I had a positive birth experience with my son Milo, which I would largely attribute to the preparatory measures that I took, which largely include yoga.
30 tips & techniques
Here I share with you 30 of the most important tips and techniques that I found useful. I present the tips and techniques in the order in which they appear in my birth story which you can read here:
1. contraction counter app
I downloaded one called ‘Labour Mate’ onto my iPhone. It was simple to use and allowed me to keep track of the progress of my contractions to help ascertain when I was ready to go to hospital. I also found that being aware of the duration of a contraction, better allowed me to manage them.
2. yoga nidra
This is a fantastic deep relaxation yoga technique that works kind of like self hypnosis. I cannot emphasis enough how compatible it is with pregnancy and labour for so many reasons. Namely, it aligns the power of the subconscious mind with the intention of the conscious mind, so you can use it to help ‘program yourself’ to release any tension and create a a positive relationship with your body/pain/pregnancy/labour…etc, whatever or wherever your anxiety lays. It increases you body awareness and helps you hone in your focus onto various body parts, which gives you a better control over your body. It massively calms the nervous system and encourages healthy functioning of all the bodily systems. i.e. immune, digestive, metabolic, respiratory, circulatory. Helps with calming the mind and reducing mental turbulence and the relaxation is deep so it aids in better, deeper sleep. Here I have recorded a 20-min Yoga Nidra for you.
3. birthing ball
Good for your posture and excellent in helping ease away any pelvic girdle pain and also helps in optimal fetal positioning
4. yoga positions
Check out my Pregnancy Yoga series on Youtube. In particular, ‘Preparation for Labour video’.
In case you get time in your labour, make yourself some playlists of your favourite music. It can really help distract you or lighten the mood. For inspiration you could check out some of my yoga playlists
6. connect to breath
Throughout labour, from start to finish, during and in-between contractions breath awareness and taking slow deep conscious breaths will help oxygenate your body, your brain and your baby. Oxygen is vital. When you have the opportunity, remind yourself (or get your birth partner to remind you) to breath slowly. Breathing slowly will allow the breath to become deeper. The deeper the breath, the more relaxed you will be. Deep relaxed breathing will help you stay calm and in control.
7. golden thread breath
This breath involves a relaxed passive inhale through the nose and and long slow focused exhalation through pursed lips whereby you visualise the exhale streaming out of the lips like a beautiful golden thread. Every new exhale makes the thread longer and this thread of light can immerse you in light and create a cocoon of warm protective light around you and your baby.
Golden Thread breath was pioneered by my Pregnancy Yoga teacher Uma-Dinsmore Tuli. A wonderful and exceptional lady that I believe to be the best pregnancy teacher in Europe if not worldwide. See my reading list for full details of her books.
8. positive affirmative language
Choose your words carefully: Words are made of sounds which create a certain vibration in consciousness. Negative words carry a negative association that influence the psyche negatively. Ina May in her book ‘Guide to Childbirth’ points out how the use of the word Contraction is actually counter intuitive and counter productive as it could suggest tightening, restricting or squeezing. She prefers the use of words ‘Rush or ‘Power surge’ to instead convey expansion and opening.
Therefore I am careful and deliberate in my use of language, especially when it comes to the topic of pain.
Rather than use the word Pain, try out ‘intense’, ‘pressure’ ‘heat’ ‘heavy’, it helps you to better clarify the nature of the sensation.
9. relationship to pain
Pain threshold and experience of pain is largely subjective, personal and psychologically determined.
I recommend really exploring and analysing your personal relationship with pain. This can be done through journalling, perhaps thinking about any past experiences of pain, and how you felt and whether there was any emotional narrative going along at the same time.
You could also contemplate and make note of what it is specifically that scares or intimidates you about pain.
Also exploring pain physically in yoga class helps you to feel your thresholds and challenge them. Holding a yoga pose you get the opportunity to ‘stress test’ i.e. feel some pain and unpackage what it is that constitutes this ‘pain’, locate it physically in the body, observe what emotions arise from it and listen to what mental dialogue accompanies it.
You can identify your use of language and find new, more positive words to describe the pain…’heat’ ‘pressure’ ‘tingling’ ‘heaviness’ ‘tightness’…whatever seems to work for you. Re-categorising ‘pain’ in such descriptive language can have the affect of demystifying the pain and stripping it of its power of you. When the sensations are described like this, suddenly they become manageable and their affect is felt as temporary, fleeting and ever-changing…don’t believe me? Try it!
Also breathing within an ‘uncomfortable’ yoga pose shows you how inextricably linked your breath is to your experience of pain. Tracing the flow of your breath through pathways of the body, like water between cracks in the ground, helps you to wash away any stagnant tension and creates a fresh experience in the next moment with the next breath. You can quite literally use your breath as a powerful tool to shift sensation along.
Read ‘Childbirth Without Fear’ By Grantly Dick-Read for an elaboration on this topic.
10. stay hydrated
We know it’s important to stay hydrated generally, especially during pregnancy and when breastfeeding but also I feel it is especially necessary during labour.
