10 ways to have a happier labour and birth
Yes, childbirth isn’t necessarily much fun, but these tips worked for me when I gave birth to my three kids. Hopefully they’ll help you have a more positive experience too.
1. Keep an open mind
This is probably the most important advice – and the most under-rated. If you set yourself up – as I did during my first labour – to expect a natural, holistic birth, you will be disappointed. The odds are stacked against a first-time mum having an easy, straightforward, well-timed labour, so don’t be surprised if you do end up with an epidural, forceps, emergency Caesarean or other unplanned intervention. But if the outcome isn’t quite as you hoped, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just get on with looking after your wonderful new baby.
2. Use visualisation techniques
Even if you’re gearing up for an epidural or elective Caesarean, using relaxation and visualisation techniques before your due date can make you feel far calmer about what’s in store, and help you sleep more easily in that last troublesome stage of pregnancy. Some women also find these techniques can reduce pain during labour. Practise by thinking of a familiar walk and visualising your journey, or imagining your favourite, calming beach scene. Click on Natal Hypnotherapy for more information about hypnobirthing.
3. Carry a hair bobble
If you’ve got longish hair, you really won’t want to be swiping at it mid-contraction. Believe me, it will really annoy you. Just tie it up so you can forget about it.
4. Use a TENS machine
Short for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, this is a small battery-powered box with sticky pads that are placed on your back, using electrical impulses to control pain. I hired one for my last two births but really wished I’d had one for the first too. The TENS did two jobs for me – firstly, it dulled the pain, especially in early labour. Secondly, twiddling with the knobs to ramp up the pain relief was a welcome distraction and made me feel more in control.
Some people don’t like using a TENS, but you won’t know until you try. You can buy, hire or borrow TENS machines, but if you decide to go ahead, practise using it before you go into labour. Stash some spare batteries in your hospital bag too.
5. Keep props handy
If you’ve been reliant on a prop, such as a Swiss ball, during your early stages of labour at home, do bring it to the hospital too. It’s best not to assume that your midwife will have whatever you need ready for you the minute you arrive, and by the time they’ve hunted one down, you could be panicking. We took my Swiss ball in the taxi with us to hospital for my last two births, after learning the hard way for the first. And yes, it did look a little stupid.
6. Store a stash of change
Keep a handy stash of change for your trip to hospital to pay for the parking meter and the taxi driver. The last thing you want is to be scrabbling around in vain for money when you’re ready to leave. Bring some extra money to pay for drinks and food for your partner.
7. Pack pampering shower goodies
Forget the scented candles – chances are you won’t give a hoot about these when you’re mid-contraction. But after the birth and a long cuddle with your baby, you will – eventually – want a relaxing shower, and this is when some lovely smellies will come into their own. A gorgeous shower gel and body cream will go some way to making you feel more human after everything that your body has just been through.
8. Don’t listen to birth stories
If you are going into labour soon, try not to listen to other people’s birthing horror stories. Their tales are likely to frighten the heebie jeebies out of you, and they’re really not useful. After all, everyone is different, and so their births will be different too.
9. Charge that camera
Keep your camera and phones fully charged, or pop your chargers into your hospital bag before you leave home. The last thing you want is to find your phone has died just when you want to spread some important news.
10. Bring comfy clothes for afterwards
You can pack your skinny maternity jeans if you want to, but I know what I wanted to wear after giving birth each time – my ultra-comfy maternity lounging-around-leggings, elasticated waist and all. You’ll probably feel a bit battered and bruised, so slobbing around in these will be like wearing your duvet. That just leaves you to concentrate on the important business of getting to know your new baby.