So you’ve felt the first contraction….. or maybe your water broke.
This is so exciting! The day is finally here!
But you and I both know it’s going to be a while until you see that baby. You’ve got to somehow distract yourself so you don’t feel the pain of the contractions so much – so you won’t cramp up!
See my blog post How to ride the waves of your labor CONTRACTIONS
Easier said than done!
When you get to labor day (and yes it’s very exciting) whether you’re having a home birth or you’re in the hospital, your job is to get to ten centimeters dilated so you can push the baby out.
But the more you cramp up the longer it will take.
You want to fill your belly with air in order to expand your muscles, letting the contractions to do their work… and getting you to 10 cm faster. Because the more you cramp up the more you are fighting against the contractions, not allowing the dilation to progress.
I really feel like the best way to accomplish this (as I’ve discovered over my eight births) is to distract yourself.
But you ask yourself, how on earth do I distract myself?
Here’s a list of fun things to do while you’re in labor to put your mind on something else:
1.Bouncing on an Exercise Ball
Open your legs up, get down on that ball, and bounce! It’s fun, distracts you a little, gives you something to do and it’s giving the baby’s head room to come down. It’s also got the benefit of gravity and movement to help get the baby positioned in the best place.
This is especially powerful for back labor – I remember my midwife having me bouncing on a ball for what seemed like hours with my first labor. I had very strong back labor contractions and this was just what I needed to distract me and relieve me from those powerful contractions.
I did this during two different labors, and it’s amazing – especially in slightly cold, fresh air. Whether it’s walking around your block or the hospital parking lot like me, taking a power walk gives you this energy like – ‘Yeah – I can do this!’
Talk about powering up for labor!
And if you’re walking with your husband, a friend, or your labor coach, it gives you the opportunity to talk, laugh and take your mind off the contractions.
At the beginning of labor, you can still walk through those contractions but once you get further on, you walk walk walk, and then pause and hold onto something during the contractions. This is a great time for your walking partner to do some hip compressions. (which brings me to number three…)
Have someone take their hands and compresses the sides of your hips, sort of like pushing your hips in towards each other.
It takes of the edge of the labor contractions and gives an amazing feeling of relief. Any doula is well trained in hip compressions, but anyone can learn how to do them.
During different labors either a midwife or doula would see me having a new contraction coming on and she would just lunge for my hips, pushing them in towards each other. I honestly don’t know what it is about these hip compressions that relieves the pain of the contractions, but it works. Try it.
“A good belly laugh is one of the most effective forms of anesthesia.” Ina May, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
Laughing it all away is the best way!
My forth labor was by far one of my best labors, and I attribute this to the fact that the room was full of jokes and humor.
Between my mother, my husband and the midwife, I practically couldn’t breathe from the nonstop jokes.
Ask your husband, or whoever’s coming with you to labor, to prepare a whole bunch of jokes, funny memories, or stories because laughing takes your mind off of what you’re doing.
Forget puns or witticism. That won’t work. But some short slapstick humor videos on your phone are great to bring along.
You can end up laughing so hard that even when the contractions come, you almost think they’re funny because you’re already laughing your lungs out. Truly the greatest distraction!
Water is awesome! I have used it a number of times myself in different labors and saw progress right away.
Whether it’s a tub or pool in an alternative birthing clinic, or even just in the shower, there is something so soothing and calming when that nice, warm water hits your skin.
Once I was having labor on and off for a few days, so when the labor started again my husband said just get in the shower and then we’ll go to the hospital.
I was thinking – no I can’t go to the hospital yet – the contractions aren’t strong enough, close enough together…
Well, all it took was 15 minutes in the shower and I was jumping out saying “We need to go RIGHT NOW!” (We made it to the hospital at 9 cm!)
Water is an amazing relief and definitely helps progress your labor.
6.Meditation and Breathing Techniques
I love meditating and using positive affirmations. This is totally my thing – so using them in Labor was amazing!
I literally felt progress as I would breathe and say my affirmations. Just concentrating on the breath, listening to them go in and out, in and out. Combine that with positive thoughts – very soothing. Perfect for the middle part of labor.
There is a full program of learning to meditated for the weeks leading up to birth and during the labor itself called Hypno Birthing. Women listen to their soothing CDs for months, which give them an empowered feeling.
If this talks to you, then check out Hypno Birthing here.
Hypno Babies is very similar and also great for this purpose. Check out Hypno Babies here.
