There are some things women do during active labor that decrease their chances of achieving a natural childbirth. Although they can seem like the normal and expected response to labor, they can have a negative impact on the way labor progresses. Understanding what these mistakes are, and how to avoid them, can help you support a women in a natural childbirth.
Staying in Bed
Some first time moms have the impression that when you are in labor, you go to the hospital and lie in a bed. While this image makes for very easy filming of labors for movies, it isn’t real and it is not healthy.
During labor, the body gives signals to move and change position. When a mother responds to these signals and cues, her labor is able to progress normally and she is the most comfortable. Changing positions also makes it easier for the baby to navigate the pelvis, effectively shortening labor.
It is also worth mentioning that the most uncomfortable position for many laboring is lying on the back. So if the mother is going to stay in bed, at least encourage her to stay on her side.
The opposite of the mother who climbs in bed and stays there is the mother who tries to do every position and comfort measure because she believes that is what she is supposed to do. This type of mother will do a position or technique for one or two contractions and then get up and move to the next position.
Although it is good to change positions and techniques during labor, these changes should be in response to cues from the mother’s body not because the mother wants to “try everything.” Once the mother is in a position or successfully using a technique, she should continue through several contractions until her body needs a change. Some birth professionals refer to this repetition through contractions as a birth ritual or routine. Rarely, the mother will miss the cue and need to be prompted to move after 30-60 minutes. If the new position does not feel comfortable to the mother within a few contractions, help her move back to her ritual position. Even that small change for just a few contractions will be helpful.
Trying to force change during the labor when the mother is not ready can distract the mother, pulling her mental and physical energy away from the labor. As long as the labor is progressing normally, and there is no concern for the safety of the mother or baby, the mother should be allowed to continue with what is comfortable.
Having Too Many Distractions
Laboring takes extensive mental energy. The mother must work with her body to keep it relaxed and allow the labor to continue normally. Having distractions can cause the mother to lose her focus, drain her energy and increase her discomfort during the labor.
Many women find that having someone talk to them during labor is calming and reassuring. However, that talking should not include forcing the mother to respond. For many women in active labor, responding to the conversation takes too much energy. If the mother is not willing to put the mental energy into laboring, the labor will either stop, or it will be long and painful. There is no substitute for being mentally present at the labor. When a mother is overly distracted, for example with the care of an older child or in a conversation she thinks is important, her labor can slow down or even stop.
Allow the mother to set the tone and the pace. Do not force fast movements or conversation.