partner, and they feel happier with their mum, sister or a friend. You might want to consider having a second partner, so that if your hubby has a bit of a wobble you won’t feel abandoned.”
Don’t be in too much of a hurry
Labour moves on more quickly when you’re comfortable, which is not your natural state once you arrive at a hospital, so try to relax at home as long as possible before making the trip there. When your contractions get to around seven minutes apart and last more than 30 seconds, it’s time to go.
Become a water baby
Sliding into a bath of warm water is the easiest way to relax during labour and there’s evidence to suggest that women who give birth in water feel less pain and are less likely to need an epidural. Water can also support your weight and help you get into more comfortable positions to help labour. Find out if your hospital or birthing unit has a pool. And don’t forget to run yourself a bath at home once your contractions start.
Use gravity to your advantage
Being upright will help your delivery. “Imagine how much easier a ping-pong ball would slide down an upright drainpipe rather than if you lay it horizontally,” says Anne Richley. “Labours tend to be shorter if you’re upright, and inevitably you’ll keep shifting around which also helps your baby manoeuvre his way out.” You’re not obliged to lie down just because there’s a bed there.
Get on the ball
You might not have been much of a one for ball games before, but a birthing ball should be top of your list of pre-baby purchases. Sitting on one during the last few weeks of pregnancy is thought to help affect the way your baby lies, and leaning over the ball will help you cope with contractions.
Try to get some sleep
You’re so excited when you go into labour that it’s hard to consider getting a bit of shut-eye. But you’re going to need lots of energy to give birth, so get a little rest in the early stages of labour whenever you can.
Don’t forget to take deep breaths
Sounds simple, but neglecting to take deep breaths in and out can slow down your labour, as you’ll be less relaxed. Remember what you learnt in your classes and focus on your breathing, making sure your breaths out are just as long as those in.
“David was worried that he’d be useless when I was in labour, so my mum came too. I assumed I could have whomever I wanted there. When it came to it, he never left the room and was wonderful – though so was my mum!”
Suki Gates, 23, from Richmond, mum to Amelia, 4 weeks
“My midwife laughed when I asked her if I should shave my pubic hair off when it came to labour, and said that hadn’t been the case for at least 30 years!”
Jenny Smithson, 28, from Sunderland, 8 months pregnant