I'm going to address the elephant in the room...labor is challenging! When you're in it, you wish that life would stop. You wish that you blinked, and in the next moment, you would open your eyes and find yourself lounging on a beach with an umbrella drink.
Although that kind of wishing is nice and can distract you from your current situation, it's not going to effective get that baby to be born. So here are 7 things you can watch for to get labor progressing naturally, safely and effectively.
1.) Full bladder Now I know in regular circumstance, if you gotta go, you go, right? In labor, many things are happening in the body that we tend to ignore basic instincts, like peeing. Having a doula or a partner remind you to empty your bladder often is an understated factor. Urinating tells your body that you are making room for baby. There is nothing like a full balloon-like bladder that will get in the way of baby descending into the birth canal.
So make many trips to the bathroom. Better yet, stay in there and enjoy all the amenities a bathroom has to offer for laboring! Amenities like:
Squatting forward on the toilet
Turning off the lights and making it a den for your animal brain
Finding peace and quiet from the nurses who are constantly bombarding you with questions, pokes, and adjustments.
It's a glorious place to labor my darlings!!!
2.) Medications Normally I don't vouch for labor-inducing medication but at times, they can be helpful and indeed save lives. Pitocin can help increase contractions to assist the uterus in pushing that baby down. However, once you begin medications, your risk of having more induction measures increases drastically. And you are destined to be on bedrest of the remainder of your labor and delivery. So take heed there.
3.) Immobility If you're sitting in a bed, hoping your baby will pop out, chances are you either have had an epidural or you're not in labor (deepest sympathies to my lovely 36-42 Weekers). In any other case, you should be moving around to urge your baby to come down his or her comfy womb space.
If you've had an epidural, you can have nurses, your doula, or partner adjust your positioning every 20 minutes so that movement is still present for labor to do its thing. We call this movement in bed the Rotisserie Chicken! If you're in bed, this is IMPORTANT, not only to keep labor from digressing, but also to move the medicine around in your body. If you lay on one side for too long, the medicine will travel to that side of the body.
4.) Ineffective contractions How can a contraction be ineffective you say? O’Driscoll et al believed that primigravida uterine action[ineffective contractions] is ‘‘often insufficient to overcome the soft-tissue resistance in a woman having her first vaginal delivery.’’ The treatment for this is artificial oxytocin drip, or Pitocin, due to what medical practitioners call "Failure to Progress". Typically when I encounter a situation like this, I encourage mom to find ways to release her own oxytocin (see infographic). Oxytocin is influenced by, and influences feelings and behaviour. It is a hormone cocktail that enables mother and baby to form a bond and attachment. Since Pitocin only affects the uterus and does not cross the blood brain barrier, only oxytocin produced in the brain creates these psychological/emotional effects.
5.) Unfavorable presentation or position of baby Nobody knows how your baby will react in labor and delivery. Just as all of our fingerprints are never identical, neither are laboring bodies. Fun fact: even the way a uterus contracts is different from woman to woman! How fascinating!
Let me give you the rundown on baby positions. Occiput anterior (OA) is when baby is face-down, spine facing your belly. This is the optimal fetal position. Occiput transverse (OT) is when baby is sideways inside your womb and can be the cause of a slow and more painful labor. Occiput posterior (OP) is when baby is face-down, spine facing your spine, which is the leading cause of back labor.
To help prevent pain, decrease pain or to help encourage your baby into a better position for delivery, you can use a variety of positions, including:
Hands and Knees
In addition to moving the baby, specific comfort measures can include:
Rice Socks (heat packs)
Bathtub or shower (water)
Movement (swaying, dancing, being on a birth ball)
6.) Dehydration and lack of nourishment Never would I deny a marathon runner a drink of water midway through their run. Nor would I ever deny a laboring woman water and nourishment. In hospitals, they want to minimize consumption in the case that surgery is needed. It is also to lessen any chance of messes like throwing up. But a popsicle and honey sticks can be just what mama needs to get her through those last few stages of labor.
7.) Exhaustion or stress Labor can be fast and furious or long and arduous. At times when labor hours have been trying, it is best to allow mom to rest if at all possible, keeping her comfortable and relaxed. There is always a time for movement but also for resting, letting the body truly relax into this journey.
Stress can play evil tricks on labor. First, it slows down oxytocin because fight or flight mode is turned on. For first-time moms, labor in and of itself can be such a stressful event for the body, mind, and spirit. For tips, see the above #4 section about releasing oxytocin to foster positive psychological/emotional outcomes.
Well, there you have it! I hope this was helpful for you! Let me know in the comments what you found insightful, helpful, and exciting. If you have any questions, please email us!
I am a doula. I love labor, I love birth! But most of all, I love witnessing the beautiful transformation of women becoming mothers. My job is to facilitate that transition easily and with JOY!!
My greatest goal is to ensure that you and your family feel safe and secure with me by your side, ushering you into a brand new heroic journey that is motherhood. It is my highest honor to serve women in one of the most splendid moments of their lives!