It often feels like life is moving faster and faster all the time, but in the delivery room, things are actually slowing down. A National Institutes of Health study found that childbirth for first-time moms now takes 2.6 hours longer than it did 50 years ago. To make that extra time in the delivery room less painful and more joyful, it helps to know how to make the hard work of having a baby more manageable. Starting today, here are 10 things you can do to make your birth experience that much easier.
1. Join the head of the class
Take a childbirth course and enroll as early as possible: Not only do classes fill up fast, but some, such as The Bradley Method courses, run 12 weeks, which means you need to start them in your second trimester.
Also, find out what your doctor’s philosophy is on Cesarean sections and epidurals versus drug-free ways of managing pain. Ask tough questions—and “stupid” ones, too— to learn about the different stages of labor so you know what to expect. “The better prepared you are, the more choices you have during labor,” says nurse practitioner Lynette Miya, M.N., R.N.P., of Torrance, Calif. “You don’t want to arrive at the hospital without any idea of what’s going to happen.” Once labor starts, no surprise is a good surprise.
2. Find strength and focus
“The most important thing women learn through yoga is how to focus,” says Carmela Cattuti, L.P.N., a Boston-based Kripalu certified instructor specializing in prenatal yoga certification training. “It also strengthens the entire body, increases flexibility and gives you stamina. But what is possibly even more helpful is that it helps your mind relax.” This, in turn, leaves your body free to go about the business of birthing.
3. Nix negativity
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 subconscious and create a mental block during labor.
At best, negative thoughts make labor stressful; at worst, they’ll actually intensify pain. Change the channel on the TV, tune out or walk away when the subject matter makes you uncomfortable; also, shield yourself from scary labor Facebook threads by logging off.
Bonus: Learning to do this now will help you avoid being affected by all the unwanted advice you’ll get after the baby is born.
4. Study up
When you’re in the grip of labor, it’s too late to crack open that self-hypnosis book or locate a birthing ball. Preparation counts.
Case in point: Squatting increases the size of the pelvic opening by about 28 percent. But if you wait until you’re in labor to try it for the first time, your squatting stamina won’t add up to, well, squat.