How in the world do you prepare for a natural birth? Given that my babe’s due date is in less than a month, it’s safe to say that I’m in full-on prep mode! Here’s some of the measures that I am taking- and that many mothers take- to prepare their bodies for a natural labor and delivery.
SENSE ASSOCIATIONS– Perhaps one of the more fascinating (and effective) ways you can prep yourself for labor, this one just involves sticking to a relaxing routine in the weeks leading up to your birth. Our bodies learn to associate certain smells, sounds, and even colors to certain emotions or bodily reactions- and what we are going for is relaxation! For me, I have a few different artists that I like to listen to during my relaxation time (Iron and Wine, Sigur Rós being the most common) and I have certain essential oils that I routinely use as well (DoTerra’s Serenity blend being the most effective). When I have a relaxation practice, I use the oils and put on the music, and practice total body relaxation- trying to intense every muscle in my body. The thought is that, once I am in labor, my body will remember these sounds and scents and automatically become more relaxed.
EXERCISES– Because we took Bradley Method classes, we were automatically given a list of exercised to perform daily, each designed to prepare the body in some way for labor.
Pelvic Tilts/ Hands and Knees- Basically a pelvis-focused version of the cat/cow exercise in yoga. This helps improve pelvic mobility, strengthens the core, and relieved lower back pain.
Butterfly- You need a partner for this one. Sit against a wall or headboard with your knees bent together. Have your partner push your legs together as you push them apart, strengthening the outer leg and hip muscles.
Squatting- One of the most beneficial exercises to do during pregnancy, squatting regularly will gently stretch the perineum and improve hip and pelvic mobility. This is also a great position to use in labor (particularly pushing stage) because it opens the pelvis at extra 10-15%.
Tailor Sitting- Or, ‘criss cross applesauce’. Work on getting your knees to the floor! This will keep you in good posture, which helps align the baby correctly for delivery.
Moderate Walking- I’m bad at this one. I try to walk places as much as I can but I’m really exhausted. That said, get in as much activity as your body can handle- stamina is what you need! Labor is an athletic event!
Exercise Ball- My new favorite, especially with baby girl being posterior. Birth balls or exercise balls force you to have great posture, strengthen the core and the back, and help align the pelvis and baby for birth! I have also found that it helps alleviate my back pain. These balls are also invaluable during birth- but more on that in a later post 🙂
HERBAL TEAS– This is something that I have been implementing almost my entire pregnancy, thanks to my home-blended pregnancy support tea. Now that I am nearing labor, I am ramping up the amount of Red Raspberry Leaf in my tea (to strengthen the uterus) while toning down the amount of peppermint (which can sometimes inhibit milk production). I’ll be bringing this tea to labor with me, too!
HERBAL TINCTURES– This is probably less common, but I’m going for it, anyway- it can’t hurt! I received a small bottle of Labor Prep tincture from Trilight Health– an herbal blend designed to prepare the body for labor gently but effectively. you take a very small amount per day- again, it can’t hurt! I also have several tinctures from WishGarden Herbs that I use frequently- one for stress relief, and one to help me sleep. Both are quite important now!
PERINEAL MASSAGE– Say what? Yeah, basically a foufouey way of saying ‘pre stretch yourself’. Neither erotic or comfortable, but certainly effective in preparing the nether regions for birth- both in preventing tearing (which is obviously a plus) and getting mom used to the sensation of being stretched down there. When the feeling comes it will be vaguely familiar- which will allow her to focus through the pain. This article has an easy explanation of perineal massage.
EPO– This might be the most controversial one. I thought that using Evening Primrose Oil, both internally and vaginally, was becoming more commonplace until I asked my midwife. She informed me that the birth center had seen a connection between women using EPO and having their water break without actually being in labor- and told me that they do not recommend it. However, other labor professionals I have spoken to have not seen that correlation and do support their clients using EPO. The bottom line: there’s not really medical evidence either way- only anecdotal. But there’s some pretty convincing anecdotes, too 🙂
REBOZO WORK– A rebozo is basically a long scarf that can be used to lift the uterus off of the pelvis and give the baby some room to move around. I’ll discuss the rebozo more in my post on my ‘natural birth hospital bag’, as there are many things a rebozo can be used for during birth. However, it is a great tool to help get the baby into a favorable position before labor- something we have been working on since she seems to be posterior at this point.
ACUPUNCTURE– I’ve been seeing my acupuncturist regularly throughout my pregnancy, and he’s a great friend to have going into labor. Not only is he skilled in turning breech babies, but he can induce labor as well, if necessary. He is helping with my anxiety, heartburn, sleep issues, and baby girl’s positioning!
Do you have a favorite way to prepare the body for natural birth? A tried and true method, or something that you’re curious about? I’d love to hear!