5 Helpful Labor and Delivery Tips for First-Time Moms
Finally meeting their new baby is a moment many first-time moms dream of. The hours of labor and delivery leading up to it? Not so much. If you’re a first-time mom, it’s normal to feel a little panic around the upcoming event. But remember: your body is made for giving birth. History, science, and instinct are all on your side! To help ease your fears, let’s take a look at what happens during the process, as well as a few helpful labor and delivery tips for first-time moms.
Stages of Labor
Every woman’s labor experience is different. For some, it’s a mental and physical endurance marathon, and for others, it’s finished in a matter of hours or minutes. You won’t know how yours will play out until you’re in the moment, but understanding the order of events can help you mentally prepare.
During this stage, your cervix begins to widen and thin. You'll probably feel mild, irregular contractions. Early labor is often unpredictable. The average length of time for this stage ranges from a few hours to days for first-time moms. Subsequent deliveries generally take less time. For many, this stage isn’t especially painful, but some contractions may be stronger than others. Try to stay comfortable and relaxed during this stage.
During this stage, your cervix widens from 6 centimeters (cm) to 10 cm, and your contractions will become stronger, more regular, and at shorter intervals. You may experience nausea, leg cramping, and back pressure, and your water may break. Now is the time to head to your birthing facility.
Active labor frequently lasts anywhere from four to eight hours. Try to implement the relaxation techniques and breathing patterns you learned in your childbirth class to ease your discomfort. Request pain medication if you need it. Rely on your birthing partner and healthcare team for support and motivation.
Delivery of the Baby
At this stage, your cervix is completely dilated. It may take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours to push your baby out. First-time moms and women who’ve received an epidural may take a bit longer.
Delivery of the Placenta
Your baby is finally here! Your focus has probably shifted, and you’ll likely feel much relief, but there’s still a lot going on. The placenta is normally delivered about 30 minutes to an hour after birth. During this stage, you’ll experience less intense contractions with very brief intervals in between. This helps your body expel the placenta. Your uterus will continue to contract and tighten to return to its regular size.
Now that you understand the process, let’s review a few helpful tips to get you through the labor and delivery process.
Tips to Get Through Labor and Delivery
1. Be Ready
Educate yourself and pay attention to your body. Familiarize yourself with the signs of labor and learn what happens during the process so that you’re not caught off-guard. It doesn’t always happen the way you see it on television or in movies. For most women, labor tends to be a more gradual, rather than sudden, event. In fact, only about 10% of women experience their water breaking before labor begins.
Start clocking the length of time between each contraction as soon as you begin experiencing them. This is the best way to know when it’s time to grab your bag and head to the birthing facility. Check with the facility as well regarding admittance policies. Some places won’t admit you until you’re dilated to a certain point.
Take the time to read up on postpartum care as well. It’s important to understand your own recovery. Make sure your home is stocked with the necessary supplies, like maxi pads, a peri bottle, nipple cream, and a soothing perineal spray.
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2. Attend Birthing Classes
Sign up as soon as possible (depending on the birthing philosophy, some classes run for two or three months). Childbirth classes are a great way to mentally and emotionally prepare for what lies ahead. Can’t find a class near you? Take a look at this free online course instructed by a registered nurse!
3. Work on Your Concentration Skills
Practicing mindful meditation or even attending prenatal yoga classes will help you improve your focus and concentration skills. This allows you to focus your energy on what you need to do while staying strong and relaxed. Begin as early as possible in your pregnancy and continue throughout to keep yourself mentally focused and healthy.
4. Use Your Insurance
Make some calls to find out exactly what your plan covers and fully utilize it. If your insurance provider allows you to stay in the hospital for three full days, take advantage of the extra help. Find out what sort of supplies the hospital allows you to take home. The extra help and supplies can be a huge help for first-time moms.
5. Create a Mental “Bag of Tricks”
There is endless advice available on the Internet and in pregnancy books about what to do during labor and delivery. Begin compiling a mental list of some of the most commonly effective ones and share them with your partner. That way when the time comes, you won’t be scrambling for what to try next, and you can land on the trick that works best for you. This may include the following:
- Finding a way to distract yourself
- Creating a playlist of your favorite music
- Learning breathing patterns and visualization techniques
- Low moaning for pain relief, as opposed to screaming
- Having your partner learn effective labor massage techniques
- Shifting position and moving around while in labor
Each person has a unique labor experience. For first-time moms, it can be especially exciting and overwhelming. Try to stay focused on the fact that labor means you’re about to meet your new baby! Prepare yourself where possible and try not to worry about things beyond your control. Your healthcare team and birthing partner will be there to support you in every way possible and to make sure that your labor goes smoothly.
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