From doulas to yoga, 10 tips for an easier labor
As Tracy Hartley, a certified doula and the owner of BEST Doula Service in Alhambra, Calif., says, “If you don’t know what your options are, you don’t have any options.”
5. Hire a doula> Doulas are nonmedical professionals trained to provide emotional and physical support, as well as information, to women in labor. About seven months into her pregnancy, Helen Kerstein, 37, of La Cañada, Calif., decided she needed one. “I knew my husband wasn’t an expert in childbirth,” she says, “and I didn’t know what kind of nurse I was going to get. I was afraid I’d end up in labor alone.”
The Kersteins interviewed three doulas before choosing Hartley’s doula service. “Tracy knew just where to put the heat packs when I needed relief; she helped me use the birthing ball,” says Kerstein. “She kept me calm and focused.” In the end, Kerstein didn’t need an epidural.
There are other benefits as well. “Women who work with doulas generally have shorter, easier labors, ask for less pain medication, feel greater satisfaction with their birth experiences and are more satisfied with their partners’ participation,” Hartley says. (For more information, call Doulas of North America at 888-788-3662 or visit dona.org.)
6. See no evil, hear no evil> Learning to tune out negative thoughts and images of delivery may not seem like a critical aspect of childbirth preparation, but it can be. Some childbirth educators believe graphic images, catastrophic tales and words of discouragement (“You’ll never be able to get that monster out without a C-section!”) can affect your subconsciousness and create a mental block during labor. Seem far-flung? Then ask yourself this: When you’re down to the last few pushes, do you really want that episiotomy video you saw in childbirth class flashing before your eyes?
At best, negative thoughts and images make labor more vivid and tense; at worst, they weigh you down with anxiety. Change the channel, cover your eyes, tune out or walk away when the subject matter becomes uncomfortable. Bonus: This is great practice for handling all the unwanted advice you’ll get after the baby is born.
7. Set the mood> For most women, a dark, quiet environment is ideal during labor, so ask your nurse, midwife or partner to dim the lights and minimize noise. Little touches can really make a difference: pillows from home, familiar music (which also helps drown out hospital noise), a comfortable pair of socks and soothing scents.
“Aromatherapy, especially the scent of lavender, is very calming in labor,” says nurse practitioner Miya, “and it makes the environment a little less hospital-like.”