There's no use denying it: Though you'll be elated by the arrival of your new baby, the hours you spend in labor won't be your favorite time. Even if you elect to receive pain medication, delivery will have its challenges. Make careful choices about how you'll handle these strains well before your water breaks. When you're managing the things you can control, labor will run as smoothly as possible.
1. Don't Panic
Of course you have some trepidation about the discomfort and uncertainty of labor; that's normal even for experienced moms. But a 2012 Norwegian study that examined 2,206 women found that those who had fears about childbirth spent an average of around 90 minutes longer in labor than those women who didn't have these trepidations. Watching videos of childbirth, taking birthing classes and asking your doctor to walk you through the labor process step by step might help ease your worries.
Swollen ankles and a huge belly make physical activity seem challenging, but certain exercises can help prepare your body for birth. Doing Kegels during pregnancy should help you push during labor. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles as you would to stop urinating and hold them for a count of three. Repeat this 10 to 15 times, three times a day. Yoga will also help you gain strength and flexibility that you'll need during delivery.
3. Tailor Your Environment
A harsh, hectic delivery room adds to your stress level during birth. Set yourself up for a smooth labor by creating a dream environment and include your ideal scenario in your birth plan. For instance, since you crave calm, try asking that the lights be lowered slightly, the door be kept closed and everyone use low voices. Ultimately your doctors and nurses have final say over what's possible during labor, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
4. Prep Your Coach
Before your labor coach is ready to help you through birth, he needs some coaching from you. Ahead of time, tell your partner what kind of tone you want him to use in the room and what kind of relaxation techniques -- such as back or abdominal massage -- you want him to try with you. Talk about who else you want to have in the delivery room. Keep out anyone who has strong opinions on your labor and delivery, suggests registered nurse and certified nurse-midwife Mary R. Murry, and advise the nursing staff if there are any people you want barred from the room.
If you've spent months tossing and turning, you know that a bed isn't always the coziest place to be during pregnancy. So climb out of your hospital bed, with the staff's consent, and follow your body's signals to become more comfortable. Try walking the halls, sitting on an exercise ball, taking a warm shower or asking for a birthing bar to be set up so you can squat on your bed. Curl your body forward around your about-to-be-born child and tuck your chin, suggests the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota.