Childbirth Techniques to Improve and Shorten Labor

There are a number of very simple things which can be done to reduce pain and shorten labour.

It is worth bearing in mind that excessively swift labour and birth can result in tearing and damage to the pelvic floor muscles, which of course every woman wants to avoid if at all possible.

Exercise during pregnancy is extremely beneficial, it should be low impact and in short sessions. Swimming is excellent as it removes weight from the lower back, and also allows you to build muscle tone and suppleness. Giving birth is hard work, and the improved level of fitness and tone will make it a lot less exhausting. Walking is also good, yoga has been cited as another helpful form of exercise but it is important that the instructor is sensitive to the differences pregnancy can cause, such as looser ligaments.

When in labour, warm baths and hot packs applied to the lower back reduce the severity of cramps and keep muscles relaxed and comfortable. Gentle massage is also excellent, although some women don’t like to be touched when in labour.

Feeling in control of the situation and confident in your ability to birth is probably the single most important factor. Even if it is your first birth you will know instinctively if something is not right, listen to your body, make sure you acquaint yourself with your midwife thoroughly. Unless there are complications ask for intermittent external monitoring, this will allow you to walk about and move into different positions as and when you need to.

Be aware of the hospitals procedures regarding visitors if you intend to have a hospital birth, some will allow more than one birth companion, others will only allow one person in the room with you at a time. It is also worth visiting the hospital and familiarising yourself with its layout and routines. You will not feel as tense once you are there if you know what to expect.

Whilst spicy foods may induce labour they are not a great idea once labour has started, some women throw up (as a result of strong contractions squishing the gut) so small nibbles like grapes, or even little bits of chocolate, are a much better idea.

Dehydration can also cause confusion and headaches, a drip solves this, but once again, it limits movement which prolongs labour, so iced lollies, ice cubes, and little sips of juice or water regularly are much better. Gas and air can make your mouth dry, and a drip won’t help that. If you keep hydrated, you keep up your strength and feel much better, so ask your birth partner to keep you supplied with nice tasting drinks and remind you to have a little every now and then.

Coffee or tea contain caffeine, again, this may dehydrate you, as will alcohol. so avoid them, along with any other caffeine containing drinks.

Sex can bring labour on (or orgasms) and it’s worth trying (well, fun anyway!) if you are getting toward your suggested due date. Once the waters are broken do not insert anything into the vagina as you risk infecting the baby or yourself. Clitoral stimulation has been reported by many women to both reduce pain and make contractions stronger. Again, worth a try!

Basic paracetamol is good in early labour, so as long as you are not allergic go for it. Paracetamol is not known to harm babies, but please feel free to check this with your midwife. Keeping the twinges under control in early labour will help you walk and move around which speeds labour up nicely.

If you feel that a water birth is right for you, then ask for one. Nearly every woman I have spoken to who used a birthing pool said it dramatically reduced pain and tension.