3 Tips That Made Giving Birth Easier

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I was expecting for the first time and didn't know anything about birth, but I wanted to know everything.

I don't like to give up control, so I wasn't going to just walk into the hospital when contractions started and hope for the best. I wanted to know what I could do to make my labor easier and more comfortable, so I decided to attend a 12-week Bradley birthing class.

I knew exactly what my ideal birth scenario was. I knew I needed to be flexible in case things didn't go according to plan, but I was ready…

My husband and I grabbed a notebook and headed to our first class, having no idea what to expect. Within weeks, I was eating differently, exercising almost every day, and learning how my body would work during labor.

I learned so many things that helped me have an amazing, drug-free birth, and I wish every expecting mom would have the same kind of empowering experience.

Here are 3 tips that made giving birth to my son so much easier:

 

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Don't Think of Contractions as Pain

What's the one thing we are all afraid of the most? The pain we know we'll experience during the birth. We know it's going to be there, so it's a matter of how to deal with it.

You can do relaxing exercises every day, practice hypno birth, or hope that a water birth will give you relief, but the one thing that stuck with me and made the biggest difference in how I approached my son's birth was to not think of contractions as pain.

Instead, I decided to think of them as cramps, which they essentially are. If you take the time to really experience them, you can really feel how every wave of contractions is pushing the baby closer to being born.

{ MORE:  What You Need to Know About Episiotomies }

I was already used to very strong menstrual pains since being a teenager, and that's how the contractions felt, so I wasn't freaked out by them. I kept riding the waves of the contractions, knowing that they wouldn't last forever and that no one has ever died from menstrual cramps. This was going to last just a little while, and I was confident I could endure the discomfort.

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Let Your Body Do What It Needs to Do

Instead of fighting the contractions and focusing on how painful they are, try to relax as much as possible and let your body do what it needs to do. If you tighten up because you are afraid of the next contraction, you'll have a more uncomfortable experience.

Do what you feel like doing to alleviate the discomfort of the contractions: sit on an exercise ball and roll your hips, have your partner massage your back or feet, or take a relaxing shower or bath, for example.

I wanted to be able to do what I felt like doing, so I stayed at home until the last minute. In the hospital, they don't let you eat or drink anything, but I was free to drink or eat and move around how I wanted, and our son was born 15 minutes after we arrived at the hospital.

Was that the most pleasant ride to the hospital? No, but I got around all the interventions they push on you in the hospital where they often don't let your body do what it needs to do, which can negatively affect the birth progress.

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Know Your Rights When Giving Birth in the Hospital and Have a Birth Plan

If you are having your baby in the hospital, or even if you plan a birth at a birthing center or at home, know that you have a right to say no to interventions if you end up at the hospital.

Thinking through your options and preferences well in advance of the birth and putting them down in a birth plan is crucial to what kind of birth experience you and your baby will have.

Make sure to share the plan with your partner and doula, midwife, and/or doctor.

{ MORE:  My 9 Best-Ever Pregnancy Tips and Secrets }

Not only does it make you think about what you want or don't want to happen during the birth (do you want to be able to use a tub or do you want to delay the clamping of the cord or administration of the eye ointment? for example), but it cements those things in your mind.

You are more easily able to insist on what you want when you are completely clear about your preferences. When you are in the vulnerable position of giving birth and in the middle of contractions, it's too late to make those decisions on the fly, and too many women feel like they weren't heard or had a terrible birth experience because they felt helpless.

I knew exactly what my ideal birth scenario was, and my doula had informed me that many of the interventions in the hospital are unnecessary and potentially harmful, like the constant checking for progress, which introduces the possibility of an infection.

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I knew I needed to be flexible in case things didn't go according to plan, but I was ready to refuse as many interventions as possible. But you can only do that if you have informed yourself about those interventions and what happens during birth and how your hospital handles deliveries.

{ MORE:  Making a Birth Plan }

I never ended up with that long foot massage from my husband I had envisioned and hoped for during my son's birth — there just wasn't time. But I did have a wonderful birth experience I'll always cherish.

It took some dedication, research, and trust in my body (and a little bit of luck) to have that kind of birth.

How was your birth experience? Do you think that learning to work with the contractions or having a birth plan would be or was beneficial?

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What do you think?

