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10 Things you Really Need to Know About Labour

So let’s just say you’ve arrived in to Ireland from a spaceship – you’re 39 weeks pregnant and know nothing about giving birth on Mars or in Ireland. So much of the information that’s out there is scary and hyped-up.
 

Here’s what you really need to know to have the most positive experience possible if your labour starts tomorrow.

1. Written birth preferences

I’ve written about this before. Do not underestimate the power of written birth preferences to help you avoid unnecessary abdominal surgery and outdated procedures. Midwives love them – it helps us get to know you better and understand how to best support you on your big day.

2. Home sweet home

Labouring at home for longer means you’re likely to cope much better and avoid unnecessary poking/prodding that comes with being in hospital for long periods (think ‘watched pot!’). Get a doula or good friend to support you.

3. Yes, poop happens…

… And it’s gone in an instant. Midwives love poop (it’s not that we’re weird but it means baby is coming soon after).

4. Breathe deeply

Practising those breathing exercises will pay off on the big day. One of the biggest fears of first-time moms is that they’ll end up screaming like a banshee. Deep vocalisation can be very effective as a coping mechanism so if you need to make noise do so! Focus and concentration helps you stay in control if the sensations become very intense. Many moms are surprisingly quiet during labour as it takes so much mental focus to just take each sensation one at a time.

5. You can do anything for a minute!

The longest contraction you’re going to experience is probably going to be around one minute – and that’s close to the end when your baby is about to be born. The surges build and crest and then ebb away like a powerful wave – they don’t just hit you out of nowhere…as you feel the contraction building you relax your body and breathe IN to the wave… fighting it makes it harder and longer to cope with. Make your mantra “I can do anything for a minute”.

6. Get up – Stand up!

Being upright generally means shorter, less painful births. You’re a lot more likely to emerge with your dignity intact too if you’re upright. Upright positions increase confidence and reduce stress. Try it!

7. Food glorious food

Have a few light snacks in your bag for you and your partner. Hospitals who still refuse food in labour coincidentally have higher rates of Syntocinon use (the drip) to speed up your contractions. It’s quite simple  – if you are starving in labour, your body can’t do the work it needs to and your threshold for any emotional or physical distress is lowered considerably….and along comes the drip. The evidence says YES to food!!! Say YES to a digestive biscuit and NO to the drip!

8. How to handle induction

If there are complications at the end of your pregnancy then sometimes induction makes sense. However if you’ve had a perfect pregnancy you can opt not to be induced at 10, 12 days etc just because it’s your hospital’s policy. The National Maternity Hospital induces at 14 days. A spontaneous labour tends to be a lot more straightforward and results in more positive births. However if induction is on the cards you can still maintain some control on the day with upright monitoring and buying time at each stage of the induction.

9. You can help yourself avoid stitches

Labour in water (or better still have a water birth in the Coombe). Follow your natural urges to push. Coached pushing is bad for mums and bad for babies. Have your partner apply a warm compress to your perineum when you feel that urge to bear down. Choose what position feels best for you. You’re more likely to have stitches if you’re attending a hospital with a high episiotomy rate. Be sure to put it in your preferences that you prefer not to have an episiotomy. If you do need to have stitches be sure to insist on adequate analgesia before the suturing is started and lots of pain relief after. Most mums recover without any problems.

10. Breastfeeding support can be hit and miss

Get good support lined up before your baby arrives by getting along to a La Leche league meeting or Cuidiu meet-up or reading some articles here on the subject. Sit on the bell – ask for help… and then ask for more. It’s our job to help you get breastfeeding off to a good start. A good breastfeeding class is a must too. The first few days are intense but with the right support you can get over those speed bumps and successfully breastfeed for however long your breastfeeding goals are.

As always, we would love to hear your opinions. Please leave a comment below.

About the Author

I’m Tracy Donegan, registered midwife and mum to 2 gorgeous boys. I’ve been working in Irish maternity services since 2005 and really enjoy helping Irish families have the best experiences possible. You may be familiar with my books – The Irish Better Birth Book and The Irish Caesarean and VBAC Guide, as well as the very popular GentleBirth Positive Birth app.

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