By Sonali Shivlani, Internationally Certified Pregnancy Consultant and a child nutrition counsellor.
Whenever I ask ‘What are your thoughts on labour?’ at the start of a class, all expectant parents look at each other very quietly for the fi rst few seconds. Then one mum will reply with ‘Pain’, another will add ‘Stress’ and then the dads pitch in with words like ‘Anxiety’, ‘Fear’ and so on. It’s interesting why this is the view point. When I ask the same parents what do they think they would be doing when their child turns one, their answer is ‘Celebrate’, ‘Party’ and so on. To that I simply ask, “Why not celebrate the actual birth day of your baby?” The fact remains, the day your child enters this world only comes once in a lifetime and we look at it with so much dread and anxiety. Our body gives us many signs and symptoms, sometimes even days in advance that labour is soon to follow. Here are a few facts to consider:
- Early labour is almost unnoticeable.
- The total duration of labour for a first time mom can be between 12 to 24 hours.
- Our bodies are designed to birth and all we need to do is trust our instincts.
- The calmer and more relaxed a mom is, the faster labour will progress. This obviously goes without saying, but the more stressed a mom is, the slower labour will progress.
- The environment makes a lot of difference. A woman in labour should surround herself with people who understand and support her choices, and not make her feel guilty. This means, you need to choose your labour companion wisely.
So it’s like this, preparing for labour is something you do from the time of conception. Right from creating a positive environment for you and your growing baby, to maintaining a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition and supporting it with pregnancy-safe exercises to prepare your body for labour, you need to consider these nine months as your training period.
Poised For Action
Closer to birth, your baby will start descending into the birth canal, and move into a birthing position. A baby which is well positioned will make delivery a lot easier. This means that the baby has to be in a head down position. This is also called the vertex presentation. If the baby is in a breech which means that the buttocks are presenting to the pelvis or if the baby is transverse which means that the baby is lying horizontal then it will be difficult for the birth to be vaginal and the doctor will discuss a surgical birth with you. In this situation you will be headed for a planned C-section.
However, there are some things that can be done to encourage the baby into the right position. Remember the baby’s head is the heaviest part and this will tend towards gravity. Hence little things like walking, doing half squats or even sitting in the butterfly posture, are often said to help widen the pelvis and encourage the baby to move to a head down posture.
Another position that is favourable to birth is the anterior position. This means that the baby is facing the mothers back. In this position, the baby’s head can align well into the pelvis and the whole process of labour is much faster.
Take A Breath
Breathing exercises help manage labour pains. However, you cannot just study them one day and expect to use them during labour and birth. You need to practice, practice and practice. Labour breathing means short and quick breaths. The key focus is use your chest, not the abdomen. Remember, you have to breathe in through the nose and exhale through your mouth. However, you need to concentrate and make it relaxed and gentle. Contractions can last for up to 90 seconds in intense labour so practice 90 second contraction breaths a few times every day, in the last few weeks prior to your due date.
Be Packed and Ready
Make sure that your hospital bag is packed. It can be super stressful if labour starts and you realise that you haven’t packed. After all, if you want to be comfortable in your hospital room, you most certainly need those bare necessities to help ease your experience and post-delivery recovery. So pack your bag as early as week 34 to avoid any lastminute stress.
The next thing to keep in mind is when you need to make your way to the hospital. This requires a discussion with your doctor about when she wants you to come to the hospital, and then plan your route accordingly. This would mean factoring in the time of day, traffic and alternate routes, to ensure that you are all prepared when labour actually starts.
After this, you need to just sit back and relax. Remember, it is best for labour to start naturally. Even though you may be feeling heavy and anxious, and possibly fending off a dozen questions from well-meaning family and friends about whether your labour has started, it is still best to wait. The uterus is the best place for the baby to develop and bringing the baby out a little sooner could actually compromise the development. If everything is healthy and normal with your pregnancy, perhaps it’s best to let your baby pick the day she’s ready to finally greet you.
Join us next month as we discuss pre-labour and labour signs and symptoms, and what to expect at the hospital. MB