3 Tips That Made Giving Birth Easier

Dagmar tackles motherhood, thrifty home decorating, DIY projects, and green and frugal living on her lifestyle blog Dagmar's Home. She loves finding treasures in thrift stores and sells her handmade candles on Dagmar's Home Decor. Connect with her on Twitter (26,000 followers), Facebook, and Pinterest. ... More

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38 comments

  1. Bri says:

    My midwife told me yesterday that I’m to stay home as long as possible to relax and progress faster and easier. I’m opting for a natural birth free of medications unless life threating conditions occur for me or my baby. I haven’t yet put my birthing plan to paper but I know what I want!

  2. I can relate to this but however for me it wasn’t until my third pregnancy that I decided to wait till the last minute to get to the hospital I made sure I ate and hydrated myself before I had got there I remember sitting at my Mom’s house on her cedar chest and was in some antagonizing pain as my mother kept asking me ” are you having contractions”? I kept telling her no I was fine she then began to watch the clock as she soon discovered I was actually in labor she then started frantically getting the car ready and was trying to convince me to “” GO FOR A RIDE REAL QUICK” I then decided it was time and I couldn’t take any more of the pain and by the time I arrived I had just enough time to have labs drawn and as my midwife walked through the door she grabbed a towel and out she came and landed into her arms, was kind of scary but a huge relief as I had finally delivered my beautiful baby girl whom weighed an outstanding 8lbs and 1oz. This time around I will not wait nearly as long to get there lol…

  3. LIZ says:

    breathe its so important and mentalice yourself that youre gonnna have this kid easy, i did that and help thru the pain

  4. Daniela says:

    This article helped a little since i’m due in a little less than 6 weeks and am beginning to get nervous about labor.

  5. Cocuh5 says:

    I like this article, with my last two pregnancy I felt that I handle the contractions very well, so well that the nurse was impressed. She thought I was sleeping even when the contraction was showing off the charts. Also just like the article, I waited until the last minute to go the the hospital just the simple fact that I didn’t want to be one of patients that was sent home because I was in enough labor, believe I had friends that was told that and they ended going back to the hospital a hour later. With this 3rd pregnancy I would probably go without meds just the simple fact my labor will go fast. 1 st kid, got the hospital at 6pm had her at 3am, 2nd kid, got to the hospital at 7am had him at 11 am. Good luck to sell the moms

  6. KITTYNOLAND says:

    I have never understood the many women that desire an unmedicated drug free birth yet are just fine with popping pills/narcotics for every headache, backache, and other malady. That is the oddest thing to me.I wish that those who advocate a particular type of birth would always allow others to choose and respect what is right for each of us. Birth is certainly an individual issue and very private, for many. Most of us know what our needs are and those who do not can certainly ask around and have the advantage of researching every method known to women, on the Internet.

  7. Tahkaney says:

    The cramps tip may be something I will practice! Unfortunately, I have either a weird threshold for pain or I only felt something that resembled a cramp twice a year, so I feel a little unprepared. I really I have a case of the former… But I will be determined to stay calm and look forward to contractions as something positive and not the end of the world.

  8. Robyn says:

    I agree with this article. I have always had terrible menstrual cramps and sometimes they would make me vomit. I was expecting labour to be cramping and I found it was a similar pain, but with purpose. Definitely, every birth experience is different and some experiences are going to be complicated, so this won’t apply to everyone. But I think that there is no harm in approaching labour with the idea that it is going to be a manageable, familiar sensation, rather than “worst PAIN!! of your life” which can be terrifying.

  9. Amber says:

    I am currently pregnant with my third baby. I can honestly say every pregnancy has been different my first 2 were girls and this is a boy. My oldest I think I could have made it without an epidural but I was exhausted as I had only slept a few hours and do not think I could have pushed her out. As soon as I got to the hospital I was 7 1/2 – 8 they saw I was there the night before (dc’d @ 3:26am back at 9am) so they gave me my epidural and I think I was sleep within 20 minutes. I woke up a few hours later being checked and she was born at 2:18pm. My second labor was totally different my contractions would wrap around my abdomen. They would start from the front and go all the way around in a wave. Every step I took would bring pain. There was no way I was not getting my epidural. Me personally I want to be painfree and happy not exhausted and in pain when I deliver. However I do feel that if you want to go drug free do so but if you feel the need for pain meds do it and don’t down yourself you are not the first or last woman to need them. I have no idea how this last labor will go but I will do what is best for me not what anyone else says. The one thing I tell first time moms when you go into labor relax as much as possible. Think of your uterus as a muscle and when you get a muscle cramp you try to relax that muscle because tensing it makes the pain worse. Good luck you will do fine

  10. Dominique says:

    When I first started going into labor, I was all about “contractions aren’t pain” and “they’re helping bring my baby out” etc. after 12 hours…it was actual pain. After 24 hours I was ready for an epidural. After 36 hours I was pretty much just passing out in the 2-3 minutes between contractions and then waking up when another started. At 43 hours I pushed with all I had left and by the time my LO was born 44 hours after my contractions started, I was more exhausted than I’d ever been in my life. Every woman is different and looking back at it, 44 hours of labor made me feel pretty badass, but there’s no way these tips could’ve prepared me. There was no birth plan I could make that took into account all those things I went through those 2 days. Maybe next time though!

