If you’re expecting then you’ve probably heard a lot of very unhelpful horror stories from well meaning friends and family. The things they tell you are totally and utterly insensitive, unthinking and to be honest just bizarre.
None of it’s helpful – it’s actually totally irrelevant and more importantly it’s pretty damaging to your own unique birth story. It was however absolutely my world before I studied to become a psychologist, hypnotherapist, hypnobirthing teacher, doula and mother to twin boys. (Don’t even get me started on what people would say about birthing twins!). Let me tell you that if you embrace birthing and prepare for it then it doesn’t have to be anything like the stories you hear. It will in fact be very different (in a good way!).
Having worked in the birthing industry for over 8 years I have seen all kinds of births and come across a whole spectrum of amazing women The one main element I make clear on my courses are that birth isn’t perfect and aiming for that is only going to lead to frustration and disappointment. It can however be positive.
Whether you have a c section, natural birth, assisted birth, home birth, free birth, multiple birth (you get the point) – the most important thing is that you and the baby are healthy and that there is so much that can be done to help you have a positive birth experience. There are a lot of birthing professionals now offering so many tips that mums can end up feeling deflated if they don’t have the natural birth they’ve had in their minds and been coached for throughout their pregnancy. Natural birth is of course our goal but actually let’s open our mindset and acknowledge that some little one’s do need help and that’s ok. It can still be a really positive beautiful experience.
So, that said, here are some of my top ten birthing hacks to help make your birth a positive one!
Sorry but this had to be my number 1! Read any article on birthing and they will talk about the importance of relaxation and the effects it has on your birthing physiology. If you are able to relax then your birthing muscles are able to work together properly as they have all the oxygenated blood they need to function effectively.
Panicking and getting anxious will result in fight, flight or freeze response kicking in which will deplete the muscles of the oxygenated blood they need to work properly and you’ll end up with an extended labour, very painful contractions and ultimately medical intervention.
Affirmations and visualisations are also vital in the hypnobirthing world and I particularly love this quote from Kate Hudson on the advice her mother, Goldie Hawn, gave her in the delivery room: “She brings a magnolia flower. And she sort of starts to do these visualisations with me. And she’s going, ‘Imagine your va-jay-jay as a large magnolia flower blossoming.” Awesome!
A Hypnobirthing course will teach you practical breathing techniques, tools to practice getting in to this relaxed state, fear release, birth partners role, tips to staying in control and ultimately help you to have a more calm comfortable birthing experience. If I didn’t see such amazing results then I wouldn’t have been teaching it for so long. If you can get to a class then this really will help you prepare mentally and physically no matter what path your baby chooses to enter the world.
2) It’s a date!
Did you know that when we are given our due dates this is actually based on nothing more than biblical/astrological references? What I’m saying is, it’s complete guess work. Our gestational period in the UK is 40 weeks, France it’s 41 weeks and Kenya is 42. Please don’t get too hooked on hitting that due date as we really can’t know for sure when baby will come and that’s OK.
No need to be induced just to hit that due date unless of course there’s a medical need. Having said that, many hospitals do like to encourage you to start showing signs of being ready as you near your due date and if you want to go with their guidelines then there are a few things you may have read that can get things going. You could try spicy foods (hello indigestion), having sex (semen is a natural source of prostaglandin – the synthetic hormone used to encourage the cervix to ripen) and eating pineapples (you’d need to eat 8 pineapples a day including the core as it’s actually the Bromelain in pineapples found in the core that can encourage cervix ripening). Having said that – none of these are scientifically proven so –do yourself a favour and go for the one thing that is actually proven to not only bring labour on around the due date (approx.) and also shorten labour (result!).
Here it is: Eating 6 dates a day from 35 weeks . As simple as that! You can read more about the study here .
3) Poo – yes I said it. Poo.
If you have a bowel movement as the professionals like to call it whilst birthing then well done you! You’re birthing in the right way. Your body knows exactly what it’s doing when you’re birthing and all those powerful muscles are nudging the baby down all by themselves but if you feel like you want to help in any way with a push then do it from the right place – not from your shoulders with a clenched jaw, breath held, eye ball blood vessels bursting! The push should be very much sphincteresque – that is, pushing from your bottom as if you’re doing a poo. This can lead to a way more gentle birthing process, less tearing, faster birthing and less need for medical intervention (albeit messier) birthing experience.
If you’re embarrassed to have a BM in front of the midwives then forget it, you’re more likely to get a high five for doing it right than a turned up nose for making a mess.
Taking the right kind of snack is so important. Now if I was a follow the rule kind of a lady then I’d tell you to take in your healthy fruit and nuts, no refined sugar etc but turns out I’m not that type of a gal. I’m more of a ‘do what works’ type. I would absolutely take in your favourite snack whether it’s chocolate digestives or dime bar (but do eat them in moderation of course!) but what I would suggest is not to use energy drinks. These are so full of nasty additives that you will probably find it comes right back up again. And again. And again.
