Tips to help have a smooth labour

Has the thought of a traumatic labour ever put you off the thought of having children? 

We hear so many horror stories of things going wrong or the pain that the mum goes through or not getting to the hospital on time so you end up having the baby in the car!

Well, I can tell you from first-hand experience that it isn’t all doom and gloom.

During my two pregnancies, I really wanted to enjoy the journey and whilst some things are totally out of our control, I wanted to ensure I did everything I could to help myself through the 9 months of growing my baby and eventually, labour.

It paid off.

With the first pregnancy, I thought I was just one of those ‘lucky’ ones. So I tested my strategy when I fell pregnant the second time round. 

It worked.

I had 2 AMAZING birthing experiences – quick, stitch-free and completely natural – and I put it all down to the things I did during both pregnancies. 

Now, I want to share my tips with you.

Whilst we are all unique with varying tolerances and experiences of the things we can’t control, the information is universal and you don’t need much equipment, time or space to do them.

Let’s get into it…

  1. Exercise

I cannot stress enough the importance of exercising during pregnancy. 

Even when you feel like puking out your guts, keeping active is going to give you some serious benefits and help you with recovery once your baby arrives. 

Exercise releases a ‘feel-great’ hormone called endorphins. Endorphins like to hang out with the receptors in your brain which trick your mind into perceiving less pain than what you’re actually experiencing. Who doesn’t want that? Especially when you’ve got back pain, swollen ankles and feel like a hot sweaty mess (this was totally me!). 

Now, I’m definitely not saying go and run a marathon or anything else as exciting as that; just something low impact like a walk, swimming, stretches, a mild workout on your gym ball, a bit of yoga or whatever else you enjoy that keeps you moving. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes a day, give it a go – it will benefit you in the long run (pun wasn’t intended but I’ll pretend it was)!

You will continue to build strength and stamina throughout the pregnancy and believe me, towards the end, you will probably need it! If you keep your body and muscles supple now, it will reward you when your labour kicks in and you may also find that you recover a lot quicker. A study conducted in 2013 found that women who participated in regular exercise were less likely to gain excess weight, lower the risk of developing gestational diabetes and more likely to have a shorter, easier labour. This was also determined in another study in 2017

The psychological impact of exercise is equally, if not more, beneficial than the physical. You will feel A.MA.ZING after a little workout! The hormones released into your body will help you feel less stressed, less anxious, increase your self-esteem and improve your sleep (ahhhh, sleep – for all you first-time parents, let me tell you…Get. Your. Sleep. In.)

I exercised through both my pregnancies – nothing too strenuous as I had back and pelvic pain both times round and exercise made that pain so much more bearable. My first labour lasted 43 minutes and the second time round, it was less than half an hour. Post-birth, I fully recovered within a few weeks and managed to do a 4-mile run in the fourth week and was in better shape than pre-pregnancy (which was a surprise really because I LOVE TO EAT!). 

Of course you must follow your doctor’s advice, especially if you have any medical conditions and only do what you can physically manage without causing any harm or damage to you and your baby.

  1. Healthy eating

The food that you consume pre, during and post pregnancy will impact you and your baby, long term. Food plays such a crucial part in everyday life and having healthy eating habits is of paramount importance. 

A 2013 study on Norweigen mothers showed that a mother’s poor diet could lead to behavioural issues in her child and result in mental health issues. The study concluded that there was a link between (i) the child’s emotional behaviour and regulation and (ii) the mother’s poor diet during pregnancy and what the child ate in the first few years of life. 

Another study was carried out in London a couple of years later, which also concluded the same as the 2013 study. 

Adopting healthy eating habits can be really easy and cheap. Just eat a couple of portions of fruit and a few vegetables a day. That’s it. 

Make a soup out of the vegetables or roast them, stuff them or eat them raw – whatever you prefer. 

While all vegetables are good for you, some of the best vegetables and green leafy things to eat during pregnancy are (in no particular order):

  • Red pepper
  • Asparagus
  • Watercress 
  • Sweet potato
  • Mushrooms 
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli

Some of the best fruits to have are:

  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Kiwi
  • Apples
  • Banana
  • Avocado

The icing on the [sugar-free] cake is that it’s so simple to incorporate fresh produce into your diet. 

For example, buy a bag of watercress – cook it for a few minutes in a pan with some olive oil, a pinch of salt and black pepper. Add it to some roasted sweet potato with herbs and… voila! There, you’ve just had 2 of your 5-a-day. Easy, right? 

Now combine that with a roasted courgette and red pepper. BOOM. That’s 4 done. 

Snack on an apple or a handful of strawberries and you’ve just met your daily recommended quota. 

If you fancy a snack in between, opt for something like:

Boiled eggs – you can boil a few at a time and keep them in their shell in the fridge for a couple of days

Hummus with carrot / celery / cucumber sticks

Cheese with baked crackers

Homemade granola bars (check out my Granolierecipe for fudgy, chocolatey, healthy, brownie granola bars)

Apple slices with peanut butter (this is so delicious!)

A snack pot of low fat Greek yoghurt, chopped strawberries, raisins, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts (if you’re not allergic of course) and anything else you fancy adding. If you need a little more sweetness, add a touch of maple or agave syrup (not honey as it’s usually advised to avoid it whilst pregnant). Even though these syrups are supposedly better than refined sugar, don’t go adding gallons of it on your treats as we need to reduce the risk of diabetes!

For more super quick, super nutritious and super delicious dishes, check out my ‘Recipes’ section. Not only will this do wonders for you, your family and your unborn baby, you won’t have to slave away in the kitchen!

  1. Visualise your labour

Visualising labour played a BIG part in both of my birthing experiences. I know I sound like a weird, lost-the-plot kind of crazy lady but let me explain.   

If you ever do NCT classes, you may find yourself practising labour positions. I have to admit I was totally judgemental and thought the teacher was just trying to add humour to the class. 

Imagine this: you’re with your birthing partner in a dimly lit room with other couples that you barely know and all the women are on their hands and knees pretending to give birth making sounds and all! No-one could keep a straight face. The men were completely out of their comfort zones and you could hear them quietly chuckling away. Everyone’s looking around at each other in amusement.

It turns out there are some real psychological benefits to this technique.

If you visualise your labour and how you would like it to go, you’re effectively creating a blue-print in your mind which subconsciously commands your brain that when you’re in this particular situation, that blue-print program needs to play. 

Visualise where you want to give birth. Who you would like in the room with you. How much lighting you want. Whether you want music playing in the background and if so, what kind? What position do you want to give birth in? Practice your breathing. Make the sounds. And when the time comes to meet your baby, this blue-print will play.

Note: the more you reinforce that blue-print (i.e. repetition – practice it every day in the last month or so of your due date) the more prominent that blue-print will embed into your subconscious. 

Believe me, this works!

Visualisation works most powerfully when you realise that it is already a reality on the unseen level. It’s already there.” – Eckhart Tolle

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