Cervix dilation is just a number:
We all want to know how fare we are dilated…but this does NOT tell us when we will go into labor or how fast the labor will progress. So, when considering a cervical check ask yourself:
Why do I need this information?
How will this number make me feel–discouraged or encouraged?
Is the information vital to making a decision about my labor experience?
Will this check increase my risk of infection do to my waters having released?
Reducing fear reduces pain:
Our brain interprets how much danger we think we are in a raises our pain level accordingly. Women report their pain level to the sensations of labor on a varying scale. Before your labor begins you can train your brain to respond to those contractions sensations differently than is portrayed in the movies. You can shift your focus by using massage, movement, music, and mindfulness…just to name a few.
Women need to feel safe:
Your laboring environment need to be one that promotes the production of labor hormones. When we feel stressed or not safe we produce adrenaline which can slow or stop labor. One of the reason so many women go into labor at night is that is the “safe time”. We are mammals too and at night the “predators” are sleeping so it is safe to have a baby. If you have ever seen kittens or puppies being born it’s usually in some dark secluded corner. When we detect danger our body produces adrenaline to protect us and drive us into action. Our modern stressors do the same thing so providing a laboring environment with little or no stress help the process along. Laboring at home for a long a possible provides the comfort of your surroundings. When you get to your birthing place try to mimic your home comforts by turning off the harsh hospital lights, bring your own pillow and blanket, wear your own clothes, add mood lighting, play your favorite music, and have your partner speak to you more than anyone else.
Move those hips:
Your baby needs to make its way through your pelvis and you can assist by changing the shape of your pelvis with a variety of positions and movements. Our body produces a hormone called relaxin during pregnancy. Relaxin helps the ligaments in the pelvis loosen. So, during labor your pelvis is designed to adjust to your baby moving down; but if we stay in one position we are not taking advantage of all the ways our pelvis can move. Walking, dancing, swaying and crawling are all ways to help your pelvis make room for your baby.
Wait for the urge to push:
So often women start pushing when they are 10cm. If you wait till the urge to push is overwelhming your pushes will be more effective–usually resulting in a shorted pushing phase. Again, cervix dilation is just a number. More factors are going on here. If we wait for the uterus to move baby lower before actively pushing we will expel less energy to birth our baby. The uterus sometimes takes a little break once reaching 10 cm. to build up its power (this can look like contractions spacing out). We call this the rest and be thankful phase. It is also called laboring down and this is vitally important if you have an epidural. Epidurals usually let you still feel the increased pressure (like you have to poop) that comes with pushing. So, by waiting, our body initiates the fetal ejection reflex (yes, it’s a thing) and your baby starts coming down. Most women explain that their body was pushing whether they wanted it to or not.
Change pushing positions:
Many women labor in various positions but then we start pushing and we don’t change. The sensations of pushing can be very intense and it’s difficult for women to even think about moving. We get “locked” into a position (very often on our backs) and we just stay no matter how much progress baby is making. Just the simple act of shifting positions can open the pelvis and drastically change how effective our pushing is. I have seen many women go from feeling like they are making no progress to a baby being born in minutes with a simple position change. It’s because we have to wiggle around usually to move into the next position and baby can take advantage of the new room created. It’s not any one specific position that does the trick–it’s the act of changing that makes the difference!!
(Doula tip for partners: Try suggesting verses asking what positions she wants to change to. Just suggest by saying, “Let’s try squatting for a few contractions.” )
Download or print my shortened version of Childbirth Secrets from a Doula here: