A quick review of anatomy and physiology is a great starting point to help resolve fears about labor. The big player, the uterus, is an amazing multilayered muscle which, in its non-pregnant state, is about the size of your fist. Like every muscle, it needs hydration and calories for energy to prevent fatigue and improve performance. If you sense that labor is near, consider “carbing up” more than usual to store extra energy calories. Hydration is also a huge component for optimal labor. Hopefully you will be encouraged to eat and drink throughout the process.
Your bony pelvis has become much more flexible as your pregnancy has progressed. It is usually rigid and non-yielding. It is the hormones of pregnancy, specifically relaxin, that prepare it for the birth process. As baby has grown your bladder has had to yield its volume – and content – on a much more regular basis, especially as labor ensues. The cervix is also affected by hormones, softening ahead of labor. As the uterus contracts during labor, the cervix dilates, opening the “door” for your baby. One of the greatest considerations for helping labor along naturally beyond hydration and nutrition is changing position regularly: walking and squatting alternating with resting. Once labor is well established, the shower or tub may be your “best friend.” Both are comforting and help you relax. Being upright in the shower utilizes gravity to help move the baby down. Deep immersion in a tub is amazing for taking the edge off each contraction. The water provides a counter pressure against the contracting uterus, lessening the intensity of the contractions. Deep water also provides buoyancy which allows for mobility in the labor and birth process.
Understanding the basics of how your body works helps to prepare you for labor. A good birth partner – husband, friend or doula – can encourage you through the process and be right there with you to welcome your precious little one.
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