10 Simple Tips for an Easier Labor

Are you hoping for an easy labor? My experience as a birth doula and childbirth educator has shown me time and again that nearly all pregnant mothers truly think that their labor will be one of the easy labors, or one of the short labors, or one of the painless labors.

I hope that's you!

But in case it's not, I have some simple and effective tips for you to help you cope with labor's intensity. Don't be stingy now, share them with your girlfriends, your sisters and any pregnant mothers you know! Isn't it time we change our birth culture and instead of sharing birth horror stories and fears, we share tips and help each other (and our babies) out?

I actually have a great story of one near-painless birth I attended a number of years ago. I had a doula prenatal appointment with my doula clients at 37 weeks, as usual. We talked about a number of scenarios that included how labor might start, and made some loose plans as a team. The mother had decided that if her labor started with her water breaking first, that she would come home from wherever she was and labor at home for awhile, to avoid being at the hospital for too long and as a way to increase her odds of having the non-medicated birth she desired. The father was on board. The thing that stands out in my mind is that he didn't want to get messy; he felt uneasy about the birth messy "stuff" (blood, amniotic fluid, vernix, and, oh heavens what about poop!), and was willing to wait to hold his baby until baby and mama were cleaned off, bundled up, dry and warm.

Low and behold, as only 10% of labors begin, her labor began with her bag of waters breaking. Ironically, she worked in a hospital but came home, as was the plan, to avoid being in labor at the hospital for too long. As we talked on the phone, she described what I can look back on as a mostly pain-free labor. She could feel pressure every so often but no pain in any way. With a smirk I told her, "Oh sweetie. This is early labor. You'll feel the intensity increase as time passes. Let's check in again in an hour." Fast forward to my next phone call, just 45 minutes later, from her frantic and excited husband. "Chris!" he said. "What should I do? The head is out! She's having the baby on our living room floor!"

What a trip! They were already on another phone with 911 and paramedics were already en route to their house and talking dad through how to catch the baby. I was on another phone with the birthing mother, helping her through her pushing contractions. I hopped in my car to meet them, still talking to her on my phone. Baby was born without incident right into daddy's arms just a few short minutes later! So much for him avoiding the mess of birth! The birthing mother had what many would describe a painless labor. (Let's remember that every birth is processed differently by every mother and father; a painless, quick labor can still be scary or anxiety producing, when we imagine birthing without our provider NOR doula in a place other than the anticipated birth place. Remember compassion for every birth story we hear, without judgment). And in births like this, there was nothing the mother did or didn't do to make her labor painless. It's just what she got.

The point is, the pain of some labors are way easier to cope with than others, without much preparation needed (even if there are other parts to cope with that may not be so easy). Here's hoping yours is one of the easy labors! It's pretty rare though. The overwhelming majority of births require the mother to dig down deeper than she ever imagined she could, draw on coping skills she is glad she has prepared for, and utilize every bit of support, pain management tips, and more to bring her baby here. For what it's worth, in the story above, pushing was NOT what she would describe as pain-free. I've said it once and I'll say it again...There are NO shortcuts in labor!

In the case you'd like to prepare ahead of time for ways to cope with labor's intensity, and I suggest you do, I have 10 simple tips for you that you really can do to help ease the pain of labor.

10 Simple Tips for an Easier Labor

1. Breathe. Learn ahead of time how to notice your breath, recognize your breath, focus on your breath. There are some awesome pain-coping practices that utilize Breath Awareness in Birthing From Within®, and you can take a class locally from yours truly. (*TIP*: If a group class isn't for you, consider a private class for just you and your partner, in addition to reading the Birthing From Within book, which you can find here.)

2. Move around. Stay active. As you learn the stages of labor, remember they don't call it active labor for nothing! I like to suggest a balance between resting and moving. You can try leaning over a birth ball for a few contractions, then perhaps sway with your partner for a few contractions, followed by alternating lunges to each side for a few contractions, and maybe squatting down low for a few contractions. It's ok to lay down and rest for a while now, too, before you get up and active again. This will encourage baby to move down and dilate your cervix, and also helps you to find what positions you can cope with easier than others.

3. Double-Hip-Squeeze. Oh this one is my favorite! It's my absolute favorite skill to bring to every birth I attend. It's best shown in-person, and I teach it during my