Preparing for Your Best Birth: 5 Tips from an L&D Nurse
From setting up your support team to making sure you’re armed with an arsenal of pain-coping strategies, Labor & Delivery Nurse and Founder of the Mommy Labor Nurse Podcast, Liesel Teen, is here to share her top five birth tips.
As the weeks of your pregnancy pass by and your due date draws closer, there’s often only one thing on your mind – birth!
While birth is one of the most incredible things you’ll experience, it doesn’t matter if it’s your first or your fifth, there’s always an element of unknown. The issue about ‘unknowns’ is that they often leave moms with a sense of anxiety and uncertainty.
As a Labor and Delivery Nurse, the thing women talk to me about the MOST is their fear of birth. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In this article I share my top five birth tips as well as pain-coping advice to help you prepare for your best birth.
My Top 5 Birth Tips
1. Assemble a great support team
I have attended hundreds (if not thousands) of births over the years, and one common denominator among mamas that have positive birth experiences is a strong support team.
Whether it’s their partners, their mother, their sister, a doula, or anyone in between…women with a well-prepared and informed support team backing them up definitely had a more positive experience. And in some cases, the backbone of their support team is just a really great labor nurse.
The truth is, giving birth is hard, and you need someone who’s on your team. It’s important for your partner (or other support people) to prepare for what this is really all about.
My advice: Learn about childbirth together and practice ways that your partner can support you physically and mentally during labor.
In addition to preparing your people, you’ll want to assemble a strong team of professionals too. This means choosing to give birth at a hospital or birth center that will adhere to your wishes and working with a provider (whether that’s an OBGYN or midwife) that makes you feel comfortable and confident.
2. Don’t skip childbirth education
As a labor and delivery nurse, childbirth education is one of my greatest passions. Hands down there is no better way to prepare for a better birth than with education. Birth is one of the most important days of your life – you don’t just wanna wing this, mama!
Knowledge is power. And that’s my whole goal behind Mommy Labor Nurse. Too many women don’t even know what to ask or what they need to know about in order to have a better birth – but a birth class will cover all of it.
I’ve seen too many women have traumatic or stressful birth experiences because they weren’t exposed to enough information beforehand about what to expect with various outcomes. For instance, unexpected c-sections, shoulder dystocia, or babies pooping in utero – all of these events can result in a birth that’s different than the “norm”, but the right education and preparation can at least put various scenarios on your radar.
And if you have a specific type of birth in mind, like a natural birth…education is even more important. I’ve met a lot of women who said they wanted a natural birth, but didn’t do any kind of special preparation, which made it harder for them to achieve.
Education is one of the MOST concrete ways you can prepare for a better birth, so don’t skip it!
3. Practice pain-coping strategies
Since I’m all about keeping it real, you need to know that labor is going to hurt. Even if you plan to get an epidural, there’s going to be a window of time before it’s placed where you’ll have to handle the pain all on your own.
And if you’re hoping to avoid an epidural, pain-coping strategies will be even more important. Specifically, mental willpower and truly trusting your body’s innate ability to birth will be key. After having two unmedicated births myself, I can attest that it’s 100% a mental game.
Let’s look at some tips and strategies for your birth toolbox.
Mental tips for coping with the pain:
- Remind yourself that you can do anything for 10 seconds, which is how long the PEAK of your 30-120 second contraction will last.
- Focus on the short breaks you get between contractions. Because you DO get breaks even when it gets really intense.
- Try NOT to focus on how many centimeters you are or how many hours you’ve been in labor, instead focus on each contraction being productive and bringing you closer to your baby.
Physical pain-coping strategies:
- Water is one of the most powerful sources of pain relief during labor. Hydrotherapy showers and labor tubs are excellent places to labor.
- Get on your hands and knees and do cat/cow poses. This can feel especially good for back pain during labor.
- Have someone perform counter-pressure by squeezing your hips while you’re on your hands and knees.
- Keep your mouth open and relaxed: a relaxed mouth and jaw correlates to a relaxed vagina! (YES, REALLY!)
- Do the breathing exercises you learn in your prenatal course! Slow, deep, rhythmic breathing will help.
- Try visualizations during your contraction as a distraction. Many women use the imagery of a wave crashing on a beach, color or warmth filling their body, or a flower blooming.
- Massage and touch can be powerful tools.
- Switch it up often! Coach your partner ahead of time to suggest changes if they notice you in the same place for too long.
- Stay moving as much as you can.
- Don’t get hung up on birthing “norms” do what feels good for you!
- Get loud! Making noise is TOTALLY normal during birth and can really help with your perception of the pain.
4. Get movin’ mama
Between now and your due date, I can’t recommend movement enough. I always tell my pregnant moms that birth is like a marathon. And you wouldn’t run a marathon without some training, right?
Incorporating ANY kind of movement into your day, be it brisk walking, swimming, or yoga, is going to help keep your joints and muscles stay toned and healthy.
If you can take it a step further, prenatal fitness can really help you prepare for a better birth.This is because most prenatal fitness programs are designed to strengthen the muscles that are essential for childbirth, such as your pelvic floor. What’s more, these programs will make your postpartum recovery easier, too.
Remember, it’s never too late to incorporate some prenatal fitness into your routine. There are lots of classes available online and apps you can use to do quick and effective prenatal workouts right at home!
5. Try to keep an open mind
The last piece of advice I have is to keep an open mind. For some, this might be the trickiest tip on the list. We all want a sense of control, but when it comes to birth, you have to try and let it go.
So many of us fall into the trap of setting up unrealistic expectations. Because the fact is, even with the right preparations, birth is full of unknowns. It’s impossible to know how everything is going to unfold.
Having an open mind and putting trust in your provider to keep you and your baby safe is one of the most important things you can do as you prepare mentally for birth.
At the end of the day, a safe baby is the goal and that’s something we can all agree on.
Liesel Teen is a labor and delivery nurse (L&D RN), mom of two, the face behind the popular pregnancy Instagram page @mommy.labornurse, and creator of the online childbirth class, Birth It Up. Birth is something she’s been passionate about for as long as she can remember, and she loves sharing her nursing knowledge to help mamas-to-be learn more about pregnancy and birth.
Interviews, stories, and guides on thetot.com contain information that is general in nature and should not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical condition or concern or plan on trying a new diet, supplement or workout, it’s best to first consult with your physician or a qualified health professional.
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