One of the hardest thing that a woman can go through is giving birth. Pregnancy can cause many days of discomfort and when the time comes it can be painful, frightening, and traumatic.
Sometimes women do things that make the situation even worse. They don’t prepare ahead of time and go into the experience with either too many opinions or too few. For some, it’s about who they allow being in the delivery room with them, and for others, they haven’t gotten their body ready for the experience.
Once they are there, they can make a lot of mistakes as well. For example, some people end up holding their breath or relying on their meds. But they need to be more active during the process. It helps to speak up during the epidural placement and if possible try some other positions for pushing.
Moms have a lot of opportunities to make things better, and we know that they don’t want to make their delivery worse. This guide can help them figure out the best strategy to make things easier. Here are 20 things women do that make labor and delivery harder.
20. SKIPPING KEGELS DURING PREGNANCY
The biggest thing on the down-low about labor and delivery is that it can make a big difference if the mom prepares for the experience. One of the biggest impacts is felt if the mom doesn’t do any Kegel exercises. She needs to get her pelvic floor ready for the big job ahead.
The exercises are kind of hard to define, but doctors usually suggest that a woman try to stop her urine midstream and work on that muscle every day. That can get her ready to push out the baby and help her body deal with the strain of the pregnancy and the delivery.
19. GOING TO THE HOSPITAL TOO EARLY
A lot of women get upset if they go to the hospital in the early stages of labor only to be sent home to go it alone until her body has progressed. But they should actually be thankful for that because women only make it harder on themselves when they come to the hospital too early.
It can take days for a woman’s birth canal to open up to four centimeters, and if she’s doing that at the hospital, she much more likely to end up with interventions. Plus, she’ll get really hungry, since you can’t eat while in labor at the hospital.
18. LAYING DOWN FOR HOURS
For some reason, a few decades ago, doctors got the idea that they needed to put a woman in labor in the bed. That has many women thinking that they should lay down for labor and delivery, but that only makes the process longer and harder.
Doulas much prefer the idea of upright birth, where the mom walks, stands or squats through the contractions to let gravity help. They even let them push in that position. More and more hospitals are allowing those positions as well, and doctors are finding that the labor can pass more quickly and safely.
17. SNACKING BEFORE THE HOSPITAL
Labor and delivery take a lot of energy. While women will definitely get a burst of endorphins that can help them through part of it, they need to think about food early in labor because it could make a big difference in sustaining them for the long haul.
Moms need to know that they can’t eat at the hospital, other than possibly a popsicle. So they should have a snack before they head there. Don’t eat anything too heavy or that might cause indigestion. But even grabbing a handful of nuts or a granola bar early in 24-hour labor can make it easier to get through the toughest parts.
16. SPEAKING UP DURING THE EPIDURAL PLACEMENT
Many people think that the doctor does all the work when an epidural is placed for pregnant women. But the truth is that she needs to be involved in the process to make sure that the needle goes into the correct position.
A misplaced epidural could mean that one side of the body doesn’t feel pain but she feels everything on the other side. That definitely makes the delivery harder. So moms need to speak up and talk to the anesthesiologist during the process, even though she’s going through contractions at the same time. It’s tough, but it’s worth it to make the labor easier.
15. WORRIES ABOUT GOING NO. 2
A pretty common thing that happens during labor and delivery is that the mom pushes a little poo out when she’s trying to push out the baby. It happens a lot, but the idea can be pretty embarrassing, and some women list that as their number one fear going into the labor.
But worrying about going No. 2 can just make the delivery harder. Moms might not push with as much force because they don’t want anything else to come out, but that means that the baby might not progress through the birth canal. The nurse is going to clean up the mom, possibly before she even notices, so don’t worry and just push.
14. COMPLICATED AND INFLEXIBLE BIRTH PLAN
Birth plans are a big trend, but if they aren’t done correctly, they can make the labor and delivery much harder. The more complicated and inflexible the plan is, the harder the time the mom will have, especially when complications come up.
Doctors definitely see an advantage in crafting a birth plan in that moms can think through the various scenarios that they might face in the delivery room. But some women end up with staunch feelings about interventions including induction meds and C-sections. There are times when those are life-saving, so moms need to be flexible and not be disappointed if their ideal birth doesn’t happen.
13. DON’T PUSH BETWEEN CONTRACTIONS
By the time a woman gets to the pushing phase of labor and delivery, she often would do anything to just get the entire thing over with. Often that means that she wants to keep pushing even when it’s time for her to rest. Unfortunately, though, that doesn’t help at all.
Women don’t get any extra credit for pushing in between contractions. The baby doesn’t move anymore in those moments, and it can actually cause more tearing and trauma. The mom needs to learn to work with her body to get the job done in the easiest and least painful way she can.
12. SKIPPING A SPECIAL MASSAGE
Massages can be a critical component at every stage of labor and delivery. There are even some that can help start the contractions, especially foot massages. And a massage for the back can help a lot in making a mom more comfortable during the hardest parts of the delivery.
But we have another massage in mind — moms should really consider getting a perineal massage daily in the weeks leading up to the delivery. With a little oil, stretching the birth area down can limber up the skin and make it less likely to tear when the baby comes out. It might sound weird, but we recommend that moms don’t skip that important massage.
11. WAITING TO ASK FOR HELP
A lot of women struggle with asking for help, whether it’s at work or at home. But if they wait too long in labor and delivery, they can end up in real trouble. There are times when women worry if they aren’t feeling the baby move close to the delivery, and it’s imperative they call the doctor, in that case, to try to get some advice.
