5. Secure support
Doulas are nonmedical professionals trained to provide emotional and physical support as well as information to women during pregnancy and labor. Studies have found that with a trained doula’s continuous support, labor times are shorter and the need for epidurals, C-sections, oxytocin for induction and forceps were decreased by about half. Another study concluded that women who received support through a hospital- based doula program were more likely to attempt breastfeeding. Check out DONA International (dona.org) to help you locate a certified doula in your area.
6. Have a trick up your sleeve
Learn several effective techniques to manage pain during childbirth, such as self-hypnosis, position changes, heat pack application and different breathing methods. “If you don’t know what your options are, you don’t have any,” says Tracy Hartley, a certified doula and owner of B*E*S*T Doula Service in Los Angeles.
7. Get on up
Upright positions, such as standing, walking, kneeling, slow dancing, sitting and squatting, allow gravity to help move the baby down and out. “Sometimes, getting the baby into the pelvis is like fitting a key into a lock,” Hartley says. “You need to do a little jiggling. Rocking back and forth on your hands and knees may help to get the baby into position.”
8. Set the scene
For most women, a dark and quiet environment is ideal during labor, so ask your nurse or partner to dim the lights and minimize noise. Little touches make a difference: a favorite pillow, pair of socks or soothing scent. “Aromatherapy, especially the scent of lavender, is very calming in labor,” says Miya.
9. Be a water baby
The warmth and weightlessness of a bath can be soothing throughout your labor, so if you have access to a warm tub, take the plunge. (Be sure to get your doctor or midwife’s green light before doing so; there’s a risk of infection if your water has broken.)
If a soak isn’t possible, try taking a shower.
10. Stay true to yourself
Labor transforms you, but it won’t make you suddenly love lime Jell-O, New Age music or the sight of your in-laws as you breathe through a contraction. People may push all kinds of suggestions on you during labor; listen but don’t feel you have to go along with them.
It’s your body, your baby and your labor, so stick to your guns. Consider it practice for when your baby is a teenager.