Every now and then, when I’m driving in the car or when I’m gazing at Remy while he’s nursing, I think back to how Remy was born. When I was pregnant with him, I was terrified of giving birth so much that I wanted to stay pregnant forever! I mean, it was the most wonderful pregnancy that you could only dream of: I was glowing, no morning sickness, and I had good weight gain. But even though I had the best pregnancy, I was so anxious to meet my son in person.
Leading up to our due date, I researched on how to make labor easier. My goal was to have a natural and unmedicated labor. Whenever I described my birth plan to others, I got those, “Yea, ok. Just you wait” looks. But I’m so happy to say that Remy’s birth went according to plan and was actually better than what I was anticipating! Completely natural, unmedicated and lasting only FIVE hours from my water breaking to having Remy in my arms, skin-to-skin. While every birth is going to be different, I believe the things I did to prepare my body for labor did make a difference. Read on to see what I did!
Squats, squats, and more squats – the BEST prenatal exercise
Yes, squats are always good for that booty. But they are especially important when you’re pregnant because your lower body muscles have to work harder to support your growing belly. You need to keep your glutes, pelvic floor, and leg muscles strong and in shape! It has been shown to open up your hips and stretch those tight muscles needed to push your baby out and can reduce labor time. While I was pregnant, I would do squats while brushing my teeth lol. It sounds weird, but 2 minutes twice a day and I did about 100-125 squats per day! I truly believe that squats helped me the most during delivery. If you had to do only one thing from this list, DO SQUATS!
Labor is an extremely physical activity. And it requires a lot of endurance. A lot. Prior to getting pregnant, I was in pretty good shape, but I didn’t want to gain excess weight during the next 40 weeks. Luckily, I was pregnant during the spring and summer, so I would take 30 minute walks during my lunch break and another 20-30 minute walk when I got home from work with my mom.
In addition, I would do the elliptical a few times a week for 40 minutes (just enough time for an episode of The Real Housewives of Anything lol). Finally, I did workouts from the app “Pregnancy Workouts Free”. This app consisted of daily workouts that are designed to be safe and effective for pregnancy and even broke down the workouts by trimester! No equipment is required and each regimen is only 20 minutes! While you can upgrade to the pro version, I did just fine with the free version.
The medicine ball is so useful before and during labor! I sat on a medicine ball at my desk at work for the majority of the work day and stood for the rest (yay for standing desks!). Sitting on a medicine ball after 30 weeks keeps your pelvis aligned and baby in optimal position. Because the ball is soft on your bottom, it forces you to sit upright (no slouching!), so you are engaging your core and pelvic floor, strengthening these muscles for labor.
During labor, a medicine ball allows you to sit upright in a comfortable position and may coax the baby into a better birthing position. In addition, it will help baby descend into the birth canal because gravity is working WITH you, not against you. I was much more comfortable on the medicine ball than lying on my back in the hospital bed as I would sway or circle my hips through contractions. I wanted to stay on the medicine ball right up to the delivery and pushing phase, but Remy was so low in my belly that the heart rate monitor was not capturing his heart rate when I bent forward and I had to switch to standing and “slow-dancing” with the hubby.
To use your medicine ball, make sure it’s not inflated to the max or overinflated. You want it to be a little squishy to make it more comfortable. When you sit on the ball, make sure your feet are flat on the floor and spread apart, forming a tripod.
TIP: On your hospital tour, ask the staff if they have medicine/birthing balls or if you are allowed to bring your own.
While dates with your significant other are always nice, I’m talking about the edible dates. You’re probably thinking, “What the heck is this lady talking about?” But seriously, eating dates have been shown to make your labor easier! There are actual research studies that demonstrate the positive effects of dates on labor. Researchers found that dates have an oxytocin-like effect on the body, increasing the sensitivity of the uterus. Dates also help stimulate uterine contractions.