Once the labor has begun, they shouldn’t go to the hospital too early, but they also shouldn’t wait too late. And they shouldn’t apologize for asking the nurse for some help. It’s impossible to anticipate when things are supposed to happen during the labor, and doctors and nurses would much rather be asked too early than something going wrong before they are aware of an issue.
10. FEELING EMBARRASSED IN THE GOWN
Hospital gowns aren’t the most comfortable attire, especially for women who want to walk around during their labor. They can end up spending a lot of time worrying about who can see them and what they look like. And a laboring mom doesn’t need a distraction like that.
The thing is, there is no need to wear a hospital gown if it makes you uncomfortable. Moms can labor in their clothes, and they can buy gowns with more coverage. The doctor is going to want easy access down below during the pushing phase, but moms are mostly free to wear what they want unless they have to head to the operating room.
9. FORGETTING TO BREATHE
Labor can do a lot to a mom — it can even take her breath away. Some people tend to clench up and hold their air when they are in pain, but that is not helpful in getting through childbirth, and it might make everything more difficult.
A number of labor methods, including Lamaze and hypnobirthing, concentrate on controlling the mom’s breathing, so moms might find that if they put an emphasis on breathing in and out, they can get through contractions easier. This also ensures that the mom and the baby have an adequate oxygen supply and that their muscles are working in concert to get through the birth canal.
8. LIMITING THE CROWD
Being in the delivery room to witness a birth is an extreme honor. Those lucky people are the first to meet the newest member of the family, but the most important role is to make the mom feel comfortable. That’s why women need to be careful about who they are willing to let into the delivery room.
This can be a hard conversation if in-laws and friends ask for a coveted spot, but moms and dads should be firm in limiting the space only to those who the mom doesn’t mind being vulnerable in front of. No one wants to make the labor and delivery harder on the mom, so they will understand.
7. GETTING IN AN UNCOMFORTABLE PUSHING POSITION
Sometimes women forget that they have options during labor. We’ve all seen the images of a woman laying down with her legs in stirrups in movies and television shows, so many women think that is the way that things have to be while they are pushing. But that could just make things harder.
Sometimes women have to push for hours, so if they find that things aren’t progressing one way, then maybe they should try squatting, using a birthing stool or getting on their hands and knees. The doctor may insist on the mom getting in a certain position once she is crowning, but she could try a new position until then and maybe speed things along.
6. RELYING ON INDUCTION MEDS
While induction meds can have a bad reputation, they could be life-saving because of the risks some women have of continuing the pregnancy any longer. But moms shouldn’t just rely on getting the meds because sometimes they don’t work very well.
Moms should do their best to help things along, and many times that means walking the halls, doing a little dance and trying to give the labor a chance to progress. Relying solely on the meds might mean that other interventions are needed later on, so moms need to give the process their all to make sure that it works.
5. HAVING AN UNPREPARED PARTNER
It’s possible for a woman to go it alone during labor and delivery, but parenthood is often a two-person job and many times the dad joins the mom in the delivery room. Women can also choose to have another person like their mother or a friend with them as well.
But it’s important that the mother’s partner is prepared for all that will go on during the labor and delivery. They can help by giving massage and being encouraging. But a bad partner can make the experience worse. Some end up fainting or throwing up, which means they need help and can’t give the mom the attention she deserves.
4. EXPECTING AN EPIDURAL RIGHT AWAY
Some moms are anti-epidural, but it’s used in more than half of all hospital births these days. Most of the time, that’s just fine, although there are some drawbacks that moms need to be aware of. More than that, though, moms shouldn’t just rely on their plan of getting an epidural to get them through the delivery.
If a mom isn’t prepared to go through contractions with natural pain relief methods, then the entire thing will be harder. That’s because the anesthesiologist might be busy with other emergencies. And the epidural might not take. She needs to have some ideas about how to handle things in the meantime because the epidural doesn’t always happen immediately.
3. DON’T SKIP WATER RELIEF
With some research, moms are likely to hear of a number of things that can help with labor and delivery. One of our favorites is to use water to help with the pain. Moms might not be able to have a water birth at the hospital, but they can still get some relief in the bath or shower.
Hospitals often have high capacity water heaters that allow for lots of time in the water. Some have nice jet tubs to use during labor, although moms might be warned not to take a bath if their water has broken. No one should discount the amazing powers of using a massaging shower head on the abdomen during contractions, though. We promise, it’s the best.
2. DON’T SKIP THE CHILDBIRTH CLASSES
Moms have a lot of disparate opinions and expectations about labor and delivery, and every situation is different. The only way for the mom to avoid making the situation harder than it has to be is if she educates herself about the process, and one of the best ways to do that is to take a childbirth class.
Moms have a lot of choices about where to learn more about birth, and most hospitals provide a course that can give the basics and introduce them to breathing methods. The class can help make decisions on the timing of interventions and help a mom figure out a birth plan.
1. DON’T FORGET THE END GOAL
Labor and delivery is an all-consuming moment that can be overpowering for the mom. But if she only focuses on the present, it’s a lot harder to actually get through that really difficult stage. Instead, we recommend that moms remember the end goal and focus on the amazing moment to come.
It’s easy to get frustrated with the pain of the contractions, and after hours and hours, some moms might wonder if it will ever end. But that isn’t productive. Instead, moms can distract themselves if they focus on meeting their little baby. Then, the pain will have a purpose, and the happy ending will come easier and sooner.