  11. Kirsten says:

    Dagmar, why did you go to the hospital?

  12. Rose says:

    Every woman’s birth story is just right in my eyes. I love to hear all of my friend’s different accounts and I’m glad we are not all the same. One woman’s account about her smooth labor without any meds isn’t the ideal and I want women to know this because, now that I have gone through it, and pretty much experienced both sides of labor non- medicated and then also with an epidural, next time I would opt for an epidural and not feel guilty. Here’s why. There are many things we are not told that can happen. Labor is extremely unique in every case, and what we are not told is that some women actually have a dulled down sensation for pain. They may not feel the same thing as another woman and when they tell their stories of how they got through labor just by focusing, what they don’t say is that they do have a different sense of what pain is. In my case, my first and still only pregnancy at 42 yrs of age (my daughter is 4 months old now), was born in 3 hours, unlike the amount of time I was told it was going to take. I too wanted a natural birth with no drugs so I went through the whole process and everything looked good, I never needed pitocin and until almost 8 centimeters, I could no longer breathe. I was gasping hard and I was trying everything possible. In my case any sound that I could hear was amplified and made things worse. I couldn’t have the lights on so they dimmed the room almost to darkness. And for me God forbid anyone try to soothe me with any kind of touch because it made something in my body react. I needed to be alone. That is what helped. No one told me that I would have so much sweat pour out of my head and into my eyes, that I would not be able to see and they would burn. And no one could wipe my eyes because it was useless. No touching me and there was so much sweat, wiping did nothing. It was like rain. And then, what no one mentioned could happen is that I would tear a tendon in my wrist while doing my circular motions. No one said until after that I bent my wrist while writhing, into an unnatural position, causing my thumb to paralize and I would not have the use of my hand for 2 months later. I didnt know while this was all happening so fast. Anyway, back to my labor, at the very last minute I asked for the epidural. It was instant relief. I still needed oxygen which I was given, but my baby came 15 mins.later. She was so alert and looking everywhere and nursed immediately. Everyone said she was healthier and less swollen than many other babies they had seen. There were no side effects giving her problems. And Im fine. Now I have to have surgery to repair my wrist but no one had told me that was going to be a possibility from my labor experience. This is why I say all women’s experiences are unique to them. An epidural isn’t all that bad. I experienced both sides of this scenario and until you’ve experienced an epidural, you can’t comment about how unneccessay it is. For me, it gave me back my control.

    • nikfit22 says:

      I agree with what Rose said, every women’s birth story is different and will experience things in their own way. Like Rose my experience was so fast and so intense with every contraction that I was throwing up with every contractions. It was so quick there wasn’t time for anything. I ate healthy, exercised, took care of myself, and had no drugs, but my baby still seemed really out of it the first few days. It was so unbelievably intense and painful and nothing worked. I wished I could have gotten something, anything for the pain. The only thing I know is every women is different and has to decide what is right for them. Just trust yourself.

  13. Adriane says:

    My contractions were much much worse than the menstrual cramps I had in the past. My son was face up and I had back labor for 14 hrs. No pitocin and no epidural but I did have some pain meds because after 10 hrs no matter how much you tell yourself you can do it and the contractions will eventually end there comes a breaking pt for most women. Your child’s birth sounds relatively easy and not really because of the tips you gave.

  14. yhtac072685 says:

    I had every intention of having as natural a delivery as possible. I had exercise balls and massage tools packed and relaxation stations saved to Pandora on my phone. Unfortunately, my body had different plans. I woke up around 6am (I think) the morning of my due date and my water broke. I took a quick shower, then alerted my husband, who was still happily asleep. When we got to the hospital, they informed me that I was still only a fingertip dilated, which is what I had been hearing for the past few weeks from my OB. Because my water was already broken, that put a time crunch on things, as the baby has to be delivered within 24 hours of the mother’s water breaking. When we were finally transferred to a room, I was quickly hooked up to pitocin, which meant I could not leave the bed except to go to the bathroom, so I couldn’t use the exercise balls, as much as I wanted to. I also had to stay on my left side, because my daughter’s heart beat kept dropping if I was in any other position. I dealt with the contractions as long as I could, which was a fair bit of time, because my menstrual cramps before going on birth control were beyond horrible. I finally had to ask for the epidural, because I just couldn’t take it any more. The contractions were literally one after the other, so I could not get any rest because there was only a few seconds of down time. My husband informed me later that my contractions had been off the charts, and that he was proud of me for hanging in there as long as I did. Although this birth did not go at all as I planned, I am hopeful that my next will be better. As my husband kept saying throughout the labor and afterwards, as long as she is healthy, that is all that really matters.

