Support Strategies During Labour
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Hopefully, by the time you've finally headed to the delivery room to have your baby, you'll have thought about the ways you wish to handle the birth itself. Many mothers choose to have as natural a birth as possible and refuse all medication, while others wish for a quicker, less painful birth with medication. There are several strategies for physical and emotional support that can transform childbirth from a harrowing, helpless experience into an amazing, life-affirming adventure. Here are a few things I've found useful in giving birth to my own four children
Comfort items during labour
Anything you find soothing during stressful situations will be helpful to calm your fears and even relieve pain. These items could include your favourite music, a stress ball, a soft blanket spritzed with a calming citrus or lavender scent, or a picture of your favourite pet. Anything goes, as long as it's something you like.
Positioning and birthing aids for support
Often, labour progresses more easily and less painfully if the mother is able to change positions as she feels the need to. Aids like a birthing ball and body pillows can help with positioning. Talk to your caregiver about what aids are available to you, or what aids you'll be allowed to bring for yourself.
If possible, have a labour partner to assist you. During labour, which can take many hours, doctors and nurses will come and go, leaving you to labour on your own. It helps immensely to have continuous support in this time. A labour partner's job is threefold: to provide emotional support for the labouring mother; to advocate for her when she can't speak for herself; and to physically bolster her up when she is becoming tired. Whether it's the father of the baby, a sister or a friend, the emotional and physical support of a labour partner can mean the difference between a traumatic delivery and a beautiful birthing experience.
Movement during labour
Listen to your body! Often, medical staff in hospitals and birth centres greatly prefer a labouring mother to stay in bed where it's easier for them to keep track of her. Unfortunately, on your back is the least comfortable position for labouring. Don't defy doctor's orders, but do let caregivers know if you'd feel more comfortable in different positions, such as walking around, or rocking in a chair. What feels good to a labouring mother will often also be helpful in moving the baby down the birth channel (i.e. squatting, rocking back and forth, getting down on all fours). If you don't feel up to speaking with nurses about your options, have your labour partner speak for you.
Medication as a support strategy
Medication is usually a safe and effective way to ease the pain of giving birth. There are many options to choose from, which include mild hypnotics to take the edge off the pain so a mother can concentrate on pushing, and total numbing drugs so that birth becomes a relatively painless process. There are risks and benefits with each medication, and every doctor has his own opinions about what is best. Make sure you're aware of all your options and have spoken to your caregiver about what is best for you prior to going into labour.
It is very important not to forget to breathe! Labour hurts and holding your breath through contractions can make the pain even worse. Relax by breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Some women are lucky enough for their labours to progress so quickly that they don't have time to even think about labour strategies. However, for most of us, there are at least a few hours of discomfort to be endured. The most important thing is to try not to get discouraged. With the use of these strategies, childbirth can be a positive experience.