Healthy behaviors throughout pregnancy can prepare your body and mind for labor and delivery. Although you can’t control everything that will happen during your birth process, you can control how prepared you are for the big event, by taking care of yourself leading up to it.
Nourishment to support labor
Eating a healthy diet throughout pregnancy helps prepare your body with the nutrients that it needs, not only for your developing baby, but also for the changes that your body undergoes during pregnancy and then, birth.. When you are in labor, your body works extra hard and uses extra calories to prepare for delivering your baby.
Nourish your body by listening to it and eating and drinking what feels right to you before you arrive at the hospital. If you are in very early labor and your Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) or OB has told you to wait at home, eat foods with a mixture of fiber, protein, and healthy fats, such as an apple with peanut butter. These foods will give you nutrients and energy for the journey ahead.
It’s also important to stay well hydrated, even if you aren’t feeling hungry. Water, tea, plant or regular milk, and 100% fruit juice are all good options to drink. When you arrive at the hospital, your CNM,OB, and/or labor and delivery nurse will let you know what types of foods and drinks are best to enjoy (or avoid) during the birthing process. There are some cases when healthcare providers prefer that you not have a full stomach, in-case there is a complication, which requires anesthesia or a cesarean section.
Nourishing yourself throughout pregnancy and early labor will support and fuel your body as you welcome your baby into the world.
The Power of Movement & Activity Before & During Birth
Physical activity throughout pregnancy is important to prepare your body for the physical stress of birth. When you are more active throughout your pregnancy, labor is often easier and delivery happens more rapidly (Barakat, R., Franco, E., Perales, M., López, C., & Mottola, M. F. (2018). Exercise during pregnancy is associated with a shorter duration of labor. A randomized clinical trial. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 224, 33-40).
Physical activity’s not just crucial before the birthing process begins, though. Movement during labor has been found to ease the pain of contractions, help with “back labor,” and help you feel more energetic during labor. It may even help the cervix dilate and the baby descend into the maternal pelvis through the use of gravity.
Here are some ideas for how to stay physically active during the birthing process:
- Walk around the hospital halls
- Sit on a birthing ball and rock back and forth
- Get in the shower or bathtub
- Sway while holding onto your support person
- Sit in a squatting position
These movements may help keep you comfortable and can help your labor progress. Walking during labor could even decrease your risk of needing an operative delivery (Albers, L. L., Anderson, D., Cragin, L., Moore Daniels, S., Hunter, C., Sedler, K. D., & Teaf, D. (1997). The relationship of ambulation in labor to operative delivery. Journal of Nurse-Midwifery, 42(1), 4-8). Walking during labor has even been shown to result in fewer operative deliveries, compared to those who didn’t walk a significant amount. Diana Health providers recommend the use of remote or wireless fetal monitoring so that you can walk around and move freely, while they monitor your baby’s heart rate. This is a tool we have available to you if you give birth with us at TriStar StoneCrest.
There are some moments when your healthcare provider may ask you to lay in bed or be still so that they can monitor the baby’s heartbeat. In those instances, it’s best to follow their advice. They usually want you to be able to freely move too, if it is safe for both you and the baby to do so. If you do find yourself needing to stay in one spot during part of your labor, you can shift your weight from one leg to the other or use a peanut or birth ball to incorporate some safe movement into the process.
Staying Refreshed Physically & Mentally
Getting adequate sleep is often challenging while you are pregnant. Unfortunately, it’s even more challenging while you are in labor, even if it is early labor. However, you need to try to allow your body and mind to rest as much as possible between contractions, if at all possible. If you are early in the birthing process, you may be able to rest and get some sleep at home, before arriving at the hospital. Likewise, if you are in the hospital for an induction, your CNM or OB may encourage you to sleep overnight so that you have adequate energy for delivery. Even if you can’t fall asleep, try to close your eyes and rest while you are in between contractions. Delivering a baby takes a lot of energy, so allowing yourself to rest as you prepare for the process, will help you throughout these last stages of the pregnancy journey.
Stress Management Techniques for Labor
The changes placed on your body throughout pregnancy are stressful. However, they give you an opportunity to learn and practice stress management techniques, which may be useful to help you during the birthing process.
Some helpful calming techniques include:
- Focusing on your breath
- Lamaze breathing
- Mental imagery
- Practicing mindfulness
- Use of calming scents for aromatherapy (available with Diana Health at TriStar StoneCrest!)
- Positive self-talk: “I can do this and my body was beautifully designed to give birth to my baby”
- Connecting with your support person (eg. doula, partner, friend)
- Listening to calming music
- Dimming the lights
- Saying a mantra
- Focusing on a relaxing picture
Try different stress management techniques while you are pregnant to see which ones feel most effective to you. It helps to have a “tool-box” of stress management techniques to use when you are going through birth, as some may work better in the moment than others. Research has shown that breathing deeply during labor may reduce pain perception and shorten the second stage of delivery. Women who are supported during labor by someone who is close to them, such as a partner or friend, are more likely to be resilient during labor.
Remember to listen to your body during your birth process. Whether it’s through movement, breathing, or connecting with your support person, incorporating simple behaviors into this important part of your pregnancy journey, can hopefully help you both physically and mentally, as you welcome your new baby into the world. Book a visit at Diana Health to learn about our customizable labor and delivery options!