Affiliate Disclosure: There are affiliate links throughout this post. I receive a small percentage of purchases made through these links without any increase in cost for the buyer. Opinions and reviews are all my own.
It was tough figuring out how to prepare for birth as a first time mom.
When I first decided to deliver naturally and unmedicated, there were a lot of people telling me in a nice way not to have a natural birth for my first baby. “Maybe for the second you could try it,” was the advice I got. The funny thing is, I would have been giving that same advice just a couple months earlier!
I used to think that an unmedicated birth for a first time mom was not the smartest thing. My thoughts were:
- First time moms don’t really know the pain of labor, so they don’t know what they are signing up for.
- They don’t know how to practice coping with contractions because they’ve never had intense contractions.
- Their bodies have not paved a pathway for delivery yet, so the process is likely to be much longer and more grueling.
While there may be some truth to these inhibitions, they are not good reasons to dismiss a natural birth as a first time mom. There are things you can do to prepare your body for a successful childbirth. Let me tell you what I did in order to be dilated to an eight before my labor even began and have a five hour labor as a first time mom.
I won’t go into the details of my birth story, but you can read it HERE.
The following tips consist of actions I took long before my labor began.
1. Consistent, MUSCLE BUILDING Workouts
I’m not talking about those super easy yoga poses for pregnant women you can find on Pinterest, although those are great for relieving back and hip pain. I’m talking about difficult exercises that make you sore and elevate your heart rate. Your body will thank you when delivery day comes and you actually have the stamina to labor for hours on end before pushing a human out of your body. That takes MUSCLES!
It’s easy to have the mindset that exercising can be saved for postpartum because your body is tired from growing a baby, and also you want to be careful about doing physical activities that could hurt you or the baby. But there are so many studies that reveal exercising as a benefit for both mom and baby. One study actually shows that exercising helps the baby’s development by improving respiratory functions and control of the central nervous system. Another study shows that women with higher activity levels versus lower activity levels during pregnancy were less likely to have C sections.
2. Get Your Walking In
The CDC recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate activity such as brisk walking for pregnant women. That means 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Not too bad, I’d say. There is a park close to my house (right in my back yard actually), and while I was pregnant, my husband and I would take a stroll two to three times around the track. Each lap is almost a half mile and takes us less than 15 minutes to walk. 30 minutes DONE.
That was how I got my walking in. It was always nice to take a stroll and get out in the open, away from TV and electronics. And when you’re eight months pregnant, it feels way better to walk than to sit or stand, in my opinion!
3. Drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
There are many reasons for taking red raspberry leaf tea. One study suggests that the tea not only shortens labor but lessens the chances of:
- needing your water broken artificially.
- having an assisted delivery (forceps, vacuum).
- having a C section.
- delivering preterm or post term
The American Pregnancy Association states that red raspberry leaf tea is beneficial for toning the uterus, increasing milk production, decreasing nausea and relieving labor discomfort.
In my research, I discovered that red raspberry leaf tea is beneficial for womens’ health in general. Having adequate uterine tone is not just helpful during pregnancy. Some women swear that it helps ease the pain of menstrual cramps, regulates and shortens their period, and promotes fertility, though there are fewer studies supporting this.
You should note…
Not all red raspberry leaf teas are created equal. Some have higher concentrations of the leaf, and should be avoided due to lack of inspection. Commercial brands should be safer than non-commercial in terms of dosages and concentrations. I use this tea.
One thing I noticed while taking red raspberry leaf tea:
My Braxton-Hicks contractions were stronger. Makes sense, since the tea increases uterine tone (causing the uterus to contract). But I didn’t realize that it would actually work. I don’t think the tea is recommended in larger amounts during first and second trimester. You wouldn’t want to risk overstimulating the uterus that early. I started taking it around 34 weeks, and it seemed to work great!
As always, DO NOT take any supplement or medication without first consulting your doctor.
4. Eat 6 Dates a Day Starting at 36 Weeks
In this study, one group of women ate six dates a day for four weeks before their due dates and another group ate no dates. The findings were pretty significant. The women who ate the dates had these outcomes:
- Higher cervical dilation when they arrived at the hospital compared to the non-date-eating group.
- Their bag of waters was more likely to be intact at the start of labor.
- They were more likely to go into labor naturally, without Pitocin or other interventions.
- Their first stage of labor was shorter.
Let me be honest for a minute here. I do not love eating dates, plain or hidden in food. I tried the date brownies and other recipes, but they were not my favorite. So I ended up only eating about 2 dates every other day. I figured, some is better than none at all! And hey, all the research findings applied to me except for needing to have my water broken to induce labor.
5. Perineal Massage
There are not many studies on the effectiveness of perineal massage, and some medical professionals believe it to be completely ineffective. But in the least, it should not cause any harm to you or the baby. Ask your midwife or doctor what she thinks about perineal massage– you may get differing opinions.
Perineal massage is essentially stretching your vagina with your fingers to help prevent tears during delivery. The tissues down there might need a little help when it comes to stretching enough to fit a baby’s head. The most common place to tear is usually toward the back of the vagina (closest to the anus), and this is where the focus is during perineal massage.
Perineal massage can be done by yourself or you can have a partner assist you. Instructions for proper technique can be found at americanpregnancy.org.
It is ideal to perform perineal massage for up to five minutes every day in the weeks leading up to birth. I could have been better about fitting perineal massage into my schedule, but I managed to do it a handful of times (probably once every two or three days) before delivery day. I had only one small tear that didn’t require stitches.
My Success Could Be Your Success… Or Not.
I had a positive birth experience after doing these things– that’s all I can say! I can add myself to the list of women in the studies who had good results from implementing these strategies. Will I ever know if events would have turned out differently without these five secrets? I won’t, and I also can’t guarantee everyone will get the same results.
I’m a pretty cautious person, especially when I’m making decisions that affect my baby. After realizing that there were not any real risks involved, I thought, “Why not?” And I believe it paid off.
What tricks did you use to have a smooth labor? Were they ineffective, or do you think they helped?