By Ashley Brichter, Founder, Birth Smarter
Good news! I am here to tell you that childbirth can be super straightforward. In order for a baby to make its way out, the uterus needs to contract and the baby needs to rotate and descend. Uterine contractions rely on the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, and babe’s ability to rotate relies on the movement of the birthing person. Planning for a birth of your own? Feel good and move around! While it might be the first time you’re hearing it, that’s actually not the secret. Unfortunately feeling good and moving around are easier said than done in labor.
Most expectant parents these days are ripe with fear.
Most stories passed down from friends and family do not increase a person’s confidence or excitement, especially the first time around. How much is it going to hurt?” “Is it common for all women to tear?” These are two of the questions I hear the most as a birth educator. Fear compounded with out-dated hospital policies on restricting movement can lead to complicated and painful labors.
There are many ways to prepare for and cope with labor to make it, not only neutral, but positive!
I’ll list some suggestions below, but here’s where I want to tell you the secret:
You will not use, what you do not practice.
I teach around two dozen expectant parents each month and each and every class we go over medicated and unmedicated comfort and coping strategies. I then do a simple exercise. I give folks three minutes to pull out their calendars (read: phones) and set a date to practice the techniques that we learn in class. As far as I know, nearly everyone sets the date. Not everyone practices.
We’re talking about things like: deep breathing and using vocalization to help dilute intense sensations, finding forward-leaning positions using a birth ball or other props, experimenting with mindfulness and meditation.
For partners, the list might also include deep breathing (to model behavior), as well as, massage and comforting touch, playing around with lighting, aromatherapy, and offering verbal encouragement.
The difference between the folks who can rock out a labor, and those who become overwhelmed in the moment, is the extent to which your mind and body have the muscle memory to jump in to these behaviors under stress. Retaining information is different than being able to recall it!
Without having to check your notes, do you know four comfortable positions you may try when you need to get a baby to descend? Without having to think about it, does your partner’s hand know which part of your low back or hips are most tender and could use support?
There are some wonderful resources to check out for labor preparations if you have not been studying up already. The website Spinning Babies and The Birth Partner, by Penny Simkin are some of my favorites. My friend, and one of the greatest prenatal massage therapists on the planet, Yiska Obadia created a wonderful guide for Comforting Touch for Labor that’s a virtual way to help your partner learn some tips and tricks.
If you’re in the Tri-State area, though, come join us for Comfort and Coping! A two hour workshop where we can show you how to pack your labor-coping “tool-box.” Together, we’ll practice using positions, breathing, and vocalization. We’ll teach your partner to give you a baller massage and generally start building your muscle memory for labor-day! Upcoming, October 2nd at FPC. You can also take our upcoming Comprehensive Childbirth Education Course which includes much of Comfort and Coping as well as a look into the birthing process, navigating the hospital, and breastfeeding and newborn care: October 25th – 27th, November 22nd – 24th, or December 13th – 15th or explore the full schedule here.
If you can’t come in person, just think about the question my grandma always asked me growing up: how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practica, Practia, Practia. (She’s Colombian).