Labor and delivery is a world unto itself; when you go there, the only thing that will seem to exist is you and your baby - especially as you transition into the final stages. Your birthing coach, your doctor or midwife and key supporters you’ve rallied for the cause will appear between “the veil” at times, but ultimately - you’ll be going through an incredible duet with your baby.
The final act, will be the arrival of your precious son or daughter in your baby’s tiniest form.
There are things you can do to prepare your body & mind for labor
I’m not talking about your birth plan here, although I highly recommend creating a birth plan, nor am I talking about your doula or birthing team (although they’re critical as well); I’m talking about the mental and physical things you can do to prepare your body for birth and the postpartum period.
Eat well & exercise regularly
Nutrition is for you and the baby - not just the baby. Keeping your body well-nourished and hydrated will keep your body as healthy as possible as you gear up for labor. Odds are your OB or midwife will provide all kinds of information along those lines, but the American Pregnancy Association's page on Diet During Pregnancy is another quality resource.
Exercise is also important. If this is your first labor/delivery - it will probably be on the longer side because you’re body has never done this before. After that, successive pregnancies tend to go quicker - although not always. That being said, “quick” in labor terms - from first contraction to pushing the baby out - is still a matter of hours, so you can see that pregnancy is not the time to let your strength and stamina decline.
Speak to your doctor about the best and safest pregnancy exercises for your medical and pregnancy history.
Practice labor-friendly exercises
These labor-friendly exercises are primarily based in the Yoga tradition. A prenatal yoga class provides great bang-for-your-buck, because you’ll improve strength and stamina while also learning important breathwork that can carry you through some of the more trying moments and contractions.
Child’s pose (balasana). Often used as a resting pose in yoga class, this posture lengthens the pelvic floor and eases discomfort. It can also be used during labor as a resting pose - and can feel especially good for those experiencing back labor.
Deep squat (malasana). This posture not only lengthens the pelvis region - it also works with gravity to help get the baby down-down-down the birth canal. Many women around the world actually give birth in this position so practicing it safely now can prepare you for when you need it.
Yoga Journal’s post, Pelvic Floor Sequence For Easier Labor & Delivery has additional poses that will support your pregnancy and labor - and that can also be used postpartum to re-strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
Take a childbirth education class
These classes are invaluable for providing the education part of labor and delivery. They cover everything from “what to expect” throughout your pregnancy as well as how your nutritional needs change from the first trimester to the third - but they also spend a tremendous amount of time teaching you all about what happens when you go into labor.
In addition to being helpful for you - the more you know, the more you can understand what’s happening to your body when it gets a mind of its own and starts going into labor - childbirth education classes are also helpful for your primary birthing coach/labor partner. S/he’ll learn all kinds of tidbits regarding positions, massage techniques, hydration and snack recommendations, the types of sounds you might make and the things you might say during transition and as you push, etc.
Your instructor will also provide you with ample information and resources for the postpartum days/weeks when you return with baby.
My name is Marcela Limon and I’m the owner of Lemonshoots. As a maternity and newborn photographer, I know first-hand how empowering the pregnancy and labor experience is for women when they have access to the information they need to feel confident in their body, their choices and the process. I hope these tips help you to experience a positive labor and delivery. And, of course, contact me anytime ((510) 747-9019) to schedule a newborn session so we can capture the essence of your newborn’s magic.