For first time mothers, the thought of labor can be quite frightening. The pain, the uncertainty and the recovery postpartum worries many women up until the moment they deliver. To calm their nerves, some women take time writing out birth plans. Other women invite trusted friends and family to be in the delivery room. Unfortunately, birth plans may not go as planned, and your delivery may have many surprises. Thankfully, there are a few tried and true ways to prepare yourself for an easier labor in the months and moments before you have your new baby.
Studies have proven that women who exercise throughout their pregnancies tend to have shorter labors and quicker recovery postpartum. When you stay in shape throughout your pregnancy, you have better endurance and strength during labor. You’re also less likely to need medical intervention. After you deliver, your body will bounce back faster and you’ll have more energy to care for your newborn. Stay fit, and you’ll be prepared physically for labor and you’ll feel better postpartum.
A few great exercises for pregnant women include:
- Prenatal exercise classes
Consider a Midwife (or a Doula)
While you partner or husband may be wonderful and supportive, you may need extra support in the delivery room. Many women find that doulas (a person trained to support a pregnant woman and her partner) help ease the pain of childbirth. If you are in the early stages of pregnancy, and you haven’t selected a doctor, consider a midwife. Midwives view pregnancy more as a natural event than a medical one. They usually stay with you as you labor (as long as they don’t have another patient in the next room), rather than appear every few hours until it’s time to push. Women who have the support of doulas or midwives have been shown to need less medical intervention and have lower rates of cesareans.
Knowledge is power. If you familiarize yourself with the stages of labor, and you know what to expect, you’ll feel less anxious about childbirth. Ideally your class will have ten couples or less, and a certified instructor. Another bonus is that you’ll meet other mothers who can offer support.
Practice Keeping Calm
Labor can last hours. It’s important to keep calm and keep your body relaxed, because resisting the pain will make it more intense. Practice breathing and consider a prenatal yoga class to help you prepare for childbirth. When the time comes, remember that women have babies every day. Breathe along with your contractions and let your labor progress. If your water has not broken, take a bath or sit in a hot shower. Stay home during the early hours of labor, because you’re more likely to stay relaxed in your own home. Once at the hospital, block out any distractions, focus on the contractions and imagine your precious baby coming into the world.
Women were not meant to lie in a hospital bed and push out a baby. Standing and walking during labor will put gravity on your side, pushing the baby lower into your pelvis. Help your labor along by walking, squatting and changing positions frequently. Staying active as long as possible may ease some pain and shorten your labor considerably.
For first time mothers, the thought of labor is scary enough to keep them up at night. They worry about the pain, about having a cesarean and about having a healthy baby. Try to remember that labor is a natural event, and your body prepares itself during your nine months of pregnancy. Stay calm, stay active throughout your pregnancy and during labor, and enlist in good support and you’ll have all you need when delivery day rolls around.
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