The snacks that my mums have found most useful are things like frozen grapes, frozen fruit juice cartons so they become slushies, home made energy drinks, coconut water, paleo protein bars and dark chocolate. All in small quantities and in moderation. Overfilling your tummy will be uncomfortable but keeping energy up in key so little bits here and there is perfect to fuel your journey
5) Essential Oils
Oils can be used throughout labour and birthing and have such an incredible impact that I can’t believe these aren’t spoken about more. Lavender is the most commonly used oil to help maintain a sense of calm and relaxation throughout labour and birth but if you need something to help kick start the labour then Clary Sage is excellent. Basil is great for discomfort in labour,
A citrus blend promotes positivity, is an antbacterial, and anti depressant and on guard helps boost immunity and keeps germs away during your stay in hospital.
It’s worth mentioning now that as a brand of essential oil, Doterra are the cleanest oils I know as well as being a very ethical company and I would recommend buying them from Dr Robin Fawcett who could tell you all about which oils to use on your baby too for all kinds of ailments.
There are so many more ways to use oils in labour, birthing, for healing baths post birth and on your baby so I’ll be writing a separate blog post on the ‘what’ ‘how’ and ‘when’s to use oils safely and effectively.
6) Perineal Massage and support
All those muscles that are currently rigid and taught holding everything in place will need to learn to be flexible, pliable and loose for the baby’s entrance in to the world. The best way to do this from 34/35 weeks after a bath/shower when muscles are warm and more prone to stretching. For a visual demo of how to do it you can watch this youtube link showing a midwife doing it on a dummy. Perineal massage has been amazing to prevent tearing especially in first time mums. If this all seems a little alien then you can try an epino too which is also brilliant. You can also ask for support warm compress to be placed on to the perineum when birthing .
This warmth increases blood flow to the area and when counter pressure is used it can be very comforting. I could (and will) write a whole separate blog post on preventing tearing but for now these two are fantastic.
7) Walk like an Egyptian
Only kidding, it’s worse. Walk like a camel
This brilliant yoga move has been so effective for so many of my mums in helping with the descent of the baby and for alleviating back pain – you can see a great demo of it here. Baby’s mostly find their way down the birth canal on their own but often they need a little help – this walk can help to open up the birth canal and allow for baby to slip down a little more easily especially when in a tricky position.
The walk takes practice so it’s worth trying it well before the day you go in to labour!
8) The Golden Hour
Our culture commonly separates mothers from their babies for routine procedures i.e. weighing and cleaning but unless there’s a medical reason to do so then this first hour should be focused on baby’s opportunity to bond and to make the transition from womb to world as gentle as possible. There are so many reasons why this hour is so important such as: encouraging baby led breast feeding, body system regulation for babies, promoting delayed cord clamping, promoting mother baby bonding, boosting baby’s immunity naturally and many more.
Ask your midwife for immediate skin to skin and soak up the love and beautiful bonding moment between you and your new little one. There’s plenty of time for routine medical assessments – this is your time with your baby so enjoy every minute of this precious time.
9) Placenta Consumption
Stay with me! As crazy as this sounds, it’s not a new phenomenon and consuming the placenta in it’s raw form is thought to be amazing for mums as they are essentially reabsorbing all the rich nutrients that have been stored inside and offers a whole host of health benefits. In order to have the placenta pills made, you would need to discuss placenta collection with both your hospital an your chosen encapsulation service. It’s important to make sure they’re reputable and have evidence of passing health and safety tests but it’s definitely worth looking in to as the health benefits are being raved about!
10) Birth Partner
Whether your birth partner is your husband, boyfriend, mother, mother in law, a friend, a doula (highly recommend!), your birth partner is invaluable. They are your natural buffer between you and your environment. If you are in a ward with lots of busy staff asking questions and flicking lights on you just wont be able to switch off and focus on the relaxation that your body craves when going through labour. Your Neo Cortex will be over stimulated and your adrenaline levels will start to rise meaning oxytocin drops and labour will either slow or become very painful. Your birth partner is your layer of protection and should take care of everything around you so you can focus on yourself and your baby.
Let him/her answer any questions from the midwife, lay out the snacks, put some music on, apply pressure or endorphin release massage on you or simply hold your hand as you focus on visualising, breathing and ultimately birthing. It’s a good idea to talk through your birth plan with your birth partner so you’re both on the same page and if you don’t know much about labour then it’s a good idea to book in to an antenatal class.
I highly recommend choosing independent birth education classes particularly Noobies who have a contemporary, honest and logical approach with classes all taught by midwives, making it really interesting for both mums and dads. Either way, your birth partner will be a huge part in making the birthing experience a positive one so plan, prepare and unite.