I dont know if there is any science behind it but intuitively, I’ve always felt that you need water to birth the baby. Your body is water, baby is surrounded by water, pregnancy is time of connecting to your fluid nature, surely hydration helps the baby flow down…?
11. stress ball
This unassuming little guy was of immeasurable help for me during my whole labour from the early gentler contractions to the last fierce ones! Squeezing the ball allowed me to channel my sensation out to my hands rather than down to my pelvis, which helped me to tolerate it. A book called ‘Birth Skills‘ by Juju Sundin has a whole chapter on why they work! .
12. hypnobirthing script
I was a little late to hypnobirthing. I’m aware its very popular and lots of people attend expensive courses in it. I tried out an app on my iPad, listening to it in bed but I found that it made me extremely drowsy the next morning! 3 weeks to my due date I discovered a book called the ‘Gentle Birthing Method’ by Dr Gowri Motha from which I read out birthing scripts and recorded them onto my phone. This was most effective for me.
13. write a birth plan
First and foremost, no one knows how their labour is actually going to pan out because there are too many uncontrollable factors and every situation is unique. No amount of preparation and planning will guarantee that labour goes exactly as outlined in the birth plan. I know of midwives, yoga teachers, 2nd time mothers, zen-easy-going types all of whom one may assume would have easy labours, winded up having some of the more complicated and/or challenging deliveries.
Despite there being no guarantees …I would definitely advocate that putting some time and energy into preparing yourself for the unknown is a very worthy persuit.
I believe that if you make time to educate yourself on the labour process and your options, you give yourself more options. It is important to be willing to fully embrace and surrender to the unknown, no matter how scary, confusing or ugly it may be.
Here I share my Birth Plan with you. I read and re-read the below to myself regularly during my 3rd trimester:
My Vision for Labour – What is important to me?
My baby’s safety and wellbeing.
I want to experience labour as a spiritual initiation, a communion with the very essence of life-force and a communication and journey with my baby whereby we work together. I want to trust my body and trust the process in order to enjoy and feel empowered by the powerful intensity of surges of energy.
I want the labour to be guided by my intuition and my own self- referral because my labour is unique to me. I want to be in an atmosphere that is conducive to this. Peaceful, warm, protected and safe.
I will create this atmosphere with James and be prepared with pain management. Through the use: dim lighting, movement and breathing and visualisation, sound, mantra, aromatherapy, massage, music, yoga nidra, hot towels, baths and showers and pool, TENS machine, gas & air.
In times of pause, I will accept the breaks and rest deeply. Self-referral is first and foremost. Be with whatever arises. Don’t immediately externalise to find solutions because it is me that births my baby, so I am best equipped to know. Recognise that progress is non-linear and there will be ebbs and flow. Take the pauses as times to communicate with my baby. In times of energy stagnation or dissonant emotional or physical energy, acknowledge, accept, embrace and bravely allow it to pass through, recognising that ‘this too shall pass’.
If the energy stagnation is deeper than I, in that moment feel that I can manage, then accept the kind and loving support of James and the midwives.
Be open to ‘intervention’ for the safety and wellbeing of my baby, whatever that intervention may be.
Ultimately there is no failure in childbirth.
14. positive affirmations
Create a list of motivation that you can refer to when things get tough during labour. Here I share my Positive affirmations that I kept by my bedside read to myself regularly in my 3rd trimester:
I have practiced yoga for years. I am very prepared and am more than capable of childbirth. I am fit, healthy, strong and flexible and am well equipped to adapt and handle anything physically and mentally.
I snowboard and throw myself around mountains. I have experienced pain from falling and also I had my front tooth pulled out. James didn’t make a fuss when he broke his leg. So I can do this. There is nothing to fear. I am protected and supported.
All women throughout the world and throughout time do this and are doing this right now. It is nature and an initiation into womanhood that I am ready for. It is effortless and natural.
My Baby IS READY
My Baby is ready to come out and I am ready to meet him and to be his mother and for us to be a family together. My Baby is strong and healthy, happy and playful and he knows to trust.
My body is intelligent- it has created this life and can deliver it with ease. I am designed to do this. I trust the process as it arises. I align myself with the mighty Shakti spanda and embrace the surges of prana that flow through me. Apana Vayu is in action and guiding the baby to the wide open gateway. My body is soft, elastic, open and malleable.
15. TENS machine
Some people aren’t sure about TENS Machine’s because they interrupt/redistribute electrical nervous signals in order to dissimilate their intensity. I appreciate that as a stance but for me personally I was open to trying it and I found the machine really helpful in the first stages of labour. It was less useful as the labour advanced.
16. manual for dads
Worthwhile having your partner get hold of one of these, they can be quite entertaining but the information is also really useful and its a good way of getting the partner interested/excited about the labour. See my Reading List for a good one
17. dad’s hospital bag
Try and get your partner to pack their bag before your due date! Unlike mine who was trying to do this whilst I was in the throws of labour! Ensure also that he knows where to find everything that is packed in your bag. Even if you have a home birth its worth packing, just in case. Maybe pack a little extra of the essentials such as pants socks and t-shirts, in case you do have to stay for longer than you anticipate.
