Childbirth is one of the most physically demanding, emotionally draining but at the same time invigorating and rewarding things a human can possibly do. Feeling a bit anxious about giving birth is completely normal, especially as your due date starts to get closer. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make both labour and postpartum more comfortable.
You wouldn’t run a marathon without training for it, and childbirth should be no different. By learning a few simple exercises and tips, you can help to prepare your body for birth.
How to make labour more comfortable
Regardless of what kind of birth you’re preparing for – using medical pain relief such as an epidural or natural coping mechanisms like mindful breathing – here’s the stuff you really need to know.
1. Regularly empty your bladder during labour
Women should be encouraged to empty their bladder at regular intervals during labour. This ensures that there is space for the baby to drop down into the birth canal. Also, sitting on the toilet is a great position to help open the pelvis. Ask your birth partner or midwife to remind you about this one because you may forget.
2. Keep your hands relaxed during contractions
Keeping your hands relaxed during your contractions will let you know that you’re not tensing up everywhere else. This is important because the last thing you want when trying to get your baby out of your body is being tense everywhere else.
3. Use a warm flannel on your perineum during labour
The use of a warm flannel during the second stage of labour has been shown to (significantly) reduce the risk of tearing and pain at birth. By soaking a flannel in warm water, wrung out and gently placed on the perineum, it can help with labour as your baby’s head begins to stretch the perineum. Be sure to discuss this option with your midwife prior to giving birth.
4. Make deep, low sounds at the end of labour
When you reach the point towards the end of labour where you feel like you’re losing control, try to make a deep groaning sound as you exhale. This will help your body to relax and direct your powerful energy to where it needs to go.
How to make your postpartum experience more comfortable
Your baby is finally here and you’re so excited to get home and start your new mama duties. But, before you get too ahead of yourself, here are some things you should consider.
1. Breastfeeding Advice
If you plan on breastfeeding, make sure you ask for help. Remember that although breastfeeding is the most natural form of nutrition, it’s still a skill that needs to be learned by both baby and mama. Also, keep in mind that breastfeeding is not the only option for feeding your baby.
2. Help the perineum heal
In the first 24 hours after giving birth, apply ice to the perineum every few hours (and make sure not to apply directly to the skin, wrap in a clean dry towel). Also, spray warm water over the area before, during and after urinating to keep urine from irritating the skin. You can use a spray bottle or simply pour water from a bottle of clean warm water.
If you experienced a perineum tear or episiotomy (surgical incision made in the perineum to provide more space for your baby to be born) during birth and have perineal stitches as a result, ask for pain relief whenever it’s needed. In addition, although it may seem counter intuitive, the best thing you can do if you’ve had stitches is to sit on your bottom with your legs uncrossed.
3. Remember that you need to eat too
Your main focus will be on your baby and you will probably even forget to eat. Ask your partner or support system to feed you during early postpartum. Tell them to add protein, extra fibre, and healthy fats to your diet. A smoothie made of coconut oil, spinach, blueberries, avocado, and almond butter is an excellent snack.
4. Postpartum recovery checklist
Here’s a list of things you’re going to want to keep nearby when in postpartum recovery:
- Peri bottle: After having your baby, you should be given a squeezable plastic bottle with a few tiny holes in the spout. It’s known as a peri bottle and is great for keeping your personal spots clean. You can fill it with warm water and keep it in your bathroom to use everytime you go to the toilet.
- Flushable water- based wet wipes: Adult wet wipes are perfect for a few weeks of uncomfortable bathroom trips. They’re soothing to the skin and very gentle.
- Maxi pads: You will probably need these for a few weeks, until the postpartum bleeding stops.
- Nursing pads: If you’re breastfeeding, these will help keep leaky nipples under control.
- Sitz bath: This little tub is used in early postpartum to help ease pain, promote hygiene, and offers good hygiene to the perineal area.
- Stool softener: It’s not for long-term use but can get you through the initial slow-down after giving birth. Or natural alternatives can help, such as prunes and dried apricots
- Disposable underwear: As you heal, accidents still happen and it’s easier to toss underwear instead of having a pile of stained pairs to wash.
So there you have it, our must-know guide on how to make labour and postpartum more comfortable. Remember to check out HATCH, the Urban Hatch digital childbirth preparation programme and support for more advice and to help new mamas prepare for birth.