My favorite distraction is something that a friend introduced to me just prior to my 3rd birth.
She had this beautiful notion that “The pain of being childless is greater than the pain of labor.” She told me that when I feel a contraction coming on I should use that time to pray for a childless friend.
The truth is since then I’ve prayed for all types of things during labor, not just childless friends, but the idea is so beautiful. So, during this 3rd labor when I got a contraction I prayed. That labor went on for quite a while and I had a lot of time to myself, so I prayed for a number of friends.
For me it was so amazing because I felt like I was using my pain for a higher purpose. Like all that idle time during contractions was being used for something magnificent and significant.
What’s even more amazing was one of the couples I prayed for had a baby nine and a half months after my labor! It was incredible.
Now we’re talking my kind of language. Music was the absolute best thing I did while I was in labor. The only regret I have is that I didn’t think of it before my 8th!
The truth is we got in the car for our 20-min drive to the hospital during my 8th labor, and I was planning to take a power walk when we got to the hospital with my doula… but then we hit traffic.
Rush hour traffic…
So, I’m thinking as the contractions are getting closer and stronger, how can I distract myself in a car? That’s when the music went on.
I pumped it up and started ‘dancing’, air drumming and singing along at the top of my lungs, all the while screaming the names of the people I was praying for whenever I got a contraction.
Fast forward 40 minutes, forget the power walk, the music got me going so much so that I had to call my doctor to make sure she was waiting for me at the hospital door! Totally awesome distraction!
Make sure to prepare 2 mixes for the big day. One with all your favorite slow music or great singing music to help calm you, help you not tense up during the contractions. Great for the middle of labor, especially when things are dragging out.
Another mix of fast dancing music for when you feel the need to just dance it all out, play the drums and rock it! Excellent for the end of labor and through transition.
Due to Popular Demand We’ve Made 8 More Distractions for You! Also Get a Downloadable Copy to Bring Along For the Big Day!
Yes, dancing in labor is super fun. You might have seen your favorite vlogger dancing through her labor. But did you know that there are actual benefits to dancing through labor? Aside it being fun and a great way to distract yourself and pass the time.
Here are some benefits to dancing in labor:
Gravity – help baby descend and increase pressure on the cervix to help dilation.
Movement – encourages baby to shift into a more productive position and also opens up space for baby to descend – especially if you are squatting a bit while you dance.
Breathing, deep breathing – which not only helps you get through contractions but helps the contractions be more effective. And of course – Fun!!
Don’t forget that dancing could also be slow dancing. Grab your partner, get some slow music going and start swaying. You’ll have gravity and movement on your side and also some of the benefits of cuddling too!
Here’s a playlist I created of a whole bunch of different ladies dancing it up during their labors. Awesome! Must watch:
10. Binge Watch Your Favorite Show or Movie Series
Ok, I’ll tell you the honest truth. This wasn’t my idea – this was actually given to me by one lady who read this blog post. She wrote:
“When I was in labor with my oldest son, I was obsessed with the show Lost. I was binge-watching it on Netflix and had committed to watching the entire 7th season before going to the hospital. No matter how strong contractions got, I HAD to finish the show! By the time we got to the hospital I was fully effaced and 7 cm — apparently distraction worked!” Sharyn
It might sound like the craziest idea – BUT – there is some truth to it. You know how when you’re watching something really great you don’t even feel the fact that you need to go to the bathroom? I know the feeling. It’s a way to completely distract yourself from what’s going on in the here and now, distract your mind and body from any discomfort or even mild pain.
Will this distract you from feeling huge contractions towards the end of labor? No. Will it get you to the latter stages while passing an enjoyable time with your spouse or friends? Yup.
You decide if this one is for you.
11. Do Some Yoga
I have friends who love Yoga.
My mother LOVES Yoga!
Personally, it’s not my thing, but if it is your thing – then go for it!
Yoga can be very empowering during Labor. Yoga breathing techniques and Yoga stances are used by thousands of women around the globe during pregnancy to help prepare their bodies for labor. There are full communities full of women taking prenatal Yoga and preparing for the big day with its powers.
Why not take that power and use it during labor as well?
Here is a list of my favorite recommended products for Expectant moms, including some great picks for Prenatal Yoga.
One of the major hormone categories involved in labor is the endorphins. These levels rise especially when we’re feeling warm, loved and supported (and above all not frightened). Endorphins are the biggest blessing in labor because they actually block the reception of pain.
