Whether you are planning a hospital birth or a home birth, an epidural or no epidural, labor can be long and exhausting. It is physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. While some women do have fast labors, there is no guarantee. First births tend to take longer (even days sometimes) especially if you have to be induced. It can feel like it will never end- but it will, and I have some tips to help you push through it and survive that long labor.
Be Sure You Have Support
Outside of medical personnel, every women should have at least one support person with them during labor.
This is one of the most important roles that a doula plays in the birthing person’s experience. The doula ensures that the birthing person not only has their wishes heard, but helps to empower the pregnant person through education, positive affirmations, and reassurance. Doulas can support pregnant women by guiding them through procedures that they are about to go under and letting them know what to expect. Preparation helps to reduce anxiety about birth.
If you don’t have a doula, a partner, family, or friend can be your support. While a partner may not have as much knowledge about birth on hand as a doula might, they can often comfort their partner best and reassure them that their body is doing what it is supposed to do.
Keep Moving/Changing Positions
Moving around during labor is very beneficial whether it is to manage pain, or just to help your long labor progress. Different positions can be more or less helpful or comforting to different people. Don’t be afraid to try something different. If you try a new position and it is painful, discontinue immediately.
Moving to a different side, placing a pillow somewhere, or trying different motions can make a big difference. Before you go into labor, spend some time looking up different positions so you have a few options.
You can ask your doula, partner, friend, or family member to help you out with this. A massage can reduce muscle and joint pain, tension, swelling, stress and anxiety. It can also improve your circulation. You can practice massages during pregnancy, but different things might feel better or worse during labor.
One really effective technique is to have someone apply pressure to your hips by pressing down or squeezing them during a contraction.
Use A Birthing Ball Or Peanut Ball
When you go on a hospital tour, ask if they have a birthing ball and/or a peanut ball. You will want to use these.
By sitting on a birthing ball with their legs open, the pregnant person can apply pressure to the pelvis and the perineum. Pressure on the perineum can help to reduce pain. Bouncing on the ball in this position also supports the back muscles and helps dilate the cervix.
If you get an epidural, a peanut ball can be used instead. The birthing person will hold the peanut ball between their thighs. This can help to move the babies head in a better position and open up the pelvis.
Plan Ahead to Stay Comfortable
Some women prefer to give birth at home because it is more comfortable to them than a hospital setting. They may decorate their birthing area with lights, candles, or other items that make their space more comforting.
You can make your area more comfortable if you are giving birth in a hospital as well. Although you may not be able to have candles, you can bring LED candles if you prefer to do so. You can also keep things like cool wet rags or blankets, as you might alternate from being hot and cold. Some women also use music or put together a playlist for their labor.
When you are packing your hospital bag, keep this in mind and pack items that bring you comfort.
Stop Thinking About Numbers
It is easy to get discouraged when you don’t feel like you are progressing fast enough. Trust that your body knows what to do. Focusing on how far you are dilated or how long the birthing process is taking can make it seem much longer. Try not to focus so much on the clock and just be present. Labor can only go on for so long. Soon enough, it will all be over.
Think about it like you’re going to a job. The more you focus on the clock, the longer the shift seems to take. When you don’t see the clock for most of your shift, time seems to fly right by. Keep yourself busy, focus on your breathing and whatever else you need to do to stay comfortable.
Don’t Underestimate Patterned Breathing
Controlling your breathing is one of the key ways to relax your body and keep yourself centered. There are different breathing techniques that your doula or partner can help walk you through. It would be beneficial to practice this before going into labor. Patterned breathing can help you focus your mind on something other than pain or discomfort.
Many childbirth classes will teach you this as a method of pain relief during labor. This is called Lamaze Breathing. Techniques include focusing on one person or item, such as your partner, maintaining a rhythm, and very slow, deep breaths.
Go From Rest Period To Rest Period
Going from contraction to contraction can become very exhausting, very quickly. Instead of focusing so much on the contractions, try going from rest period to rest period. When you have that rest in between contractions, make sure to breathe and allow yourself to relax. If you are going from one contraction to the next rather than one rest period to the next, it can make labor feel never ending.
Keep The Goal In Mind
Sometimes a long labor can be so exhausting, you almost forget why you’re doing it! Try to envision your baby- their first cry, their little body, and what they will feel like on your chest when you get that precious skin to skin time. Although labor is tough, it is pain that serves a purpose. That purpose is to bring your baby earth side! As unbelievable as it may sound, once your baby is with you, all of the pain from labor seems to just wash away. You will be able to relax, welcome your baby to the world, and enjoy those sweet first moments that you will remember forever.
Ask For Medication If Necessary
While some people plan ahead of time to get an epidural and others do not, with birth, things don’t always go according to plan. You might find yourself thinking about asking for pain medication although you planned not to. Don’t be discouraged if things don’t go exactly the way you planned. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for medicine if you feel that the pain is hard to cope with. If you were already planning to get an epidural, trust your instincts. If you think it is the time to ask for it, don’t be afraid to ask. During labor, comfort is very important. If a birthing person is in so much pain that they can’t relax, it can make it a lot harder to push when it’s time. There are other medications available for managing pain besides an epidural if you are set on avoiding that.
Pursue Preparing for that Long Labor Today
Every birth is unique and no one can predict exactly how long it will be. The best thing to do before labor starts is to prepare. Pack some comfort items in your hospital bag and learn as much as you can. Consider hiring a doula for a support person or taking a birth class with your partner so they are prepared for that role. There are so many different ways to manage pain such as a birthing ball, a peanut ball, patterned breathing, moving around and massage. If you don’t want that epidural, then be sure to know what the other options are for pain medication. Lastly, remember all of this pain no matter how long your labor is has a purpose, bringing your baby to you.