When I was pregnant with my first, I remember meeting another pregnant woman who was in her third trimester. I was still early in my first trimester so I asked her if she was feeling excited or nervous preparing for birth.
“Oh, I’m terrified!” She replied.
I was shocked.
Why would you feel terrified of birth?
After all of the reading and studying about the natural process of birth, I didn’t see any reason to be afraid.
I felt sorry for her, but I also didn’t know what to say. As it was my first pregnancy, I had never been through birth to tell her that all her fears were unfounded.
I settled on a simple “it’s all going to be okay.” But, I knew that my words meant nothing to her
Now that I’ve been through two labors of my own, I love telling new expectant mommas that there’s nothing to fear about birth. That when you trust the process, it can be smooth and easy, no matter the outcome. All moms have been through it, so you’ll make it too!
We weren’t meant to fear, worry, or be stressed about anything-birth included!
Even if things seem difficult in the moment, there are things you can do that help ease tension, relax your muscles, and release pain.
Having been through two labors (and rocked both of them!), here are a few tips and tricks that I learned that really helped during labor.
*disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and the info in this post is my own opinion and advice based on my own experience. You’ll want to check with your doctor or midwife if you have questions.
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During my first labor, I just wanted to lay on the bed the whole time. Moving was the last thing that I wanted to do. I felt like I just couldn’t do it.
But, when I took that step to get up and start moving around, I actually found that my contractions were more bearable. And, they were further apart.
Not only does movement help you cope with contractions, it also helps the baby move into the right position for birth.
I found that my favorite movement during labor was labor lunges. To do a labor lunge, you stand with a wide stance and slowly do lunges from side to side.
I did labor lunges while leaning on the bed, against the wall in the shower, and leaning on my husband.
Squats can also help during labor to open everything up and move the baby down. I’m not talking wimpy squats, but full on squats to the floor (my doula called them “goddess squats”).
In both of my labors, I would do squats during contractions and felt relief. It felt good knowing that the movements that I was doing were helping my baby get into position for a smoother birth.
You can also throw a labor dance party like I did in my first birth. We turned on some cardio dance workout music and let go! I will always remember that as one of the funnest times of my life.
Related: 5 Secrets to Avoid Pain in Labor
It’s no secret that water helps a laboring woman cope with contractions. During labor, water is your best friend. Showers, baths, foot baths—water is a natural epidural.
It feels so amazing during labor!
During my second labor, I practically stayed in the shower the entire time. Showers are pretty safe, but be sure and check with your doctor or midwife before hopping in the tub because a bath can slow down labor.
There may be times when it’s not best to get in the tub (like if you have a ton of amniotic fluid like I did during my second labor).
If you’re worried about modesty during labor, you can throw on a swimsuit. That way, if you have a birth photographer, you can have some decent pictures that you can show people later.
For some reason, when I’m in labor, modesty goes out the window and all my clothes come off. I just felt more comfortable that way. But, it would have been nice to have some labor pictures that are presentable.
Do what you need to do during labor.
3) Essential oils
I used essential oils during both labors with pretty positive results. I love essential oils—the smell and knowing that they’re helping my body.
In labor, you can diffuse them in the room, dilute and apply topically, or put the oils on a wash rag and inhale. Make sure you ask if the hospital or birth center has a diffuser in the room so you can bring one if you want it.
Essential oils helped fend off nausea and vomiting during my second labor, and they just felt generally relaxing during my foot massage in labor.
If you already love and use oils, I recommend bringing the ones that you love so that you have several to choose from in the moment of need.
I love DoTerra essential oils because they are 100% pure therapeutic grade so I know the quality is top notch and they’re not previously diluted.
I didn’t have this with my fists labor, but oh boy did it feel amazing during my second labor! I really wish I had known about this before.
The great thing about a rice sock is that it can be either hot or cold. You can warm it up in the microwave and use it as a heat pack. Or, you can put it in the freezer and it turns into an ice pack.
I used my rice sock as a heating pad during my second labor and it felt so good during contractions. I would put it on my lower belly where I felt the contractions the most. You could also put it on your lower back if you have back labor or feel pain there during pregnancy like I did.
To make one, I just used one of my husband’s socks, filled it with rice, and then tied it. It didn’t look very pretty but it for the job done.
After labor, I found out that you can buy prettier rice socks on Amazon (like the one pictured above) so I got one for postpartum. They’re great for those postpartum cramps that are worse after second or subsequent pregnancies! And, they’re good for just relaxing with the warmth too.
5) Cold washcloth during pushing
I didn’t do this with my first labor but oh how I wish I had known about this trick.
It feels amazing!
In between pushing contractions, my doula would put a cold washcloth on my forehead or run her hands under cold water and put them on my cheeks. Somehow it helped me calm down, take a breath, and rest in between pushing.
I had both of my babies in a birth tub (a jacuzzi tub not an inflatable tub like you would have at a home birth) so I was in the typical semi-reclined position. During pushing contractions, my head would come forward with chin to chest.
When the contraction was over, I would lean my head back against the tub. That t͛s when the cold washcloth felt so good.
The birth center had one of those inflatable pillows for the tub to lean back against. If you will be birthing in a tub, make sure and have one of these on hand so that the tub is more comfortable.
Of course, make sure that whoever is doing this takes the washcloth off when a push contraction comes. Otherwise, the cloth will fall off. That, and I don’t think it would have felt very good during a contraction.
These are just a few tricks that I found really worked for me during labor. Some of these (like the cold washcloth and rice pack) I really wish I had known about for my first labor.
It’s good to be prepared. So, do your research on tricks that help during labor and have them on hand. Hopefully, if you’re reading this and it’s your first labor, you can have these things just in case they help in the moment.
Everyone finds their labor groove and some things that worked for me may not work for others. Find what works for you and stick to it. Even if you feel silly doing it. Don’t worry about anyone but you and that baby during labor.
Relax. Rest. You got this.
What other tips and tricks do you have that helped during labor?