Unlike most labors you see on TV or in movies, they can take a long time. The average first labor lasts between 12-18 hours. After your first baby your labors are normally quicker. A long labor can lead to both you and baby becoming exhausted and needing medical help for delivery. The official term for speeding up is ‘augmentation’, and usually involves iv drips or medical instruments. However, you can avoid all that.
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You want to aim for somewhere between so quick that you’re delivering in the seat of your car and too slow that you and baby are exhausted. These are my top tips to naturally speed up labor and delivery, without medical help. It all begins in pregnancy, so let’s get started.
7 Natural Ways To Speed Up Labor
1. Baby’s Position
When: Start around 32 Weeks
You can start to influence your labour before your contractions even start. The trick is getting your baby into to best position to fit through your pelvis.
Movement techniques known as optimal fetal positioning are the best way to do this. The best position to get baby into is known as LOA or Left Occiput Anterior. That means your baby’s back is facing your front and slightly to the left.
This position makes it easier for your baby’s head to fit into the pelvis. A nice fitting head, means your cervix dilates up quickly and evenly with regular contractions.
The best way to encourage baby into this position is using forward leaning. You want to encourage your bays back to use the front of your tummy as a ‘hammock’. That means no slouching back on sofas or lifting your knees higher than your hips.
Try these positions in the last trimester:
- Sitting on a back ward chair, leaning forward
- Sit on a birthing ball rather than a sofa.
- Sit on the floor and lean your upper body onto a birthing ball
- Sleep on your left side or slightly onto your tummy
- Use a tilt cushion (like this one) when driving or in an office chair
For more information on optimal fetal positioning check out the Spinning Babies website.
2. Birth Partner
When: Around 36 Weeks
You’ve already settled on your perfect care giver for pregnancy but what about who will be with you during birth? This is a really important part of your birth plan.
Your first thought will probably be your partner. Other popular birth partners are your own mom or sister.
After seeing hundreds of births, I can tell you that your birth partner will without a doubt affect how you cope during labor.
It’s very difficult to see someone you love in pain. This can leave your birth partner feeling helpless or panicked, even if they have given birth themselves. However, they can help you get through by coaching your breathing or offering massage.
A good birth partner is someone who can read you the best. That means they know when to offer you support or when to leave you alone. Also preferably they are not squeamish, as it can sometimes get little messy.
It’s best to have a conversation with your intended birth partner, so they know what you expect from them. You may even decide to have more than one for extra back up.
It’s also important to put your foot down if someone you know is insisting on being at the delivery. If you know this person will make you feel tense or anxious, they need to stay out of the room. The stress and tension having them there will more than likely stall your labor.
3. Raspberry Leaf
When: Start After 37 Weeks
Raspberry leaf tea is an age old home remedy for women’s health issues, including pregnancy. It’s used by herbalists to prepare your body for labour and delivery. The evidence from a few small studies shows that it can speed up the pushing stage of labour (second stage).
It works by softening up the cervix and aiding contractions. It’s not safe for everyone, so it’s best to take it if you’ve had a straight forward pregnancy with no complications. As always, discuss it with your caregiver if you’re not sure.
The most common way to take it is by drinking raspberry leaf tea (loose leaf or teabags), but you can take capsules if you dislike the taste.
You should gradually build up to taking it 3 times per day. There is a variety of advice to when you should start taking it. Some women start at 32 weeks. However, you should probably wait until around 37 weeks in case it stimulate you to go into pre-term labor.
4. Eat and Drink
When: Start in early Labour
Eating and drinking in the early stages of labor is essential. It’s important to know that during this stage, it offers your body the energy to cope with labor.
You won’t want to eat a lot, so try little and often. Energy packed proteins or carbohydrates are great for a great boost without filling your stomach. Breads, cereals, soup and crackers are good options.
In active labor, you’ll probably lose interest in food. A great way to keep up your energy is suckling on candy or using glucose tablets. For fluids; plain water, ice chips or sports drinks are great ways to keep hydrated.
Lack of food can slow down your labor. That’s because your body is using energy to break down your fat stores instead of food.
Before you go into labour ask your caregiver what their policy is on eating and drinking in labor. If you have any narcotics foe pain relief, you’ll more than likely be restricted to water sips only.
5. Bladder Care
When: During Labour
The toilet will probably become your best friend in early labour. It’s really important to keep empting your bladder as often as possible in labor. It’s probably easier to do this in the early stages when you are not in as much pain.
Once baby’s head is deep into your pelvis it can cause a few issues trying to pee. Often the head can block the urine coming out. This means your bladder gets more and full of urine. If your bladder is too full of urine it becomes painful and stop your baby’s head from moving down easily.
Aim to empty your bladder at least every four hours. Your care provider should be monitoring your bladder care, but tell your partner this is their job if you are still at home.
Even if you don’t feel the urge sit on the toilet or bedpan anyway. Make sure you have privacy for this otherwise you’ll get stage fright. If you are still struggling try a running tap.
If you’re still unable to pass urine, your care giver can feel if your bladder is too full. They will most likely recommend passing a catheter to empty it. An in/out catheter is the best option as it doesn’t need to stay in.
6. Keep Mobile
When: During Labour
When you think of a woman in labor it’s usually her sitting on a bed. It’s such a common image we see in the media and movies, that most women think it’s to only way to labor.
You probably didn’t know that keeping upright is the best way to help your labor progress. Studies have shown waling in labor reduces the need for pain relief, speeds up the first stage.
It’s all to do with helping your baby move down your pelvis, and gravity certain helps. It also helps to take the pressure off your lower body, especially when you baby is posterior or a ‘back labor’.
Giving your pelvis as much space as possible to ‘open up’ is key. You baby will move down quicker and your less likely to need an instrumental delivery or episiotomy.
Use of CTG monitors and IV’s and epidurals can affect your range of motion. That doesn’t mean you’re destined to be stuck to the bed, but you’ll need support to adopt different positions.
The most important thing is to choose positions that are comfortable for you. Feeling as relaxed as possible during labour is a sure fire way to speed things up.
7. Birth Environment
When: During Labour
The environment you give birth in can help or hinder your labor. It’s really important for a good labour that you feel safe and relaxed.
Take this into consideration when you choose where you want to give birth. Would you feel better in hospital, a birth unit or at home?
Most doctors and midwives will encourage you to stay at home as long as possible in early labor. That’s because a homely environment is known to encourage regular, strong contractions.
Depending on your pregnancy or medical history, you may not have much of a choice of where to birth. That doesn’t mean you can’t make small changes to your environment to make it more comfortable to you.
A few simple options are to bring in your own pillows, music or aromatherapy oils such as a relaxing lavender. Check with your hospital beforehand that these are allowed.
Dark, quiet environments are well known to speed up labor. Your sleep hormone (melatonin) detects the light and can speed up or slow down your contractions. If you are in a brightly lit room, ask to turn down the lights, and see the difference.
I hope you found these tips useful to prepare for labor and delivery. If you have any tips for speeding up your labor you want to share, please leave a comment below.