  15. Amy says:

    I am very sensitive to pain but was able to go all natural because my convictions on the matter are very strong and I had an excellent support staff. Get your mind in the “I can do it” place and that will do wonders. My baby also was in a poor position, so even non ideal circumstances can still be worked out. Not always, but sometimes. Btw, in response to another comment, epidurals are not natural and pitocin can be refused, even if it is common. Once you accept pitocin, the epidural is expected because the pitocin introduces a level of pain that your body isn’t prepped for.

    • I fully agree. Telling yourself you can do it makes all the difference. It’s just pain, it WILL go away, you wont die and once that baby is there it’s all over. I chose to be induced after I passed my due date (Pitocin is evil… yuck) but went without epidural and it made me somewhat of a celebrity at the hospital, which is insanity.. Women are so much stronger than they often give themselves credit for.

  16. Ann Marie says:

    If you want a natural birth great, if you don’t great also. Everyone should feel free to have the birth they want. However, at this point it isn’t all about the mother. The babies needs are more important. Who cares how you deliver if you have a healthy baby. Be realistic. Not everyone can handle pain well. For those people it’s more than period cramps. Its pain. I have 2 natural deliveries 1 with an epidural and one without. My 3rd child was breech. I had a c/s. It wasn’t what I wanted or planned but the way he was positioned there was no chance of a vag delivery. I have a gorgeous happy child. That was what mattered. Not my fear or wants. And pitocin is given in almost every birth. After the placenta is out to help the uterus clamp down and try to prevent a hemorrhage. I just wish I saw more posts that told moms however they choose to deliver is ok.

  17. stephanie says:

    I like the article. And yeah the hospital staff (doctors) often try to get you to push your body past its limit. My first daughter was horribly painful though I had her within 3minutes it was terrible I kept getting told to push when I didn’t feel the need to and ended up with hem.s because of that. My second child I listened to my body and only pushed when I felt I needed to and it was the most pleasant birth experience for me.

  18. Chantel says:

    i sat in a warm tub and relaxed until i felt i wanted to go to the hospital. once we got there i was probably walking for an hour or two then slept for the next 5 hours. a nurse woke me to check how far dilated i was and surprise not only was i clear 10cm but my body had started pushing as i slept and my little girls head was crowning. i instantly got on my back waited for the urge to push and boom her head popped out two more and there she was.

  19. Katie Osborn says:

    Thanks for the info, I need to put together a birth plan and this helps me figure out what I need to include.

  20. RachelHall says:

    You can get an epidural for that. Problem solved! 🙂

  21. Erin Bates says:

    Thanks for the info! I definitely agree with staying as home as long as possible. When did you know to go in though? I’ve heard when you can no longer talk during contractions that’s a good indicator to go ahead to the hospital. Thanks again!

  22. Kelly says:

    For me the best thing that helped for 1 was to have lots of intercourse, it helped smooth the transition in my cervix. Doctor also told us it would help my cervix open more naturally and help prevent tears and it did. Also I stayed calm, relaxed as much as anyone can in labor lol. But as long as I was relaxed I knew my baby’s were relaxed. Each baby fell asleep during labor as well as I. I had to be waken up to push for both children. Watching tv with my husband and concentrating on other things, the comedies were our choice during each birth. Social networking also kept me busy and focused on other things. Just relax and let your body do what it knows to do.

  23. Teri says:

    This will be my first child and I must admit I have no idea what I am doing. However this article did give me a lot to think about and research such as unnecessary interventions because I certainly do not want anything to be done that could potentially harm my baby at delivery.

  24. KEIYONDA says:

    A LOT OF THESE WILL ONLY WORK DEPENDING ON THE INDIVIDUAL. MAYBE ONE WILL WORK OR MAYBE TWO. IT IS ALL ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS. IF YOU’RE NOT PREPARED OF VERY NERVOUS YOU BETTER HAVE A GREAT COACH/SUPPORT SYSTEM CAUSE ONCE YOUR IN PANIC MODE VERY LITTLE MAY WORK,

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