As the big day approaches, you might find yourself thinking more and more about the labor part of your pregnancy. It’s going to be the last stage of those long (or maybe it felt short for some of you) 9 months. The good news is, your baby is coming with or without you knowing much about how labor works. It does help, however, to know what to expect and to do the right things to help speed it along while minimizing pain. I hope this article answers some questions and gives you some tips for the most dramatic and exciting day of your pregnancy.
How Long Will Labor Last?
For every story you’ve heard or read about babies being born in the car on the way to the hospital, you’ll hear a dozen or more of labors lasting over a day. The truth is, unless you have a history in your family of short or long labors, how long your labor will last is going to be unique to you and your baby.
How Can I Make Labor Happen Naturally?
For most women it helps to keep calm and keep active. If you have a normal and healthy pregnancy, it will help to remain upright rather than laying in bed, especially for those first stages of labor. Keep walking. If you are at home, it will help pass time to keep doing your normal routine as much as possible. If you are in the hospital, walk the halls or sit on a birthing ball. Try to resist the urge to just lay in bed and wait it out. Let gravity help your labor along by being upright. Squatting will increase the size of the pelvic opening. Make sure to practice squatting early on in your pregnancy, so you have the muscle development and stamina to hold the position longer when labor hits.
Stay Calm. Stay Focused.
This is not the time to panic. Stressing out or allowing yourself to worry may prolong labor. By remaining calm and clear minded you will help labor progress naturally. The last thing you want to do is slow down progress and increase pain at this stage. Avoid being around people who stress you out. If someone wants to tell you how hard their labor was along with details that aren’t encouraging you, it’s fine to stop them and say, you aren’t ready to hear that with your own birth story about to unfold. Stay positive and surround yourself with encouraging words and uplifting people.
Should You Eat During Labor?
I remember thinking I better stay nourished as I was in the first stage of labor. I was feeling fine and ordered a normal sized lunch. I was at the hospital eating when my doctor came in and said, “Be careful what you eat because we’ll be seeing it again later.” Unfortunately this was very true. I was not expecting to vomit during labor but I did many, many times. Staying hydrated is good but watch eating too much.
Do whatever it takes to stay well rested before labor hits. If you are tired before the big day, everything including the pain could feel intensified. If your baby in those cramped quarters is keeping you from sleeping through the night or maybe the urge to pee every hour is making it hard to get a good night’s sleep in, then try to take naps during the day. If you are working at your job right up to the end, then ask your employer if you can schedule in some naps. They may want to work with you and agree instead of having you take an early maternity leave.
Should I Exercise Before Labor?
If you are already in labor as you read this, then skip this section. It’s also a little too late to get fit at the end of the last trimester, but if you have been staying healthy and exercising all along, then this is not the time to quit. With your doctor’s ok, keep staying active. You will then have more stamina when you may need it. Try yoga, swimming, walking, running, and pelvic floor exercises. Avoid high impact sports, scuba diving, and any activity that requires you to lay on your back for long periods of time. Lying on your back will also reduce blood flow to your baby, so it’s best to avoid that position in any exercise.
I hope these tips may help you. Remember, your labor will be as unique as you are so try not to get caught up in other people’s labor stories. It’s also good to have a plan but be flexible to changes. You’ve made it and now is the time to meet your baby.
For more tips on surviving your third trimester, click here.