18. birth partners
Choose people whom you want there, not who you feel obliged to be there. Its you that has to birth the baby no one else. So it’s important you hold no underlying or subconscious discomfort with the people in the room. Choose people/person whom you feel totally safe and comfortable with being vulnerable around. When you enter the ‘zone’ (around 7cm dilated) is when you can go into a kind of a trance-like state and some women are known to behave in a wild way or swear lots. That’s OK! But it’s not for spectators and not for the faint-hearted and you will want to let go of all your inhibitions at this stage so surround yourself by people you feel at ease with when doing so!
Water on the body feels good. A cold or a warm shower depending on what you need or a soak in the bath or the birthing pool. Relief is good, but evasion is futile. There is no escaping that you have to get the job done and birth the baby. Whether or not being in water affects the labour is not possible to prove but anecdotally, a good friend of mine felt that her labour slowed down because she spent too long stationary and soothing herself in the birthing pool as opposed to being active.
20. Gas & Air
This was my personal boundary when it came to ‘medical’ pain management. I chose to hold off as long as I possibly could before I used it. It did help me to focus on my breathing and dampen my senses so I wouldn’t have been without it, but it did make me violently sick, dizzy and very drowsy. I wanted to avoid an epidural but wouldn’t have ruled it out if it became necessary. However, there was no point in my labour where I considered an epidural. I needed to feel my body in order to direct the flow of my contractions. If I was numb I’m not sure how I would have been in control of birthing my baby. But that was my personal circumstance. Epidurals are a hot topic and only you and your supporting midwife/doctors know if it would be appropriate for you.
Visualisation and use of imagery are very powerful tools in cultivating focus and concentration and connecting you to your energy body. Visualisation has been a part of my yoga practice for about 18 years, so I recognise how the power of mind can gather a momentum of energy and create an outward manifestation. Literally, the subtle energy of Mind manifests Matter. Visualising what is happening in your body is excellent for birthing your baby, whether you prefer to create a vision physiologically, (i.e. muscle tissue, fluid and bone) or whether you work better with the imagery of energy and light. Hypno-birthing is based upon this principle.
22. vocal sounds
Sound is vibration. Vibration is movement. Creating primal sound can help co-ordinate movement. It is often said that ‘Moo-ing’ like a Cow, and making deep, low, basal tones and groans help bring the baby descend. Personally in my labour I had to halt my baby’s decent and work on opening the cerivx instead so I made high pitched sounds like ‘weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ and ‘aiaiaiaiaiaiaiaiai’ and ‘iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnngggg’ and sounds that to me, represented opening, like ‘wOw’.
23. jaw-pelvis connection
There is an inextricable link between the functionality of the jaw and that of the pelvis. Opening and releasing the jaw has the same effect on the pelvis. We do this a lot in pregnancy yoga class. Try it out and Read ‘Core Awareness’ by Liz Koch -for more info on this.
Massage felt amazing a certain phases during my labour. Other times, I didn’t want or couldn’t be touched! It’s good to get your birthing partner versed in a few techniques beforehand.
25. aromatherapy oils
As you may know, your sense of smell is heightened during pregnancy, and it is amplified during labour! Rose and Clary Sage help bring on and strengthen contractions, Lavender helps with nausea and relaxation.
26. cool damp flannel
A woman in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth describes how having a cool flannel put on her forehead transformed her state of wellbeing and instantly relieved her. So I definitely packed mine! I was pleased to find out that it did provide some relief after hours and hours of contractions!
27. verbal instruction and support
It may be worthwhile discussing with your birth partner in advance, what kind of support style you are likely to respond well to. Perhaps come up with some key phrases that you feel would be helpful in motivating, guiding or supporting you at times when you lose focus or waiver.
28. coffee plunger image
This is often described in pregnancy yoga or birthing books. It concerns the push stage. To help the woman steer her efforts of pushing down in the pelvis rather than at the throat and also more towards the back passage as opposed to the front. You imagine that your body is the coffee pot and as you push down the plunger, pressure builds at the bottom of the pot. Each time you push you should channel your efforts from the new spot and hold the plunger down at the new level rather than let it return back up. In this way you sustain the downward push progress.
29. shaking the apples
This is a wonderful imagery provided by Ina May in her Guide to Childbirth. It feels like a way to ‘shake out’ the power of the contractions and disperse their intensity down to the legs and down to the floor rather than them being concentrated in your pelvis. At certain points in labour this felt good, but in other points it didn’t! So stay communicative with your birth partner!
30. pelvic floor exercises
You won’t be doing any pelvic floor exercises during labour but before pregnancy, during pregnancy, postnatally and then for the rest of your life, pelvic floor exercises are necessary! They create the tone of the musculature of the pelvis which is essential for health of the reproductive and excretory region. If you want to prevent and recover from any tearing and if you don’t want to wet yourself when you laugh or run, and if you want you (and your partner!) to enjoy sex, then do pelvic floor exercises. Simple. Little and often is key. They are a key part of all of my pregnancy yoga and postnatal yoga classes.
Go on to my recommended pregnancy and birthing reading list here
Or go to my birth story here
Or a guided yoga nidra
or pregnancy yoga videos