Childbirth Techniques to Improve and Shorten Labor

Every woman facing the prospect of birthing her baby wants to know how to make that process as easy as possible, while keeping her baby and herself safe. Here are ten tips to help you have the best childbirth experience possible.

Educate yourself

Home birth vs. hospital birth? Epidural vs. drug free? Doctor vs. midwife? Do you know what your choices are? Do you know what position your baby is in and what you could do to coax your baby into a position that is more conducive to an easy labor? Do you know how to ask for the information you need? The choices you make about your caregivers and birth plan all have the potential to impact on the length and number of complications or interventions in your labor. In some situations an epidural may greatly prolong a labor by making dilation slower and pushing less effective, but for some women who are exhausted from a long labor without pain medication it may allow them to relax enough to dilate completely. By educating yourself about the risks and benefits of common birthing practices you empower yourself to choose the best childbirth experience for you and your baby. In most situations, a labor that is experienced without pain medication is shorter and has less complications and medical interventions than a labor in which the mother has an epidural early in the process. Some good books to start with are New Active Birth by Janet Balaskas and Birthing From Within by Pam England.

Do yoga

Yoga can help open the pelvis, turn a baby who is in a breech or posterior presentation, and it gives you an improved sense of body awareness. Yoga can also teach excellent relaxation techniques, which are useful throughout pregnancy and childbirth. Choose an instructor who encourages you to listen to your body and do exercises which are gentle and appropriate to your stage of pregnancy.

Trust your caregivers

Choosing a caregiver that you can trust to be truthful, competent and respectful of your wishes can allow you to focus on your own experience without being constantly on the alert for unwanted interventions or procedures by your caregiver. It is important to maintain some vigilance, and this is a good role for your birth partner or doula, but having a basic level of trust makes it easier to relax and allow yourself to shift into “labourland”, where a more primal level of your brain takes over.

Trust your body

Women’s bodies are designed to birth babies, and we have been doing so for thousands of years. In fact, at no other time has birth been viewed as such a abnormal, medical procedure. If you can keep your mind from getting in the way, your body instinctively knows how to birth your baby.

Keep moving

Swivel your hips like a belly dancer, lean over your kitchen counter or flop forwards onto your couch with your knees on the floor. Movement is soothing, distracting and helps to push your baby’s head against your cervix, speeding the process of dilation. Staying upright uses gravity to your advantage and allows your pelvis to open more than if you are lying on your back in bed.

Have a bath

Some women find that a warm bath or shower can help them relax and cope with contractions, especially as they become more intense near transition. Check to see if your birth center, hospital or home birth midwife allows the use of a birthing pool during labor and delivery.

Light a candle

When you phone your midwife or head out the door to the hospital, phone a friend and tell them you have gone into labor. Ask them to light a candle for you. It can be comforting to know that you have the support of a loved one from afar.

Make noise

Don’t be afraid to moan, grunt or shout if it helps you to deal with the sensations and emotions you are feeling. Deep, low sounds can help ground you emotionally. Try visualizing the sound waves softening your cervix.

Let go

Repeat to yourself – “open, let go, soft, open, YES”! It is so easy to slip into saying and thinking “closed, clamped shut, hard and NO”! But the more you can be soft, open and accepting of the changes your body must make to accommodate your baby the easier it is to progress through labor.

Breathe! Seriously, this is the single most important and effective tool you have to improve and shorten your labor. Pain causes us to hold our breath and tense up, but breath-holding and tension increase our perception of pain and make it harder for the baby to move down through the pelvis. Focus on your exhalation, making it as slow and long and controlled as you can. Don’t worry about the inhalation, your body will take care of that by itself. Just focus on exhaling and wait for the contraction to pass.