The ABCs of Labor Support, part 2

N is for Nutrition

Giving birth takes a ton of energy! It can be hard to do when you’re fasting! There’s no physiological reason why you can’t eat in labor if you’re feeling hungry. Traditionally, hospitals have withheld food from laboring people just in case general anesthesia was needed. But with modern anesthesia technique and epidural/spinal availability, that is slowly starting to change. But at home, or in early labor before you go to the hospital, you can absolutely eat to your appetite. If you’re hungry and spaghetti sounds good, have spaghetti. If a burger sounds amazing, have a burger. As labor progresses, many people lose their appetite, and you shouldn’t try to force yourself to eat a burger if it doesn’t sound good.

O is for Open Knee Chest

The open knee chest is my go-to for helping reposition a posterior baby. The idea is to get the hips MUCH higher than the shoulders, with the knees behind the hips, so there is a wide open angle between the shoulders and knees. You know how sometimes when you’re parallel parking it gets hard to make it work, and small adjustments are not helping, so you go all the way back out and start over? (or is that just me….)

This position is that parallel parking equivalent. It brings the baby back up out of the pelvis where there’s more room to rotate around to a better position. I recommend doing this position for 15-20 minutes at a time, alternating with an upright position like walking or swaying your hips.

P is for Peanut Ball

The peanut ball is similar to a birth ball, but instead of being round, it’s shaped like a peanut in the shell. Since it is narrower, you can use it between the legs while laying down to open up the pelvis. It’s great for using with an epidural!

Q is for Quiet

Sometimes when we think about labor support, we think about playing music, saying supportive things, etc. But sometimes labor support means being quietly supportive. I once attended a birth where the mom did not want anyone to say anything. For nearly 24 hours, I didn’t say a word. I actually found it amazing how in tune I could be with her needs without any verbal communication, just by paying attention. When I noticed her licking her lips, I lifted her tumbler of water to her lips. When I noticed her moving as if to ease tension in her low back, I rubbed the spot. Being comfortable with silence can be very supportive.

R is for Rebozo

A traditional rebozo is a long Mexican shawl that can be used in a variety of ways to help. It can help support the belly, put pressure on the hips, and make it easier to stay in some labor positions. I bought my extra long rebozo from Sharom Muza, a Seattle area doula who imports them from Mexico. The extra long length and slight give to the weave make it work really well. In a pinch, I’ve used the hospital sheets, folded into thirds the long way, in a similar way.

S is for Squatting

Squatting helps open up the bottom part of the pelvis, which makes it a useful position for later in labor when the baby’s head is lower and in that part of the pelvis. It’s might not feel great in pregnancy when that’s not the case, or it may feel great because it can help align and stretch out the spine. Squat as deeply as is comfortable, keep your feet flat, hang from a partner’s hands or knees, the doorknobs of a sturdy door, or use a squat bar in the hospital bed. If squatting hurts, choose another position.

T is for Tub

Water is sometimes called “mother nature’s epidural” and many, many people really enjoy it’s benefits for birth. Most people use it for water labor and actually give birth outside the tub, but many people stay in the tub and have a water birth. Use towels to make yourself comfortable, and consider that you can lay on your side, sit cross legged, or do any number of positions in the tub that are not laying on your back. Showers are also very helpful, but I already had something for S!

U is for Upright Positions

The traditional laying flat on your back position for pushing may not be a great one for most people, as it means the body weight is pressing the tail bone into the baby’s path. An upright position means the tailbone can move out of the way, and it lines up the baby’s path with gravity as well.

V is for Visualization

Many people find they can use their mind’s eye to help them feel calm and relaxed. They might take a mental trip down memory lane to a time when they felt relaxed and comfortable, or do an abstract visualization of light, calmness or peace flowing through their body. Other people like to picture what’s happening in their body to allow it to happen, or even do a mental rehearsal ahead of time.

W is for Walking

Walking is the classic way to help encourage things to move along in early labor. Many people go to the hospital and are told to go walk for an hour and come back to be checked again. You can walk or pace around your home or hospital room, or go walk the halls or get outside. I recommend walking in a loop around where you leave, rather than getting far from home and exhausting yourself walking back.

X is for Xenagogue

I really had to stretch for something to work for X! A Xenagogue is a guide. It can be a person, like a professional birth doula, a resource like a book of labor support techniques (I like The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin) or even an app (My favorite is iBirth!) I like to say labor is an open book exam, and you can definitely refer to anything that helps! My Online Childbirth Class comes with several downloadable resources as well.

Y is for Yoga

My clients who have done prenatal yoga have done very well in their births. Not only are some yoga positions useful for labor, they learn calming breath and relaxing all the muscles not used in staying in position. These skills serve them well as they birth!

Z is for ZZZZZZZs

Sleeping in labor? It can absolutely happen! Sometimes it is just small “micronaps” between contractions, sometimes it’s a longer sleep with help from pain medications. But staying as well rested as possible *before* labor begins can help, too. I remember way back when the very first Harry Potter movie came out. I had a client who was about 39 weeks at the time, and she went to the midnight showing. After the show was over, they drove up in the mountains to a lake, and sat on the hood of their car talking about the movie until the sun rose. Her contractions started on the way home! Exhaustion definitely made her birth more challenging, though with the help of a warm bath, she was able to get a few hours of sleep in early labor.

Want to learn more tips for pregnancy, birth and early parenting? Follow Birth Class Online on Instagram! And if you want to learn more about these tips, and all about childbirth, you can take my Online Blended Childbirth Class.

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