While many aspects of your birthing experience will be a surprise, there are some key components that are good to understand. Take time to learn about the 7 fundamentals that help labour to progress more naturally.
1. Choose a safe space to birth
Where you choose to give birth will have a big impact on your experience. Labour is usually shorter and flows more smoothly when women feel safe and undisturbed. The best environment for labour is private, warm, dark and quiet. Wherever you are, you need to feel safe in order to release the right hormones; oxytocin and endorphins.
2. Understand the birthing hormones
You may have heard of oxytocin by its more common name ‘the love hormone’. It helps your uterus to contract and cervix to dilate. It will be released more effectively if you feel safe. Other things that can boost oxytocin are being massaged, being lovingly supported and labouring in a dark, warm, private space.
You probably have heard of adrenalin as the ‘fight or flight’ hormone. It is released if you feel scared, worried, are thinking too much or are cold. It inhibits the release of oxytocin which means if you are feeling stressed, labour can become more painful, slow down or even stop, until you feel safe again. Fear creates tension in the body and this tension can create unnecessary pain.
You may know endorphins for their pain-relieving qualities. This magical hormone helps take the edge off labour so you can enjoy birthing your baby. Endorphins help you feel calm and blissful and contribute to you losing track of time. They are most effectively released when when you feel safe and your space is quiet (so make sure your support people don’t talk too much.)
3. Understand why warmth is important
A warm environment means your body can relax more easily. We tend to clench up when we are cold. Being cold also releases adrenalin which can slow down labour. Warmth is very important after the baby is born as well. It helps oxytocin to be released so the placenta can be safely birthed.
4. Dim lighting helps birth progress
Low lighting encourages the hormones oxytocin and endorphins to be released. These hormones are very important in natural birth. Being in a dimly lit room allows you to focus within during contractions. It creates a relaxing space that isn’t too over stimulating.
5. Choose your support team carefully
Choose your support people with care. Having too many people in the birth space can slow your labour. Make sure that the people you have invited to your birth know about honouring the birthing space and know what their role is. The last thing you want is to feel 'watched'. People that are positive and helpful can make all the difference. If you don’t feel comfortable with your care provider, it’s more than ok to ask for someone else to support you.
6. Stay hydrated
Giving birth is physically demanding. You probably won’t feel like eating when in active labour but it’s important to keep up your fluids. Water, coconut water and diluted juice are good options to help you stay hydrated and also provide a little energy to your muscles. It is your right to eat and drink in labour if you want to (despite what the hospital policies may be).
7. Have a ‘toolkit’ of options
If you’re wanting a natural birth, it’s a good idea to look into what remedies and therapies are useful. You may like a TENS machine, birth ball, aromatherapy, music, to learn breathing techniques, to be active in labor and to know helpful acupressure points and hip squeezing techniques. There are lots of helpful suggestions to provide comfort and support.