Ways to Prepare your Body for Labour
Let me start out by saying that our bodies were designed to give birth and will innately do so. Please keep in mind that no matter who you are, or what your circumstance, your body is a beautifully designed creation. Above anything else, the narrative we speak over ourselves during pregnancy and birth is what's important. Be kind to yourselves, believe in the ability of your body and what it's capable of doing.
The following tit-bits for preparing your body for labour are just as much for physical benefit as they are for your peace of mind going into labour, knowing you’ve done the prep. In my antenatal classes I often liken labour to going on a hike. There will be strolls, there will be climbs, there will be rest periods, time to eat and drink, times to pause and take in the view, and of course your summit. Getting to the summit will be the goal… and what’s waiting at the top, will change your world!
But, you wouldn’t just get up and climb Kilimanjaro right? You’d do some training. So here is my outline of how to prepare for the most beautiful “hike” you’ll ever go on. This is just an outline, and I would highly recommend finding professionals you trust to guide you through this preparation time.
1. Prepare your mind: Yes, this is a post about preparing physically. BUT the power of your mind and how you talk to yourself has a huge impact on your physical state too. Learn about how labour works and get some tools in your kit. Find an antenatal class online or in your area so that you can enter labour feeling empowered with a knowledge of the process and all the alternatives available to you.
Practicing relaxation and seeing labour pain in the right light can help your physical labour so much. Seeing labour as a pathway to meeting your baby and the pain as something that’s a process, not something to be feared, can help you release the right hormones. Fear releases stress hormones, which will slow labour down. Relaxation helps release good hormones like oxytocin and endorphins which will actually keep your labour going well, and believe it or not, be less painful.
2. Practice Breathing: Breathing is one of the best ways to relax, and to cultivate a mind-body connection. Belly breathing is a good way to do this. In short, take a deep breath in through your nose and sloooooowly exhale through your mouth, allowing your belly to relax and rise and fall with the breaths. Practising this during pregnancy will help you do it much easier during labour. Pregnancy Yoga and pilates can help with this practise. Leading to my next tip:
3. Move: Keep moving during your pregnancy. This isn’t the time to hit personal bests in training, but exercise will help keep your body strong and fit, in correct alignment and help you practise positions you may very well use in labour. You don’t need a gym membership to do this. Fortunately, we live in a country with amazing weather so even a stroll outside every day is better than not moving at all. Check with your health care professional before starting any sort of exercise, and make sure any classes are run by pregnancy certified trainers.
4. Nourish yourself: A large part of your preparation will be to look after your health with good nutrition. Whole foods, as close to their natural state as possible are best for you. Try avoiding foods high in refined sugar or anything on the label that’s a number or code or sounds like something made in a lab! Don’t forget to take your prenatal vitamins, and to stay well hydrated.
5. Get your labour toolkit ready: Get a labour bag packed in your third trimester so that you have everything you need with you on the day.
Just some of my favourites include:
- Comfortable pyjamas and gowns (look no further than Cherry Melon for the softest and most beautiful)
- Maternity Pads and disposable panties
- Breasties (can be used in labour for a warm or cool compress)
- Comfortable feeding bras or Camis
- Travel sizes of your favourite toiletries
- A water bottle to stay hydrated.
- Snacks: think date-balls, peppermints for refreshing, dried fruit, nuts etc
- Birthing ball
- Massage balls or rollers
- Pain management notes, notes from classes, breastfeeding notes.
By Claire Moffatt, Registered Nurse and Midwife, South African Certified Lactation Consultant | Grow Lactation
For more information on preparing for labour and antenatal classes. Visit www.lactation.co.za
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