In fact, a 2011 study of 100 women showed that women who ate 6 dates (so specific, right?!) per day for 4 weeks prior to their due date were more likely to:
- Be more dilated
- Have a labor that starts on its own without being induced
- Have a shorter first stage of labor (which is usually the longest)
After reading this study, you better believe I started eating 6 dates per day when I was 36 weeks pregnant! My office mate would look at me funny as I counted out my 6 dates in the morning haha. You can definitely start eating dates earlier in your pregnancy if you like dates. Just be wary of the sugar content, especially if you have or at risk for gestational diabetes.
Red raspberry leaf tea
I’ve never heard of red raspberry leaf tea until I started doing research on how to have a faster and easier labor, but there are plenty of anecdotes and even some studies demonstrating its benefit. Red raspberry leaf tea has been used for centuries for many things, such as respiratory and digestive issues. It has also been for uterine health in women and has been shown to make labor faster. It has even been shown to decrease complications and need for interventions during birth. Red raspberry leaf tea strengthens the uterine wall, making contractions more effective during labor.
Because red raspberry leaf tea may induce uterine contractions, healthcare professionals recommend waiting until the second trimester to start drinking it. I started drinking red raspberry leaf tea after the third trimester – about 1 cup per day. Unfortunately, the tea does not taste like raspberries. It tastes more like black tea, but with a little honey and lemon, it tastes pretty good.
There is also a “Labor Day Tea” that is a very strong and concentrated brew. Think like 24 tea bags steeped in 4 cups of water! It is usually recommended to ONLY drink this right around your due date – you don’t want to induce contractions before baby is ready. Since Remy came early, as soon as my water broke, I brewed Labor Day Tea and sipped it on the way to the hospital and during the first part of labor. He came too fast for me to finish the whole cup!
TIP: Discuss red raspberry leaf tea with your healthcare professional before drinking it.
Hypnobirthing is exactly what it sounds like! Kind of like being hypnotized or being in a deeper state of mind, but while in labor. It allows for an easier birth while mom is relaxed, calm and controlled during labor because you are focusing your energy on giving birth. Being calm during labor helps your body release endorphins and oxytocin, which can numb pain and also encourage contractions. I listened to hypnobirthing in the weeks leading up to Remy’s birth – in the car, on my walks, a few minutes before bed. And when it came time for labor, having this familiar voice encouraging me to breathe deeply and relax was very calming and assuring.
Here is the exact audio of the hypnobirthing that I used! Listen to a sample here.
TIP: Be relaxed and calm while listening to these while pregnant. That way, when you listen to them in labor, you have conditioned your mind to be at ease and at peace.
Now that we went over what you can do to prepare for a fast and easy labor, we have come to the actual labor part and we can’t stop now! Have you ever noticed that all pregnant women on TV shows and movies give births on their backs? WHY? It makes it easier for the doctors and nurses, but does it make it easier for you? Heck no! Let nature and gravity help you during labor by giving birth in a squatting position. A squatting birth has been shown to widen your pelvis opening by 20-30%! This can put baby in a better position to pass through faster and easier. Squatting during labor can also increase the amount of oxygen to your baby and your uterine muscles, helping you contract more powerfully and efficiently.
It is important to practice squatting before your actual labor so that you are squatting properly and effectively. Keep your feet parallel to each other so that your pelvis is square and open. If you point your toes out, you’ll actually make your pelvis narrower. Keep your pelvis above your hips so that your weight is on your heels, avoiding your perineum from tearing (yes, that sounds painful).
TIP: Check to see if your hospital has accommodations for a squatting birth. They may have a squatting bar or a stool to help support you in this position.
And that’s it! This is a pretty extensive list of all the things I did during pregnancy. Now I’ve only given birth once, but my labor experience was fast, natural and unmedicated and I really think these things listed above made a huge difference in preparing my body. If you are pregnant now, will you be trying any of these? Which ones? And if you have been pregnancy, what things helped you during labor? I would love to hear what other moms have done or are planning to do!