All this means that not only is hugging, kissing and cuddling a fun thing to do in labor it is also a way to help you feel loved and secure which will increase your endorphin levels which will help your labor progress and help you feel less pain.
I wonder if you can put ‘Do not disturb’ signs on a hospital door. LOL!
Put on your favorite prenatal exercise class and start moving! Or maybe you’re the instructor herself! If you are a exercise fan then bring that passion into your labor.
I’m not going to suggest this for the beginning stages of labor where you want to maybe take a nap and preserve your strength for later, but if your labor is really happening and you need something more than just Yoga poses and you’re not the dancing type – this might be what you’re looking for.
Exercise is going to have many of the same benefits of dancing in labor including deep breathing and movement.
Just make sure you don’t tire yourself out! You’ve got some intense work ahead. And make sure to stay well hydrated.
14. Play an Instrument
Obviously if you know how to play an instrument. Or you could start now? LOL!
There are two benefits here. One is giving you the pleasure of playing the instrument that you love and hearing beautiful music that you love. This goes right back to the benefit of having music on hand during your labor – but you’ve got the added benefit to be the one creating the music which adds an extra distraction.
The second benefit is if you are playing a wind or brass instrument – that of filling your belly with air! Yes, the breathing itself if so good for you while you’re in labor – the filling your tummy with lots of air – will actually help you get through your contractions and help you dilate faster.
15. Sing Your Lungs Out
You could sing loudly or softly – whatever tickles your fancy. Turn on the music and sing at the top of your lungs, or sing a gentle song.
I have numerous songs that have touched me at different parts of my life and just going back and singing those songs brings up so many amazing memories for me – totally brings me into a different reality – perfect distraction. Also great way to reminisce with your partner or friends.
You’ve also go the added benefit, as discussed before, of filling up your belly with air (which you need to do in order to sing well), which will help your labor along.
Here is a beautiful video of a couple singing through her labor – and he’s taking part in this beautiful moment too.
16. Get a Massage
Oh yeah! Now we’re talking my language! I actually only had a doula once (shame I didn’t figure that one important thing out until my 8th labor), but the one time I did I made sure that she knew how to massage. In fact she was a masseuse at her day job.
Massage is the key to relaxation and oh so important during labor. Most doulas do learn the basics of massage during their training and your husband’s probably gotten a few pointers from you by now!
Whether it be back rubs or foots massage, shoulders, arms, head. Anything! This is especially amazing at the point when you don’t want to be up on your feet. You just want to lie down and relax – massage is the key to helping you relax.
Here is a list of my favorite recommended products for Expectant moms, including some great picks for massaging rollers, gloves and the like.
All in all, what you need to do is figure out what works for you. And remember labor is often long and you can use more than one.
What would best distract you?
Are you the Yoga type or the dancing type? Power walk or bathtub? Music?
Honestly, I think we’re all the humor type!
I’ve loved all of these distractions and some I’ve used multiple times. But when expectant moms look to me (a mom who’s been through birth 8 times) for the most important advice about going into labor I say two things:
You’ve got to have the support of someone who’s experienced, has the stamina and knows just what to say and how to motivate you.
If I were to do it all over again I’d use a DOULA every time. Nothing to talk about.
You’ve got to be prepared, as I say Knowledge is Power! I firmly believe in doing it naturally, if you can, better for baby, better for mommy, especially on the recovery end.
I send everyone over to Mama Natural’s Online Childbirth Course.
You really get an education about childbirth so you go into it knowing what the terminologies are and what the procedures are so you can make the right decisions ahead of time. She gives you the strength to know that you can do this.
I even know of women who took her course with only 3 weeks to go and really benefited from it.
Very empowering experience. Check out Mama Natural’s Online Childbirth Course here.
3. Prepare your distractions!
Along with your hospital bag, make sure you’ve got your labor distractions!
- Exercise ball
- Jokes, funny memories, short slapstick humor videos,
- Breathing techniques & positive birth affirmations
- Yoga stances and breathing exercises
- Names of friends to pray for
- Great music! Slow & fast mixes
- Massage rollers, gloves & oil
Here is a list of my favorite recommended products for Expectant moms, including some great picks for your labor bag.
Good luck! I’m so excited for you. Childbirth is one of the miracles of Nature. You’ll experience every emotion all at one – I know I did. From pain to laughing to crying – all at the same time.
Cherish it, have fun with it, and come prepared!
Congratulations to you! 😊