When you are laboring at home, you have the benefit of being in a place where you tend to feel the most comfortable. Many find they are able to cope better being in a place where all of their normal comfort items are.
Just like all other mammals, we have the same ability to give birth as mother cats, foxes and elephants. When we are in labor, there is a dance of hormones happening that facilitate labor contractions and help us naturally deal with pain. Think, where does the mother fox go to seek comfort and safety when she delivers her babies? All of these tools are used to help you achieve the same thing.
For tangible items, I have included a link to an Amazon shopping list that shows some of my favorite tools for a healthy pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
Below are some of the best strategies I have seen for finding comfort during a natural birth, that enhance our innate ability to relax into and ride the waves of your contractions.
Waterbirth or Laboring In Water
I offer waterbirth as an option for laboring and birth at home. The benefits of laboring and / or birthing in water are numerous to both you and your baby. The simple act of immersing yourself in a spacious tub of warm water immediately soothes the body, allowing buoyancy and a loss of gravity to assist with labor.
It would be accurate to say that the majority of our homebirth clients utilize water at some point during their labor. If you had just experienced a day of physical or emotional work, slipping into a nice warm bath or zoning out in a shower seems to help us relax tremendously. The more you are able to relax in labor, the less tension you have in your body, which reduces the amount of pain you experience. Using water during labor also helps us conserve energy.
Many of our clients choose to use their own tub or shower during birth, or use a birth tub rental agency. The nice thing about using a tub rental company is that they are able to set everything up for you in labor... and after you have your baby, they come back, clean it all up and take it with them.
If you plan to use your shower quite a bit during labor, I would suggest finding a shower chair. Having a chair allows you to sit and enjoy the sensation of water without expending energy standing up. Even if you don't like sitting in the chair, it's nice to have something to lean onto or hold during a contraction. Bathrooms tend to be great 'caves' or dens when a mother is feeling overwhelmed by her sensations.
Love & Massage
One of the major hormones in play during labor and birth is oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that is responsible for labor contractions, bonding with our partners and our babies and afterwards helps prevent hemorrhage and milk release when breastfeeding. It's synthetic form 'Pitocin' is what is commonly used for inductions and to control bleeding after childbirth.
One of the most powerful forces during labor is that of love and touch. Oxytocin is a love hormone! When women feel like they are loved, supported and safe during labor, they will naturally produce oxytocin. Many women love to have their bodies gently massaged during labor. For partners that may having difficulty giving massages, there are a multitude of massage tools on the market. I have included one in the Amazon list above. Some women also enjoy techniques such as hip squeezes or counter pressure on their sacrum. You can find some great pointers on YouTube or your local childbirth classes.
Some women find massage to be too stimulating during labor and that is also ok. As long as she still feels like she is supported by a partner or birth team that is present, she will naturally gravitate to her innate coping techniques.
Warmth can be a valuable comfort tool, especially if a mother experiences any sort of back pain. Tools like birth tubs, showers, heating pads or large rice socks can mean the world to a mother in labor. I have also found that small TENS machines work quite well for lower back or sacrum pain. If you know you experience menstrual cramps in your back, it's a good idea to have something on hand.
Darkness or Natural Light
Lighting has a huge effect on our mood. When our space is gently lit by candles or natural light filters in through the windows, labor can seem less intense and we are able to focus better on our comfort measures. When a laboring mother begins to feel overwhelmed, often lighting can relax or energize her. If you tend to love complete darkness when you sleep, I highly recommend purchasing a sleep mask that you can use during labor. I have included a fantastic one in the Amazon list.
Eating & Drinking
When we labor, we are expending a great deal of energy. I cannot stress enough how important it is to hydrate and nourish yourself during labor. Fatigue tends to be the number one reason why a mother might transfer to the hospital in labor. When we labor, our digestive system slows, but our need for hydration and sugar is still present. Rarely does a mother get really hungry during labor, so it is important to offer her small snacks throughout labor such as fruit, crackers, yogurt, etc. For hydration, sipping water throughout the day is not enough, you need to replace vital electrolytes. Electrolytes help your muscles and brain work better. They alleviate cramps, improve muscle function and help you burn energy more efficiently. I suggest making or purchasing electrolyte drinks to be used at your birth.
When you are in labor, the people you have in your space can influence your labor. When you have your baby at home there is a great temptation to invite lots of friends and family members. I really think every person at your delivery should have a job to do. This is not the homebirth show. ;-) You want to be able to feel okay walking around your house naked if you want to, not feel 'watched', not hear others talk about their own nervousness about your birth or sharing their own birth story that may have been traumatic. We want you to feel safe and supported, increasing your ability to let go. Lots of company tends to overstimulate laboring mothers. If you are inviting people to your birth, it is a good idea to talk about birth etiquette and what roles they can play to be helpful. Mother Rising has a great article you can forward to those attending your homebirth, or browse the letter she wrote to give you ideas on what to talk about with your family.
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