As we all know, the culmination of nine months of pregnancy comes to a close with labour. Dun dun duuuuun! I’m in the third trimester now, and with this being my first pregnancy, I've been reading up on ways I can prepare myself for that grand moment and wanted to share this with my readers. Note: I'm a healthy individual having a normal pregnancy. I'm no expert and am not dispensing medical advise. Please consult with your primary care practitioner before trying any of the following.
Water water water!
Before getting pregnant, I would rarely drink water. I'd have a cup of tea in the morning and another in the afternoon. I rarely felt thirsty, but one look at my skin (or pee colour lol) and you could tell I was dehydrated. Now I drink about 6 cups of water/non-caffeinated drinks per day, which still probably isn't enough, but my skin, hair, and nails, have never looked better! I'm working on upping my water intake because being properly hydrated has so many benefits to pregnant ladies, all of which will be useful come labour time:
- Increased energy
- Reduces muscle cramps
- Improves circulation
- Keeps you regular
- Reduces fluid retention
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
I first heard about Red Raspberry Leaf Tea (RRLT) on a mommy vlog on YouTube. It's an herbal, non-caffeinated tea that is most commonly used in pregnancy for the purposes of increasing uterine tone. What does that mean?? Supposedly, it may help women to have stronger, more effective contractions, which may make labour shorter. I asked my midwife about it and she said it was safe to take and she has heard that the loose leaf versions are more effective than the sachets. I initially bought a pack of 20 sachets from Shoppers Drug Mart for $6.99, but then found a loose leaf version at The Tea Emporium on the Danforth for $14 for 100g. I'm a bit skeptical, but I love tea, so thought I'd give it a try. I drink 1 cup a day after letting it steep for 10 minutes.
Water water water
There's no denying that there's a lot of stretching that goes on in pregnancy and delivery. On top of the good things all this H20 is doing for my insides, it's also helping prepare my skin!
This tip is more for vanity than actual labour: I have been using coconut oil exclusively to moisturize my body for at least a year and I can't ever see myself going back to regular lotion. The brand I use is Carrington Farms Organic Virgin Cold-Pressed Coconut Oil (bought from Costco for less than $20 for 1.6L) and I love it. I got stretch marks in my teen years on my legs, butt, and boobs, and am really really trying my best to avoid getting any new ones. I don't have any new ones yet and this is what I've been doing:
- Every time I shower I lather up my body using exfoliating gloves. Focus on areas you don't want any (new) stretch marks.
- Once done showering, I very lightly pat myself dry. The key is to still be quite damp.
- Apply coconut oil on my body from the neck down! Bonus points if you can spend a few minutes really massaging it in to those areas prone to stretch marks!
I used to think that strong ab muscles were the key to pushing effectively during labour, but have heard countless times since getting pregnant that it's all about the kegels. I have an alarm set on my phone to remind me to do them. Kevin likes to yell out, “Kegel Time!” every time he hears my alarm lol I do 5 sets of 20 and hold each one for 3-5 seconds, depending on how much time I have. Keeping these muscles strong helps avoid any stress bladder leakage, and helps with post-partum recovery as it increases blood flow to that area.
Squats and kegels go hand in hand! I've been reading over and over that staying mobile is one of the best things you can do to speed up labour. Lying on your back is apparently one of the worst. A lot of labouring positions engage your leg muscles, so it's suggested to do squats to increase your muscle tone so that you don't fatigue yourself early in labour. I aim to do 20 squats every time my kegel alarm goes off, but it's a lot harder to stop and do a bunch of squats if you're in public.
My leg flexibility is pathetic. And I'm also not good at breathing deeply. I'm a shallow breather with lots of intermittent sighing. This is where yoga comes in! I found a pre-natal yoga series by Body Talk Daily on YouTube. Each video is 10-12 minutes and there are 5 of them so it's very easy to do a few times a week.
Walking is a great cardio exercise for pregnant women! I set a goal in May of walking 100 miles before this baby makes its debut at the end of summer. I'm about 25% done and may not complete 100 miles, but the point was to set a goal (using the RunKeeper app) to motivate me to get outside! Walking in the third trimester is supposed to help the baby get into the best positioning for birth as well. My tips for walking:
- Bring water with you
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Sunscreen and a hat are also a good idea. During pregnancy, your skin can get more sensitive, causing you to burn more easily.
- If you'll be walking for a while, do a little research to find where the bathrooms are on your route. I've cut a few walks short for not having planned ahead
Everyone says, “sleep now because you won't be able to once the baby gets here!”, but unfortunately it's been proven over and over again that you can't “catch up” or “store” sleep. At various points in this pregnancy, sleep has eluded me for a variety of reasons: weird dreams, bathroom breaks, heartburn, etc. Labour is (usually) a long process and I want to be well-rested for it! I've let Kevin and my family know that if they see me passed out on the couch, just leave me be. Kevin's woken me up from the couch before to tell me to go to bed – he had good intentions and thought I'd be more comfortable in bed – but then I couldn't fall asleep once I went to the bedroom! My tips for sleeping:
- As it can be difficult to get comfortable, catch your zzz's wherever you can. Ask those around you not to wake you up unless necessary.
- Avoid eating before going to sleep
- If you're experiencing acid reflux, prop yourself up with pillows so you're sleeping in a more upright position
- Put a pillow between your knees if you're sleeping on your side. I used to be a stomach sleeper pre-pregnancy, and once I got to the point where I had to start sleeping on my side, it was giving me achy hips. A pillow between my knees made all the difference! I bought this one from Ikea for $4.99 and saved myself the added cost of the expensive body pillows that are highly advertised towards pregnant women.
Tune People Out
So this might sound counter intuitive because I'm writing a blog post about labour, but I really feel like one of the most important things I've done is to tune people out. Since getting pregnant, I have found that people are downright fascinated by pregnancy. And as such, they start actin' a fool. I've had a lot of people, almost all women and almost all mothers, say and do some very insensitive things to me. I don't want to hear about your horrific back labour, or your friend's emergency C-section, or about your stage 3 episiotomy. I don't want you to tell me my ass looks fat, or that I look like I'm about to blow, or that being pregnant in the summer is the worst. These are all things that have been said to me. I've found the best way to avoid getting unsolicited advice is to not talk too openly to people about my pregnancy. I think the more information you give to people, the more opinions you get back.
Getting In The Right Mindset
I’ve watched a few documentaries (ie: The Business of Being Born, which was awesome!) about birth and it’s so interesting to learn about the different views on birth in different cultures. In Western culture there seems to be a lot of fear surrounding birth (watch this TedTalks video, Reducing Fear of Birth in U.S. Culture by Ina May Gaskin), and there are proven linkages between fear and pain. Watching these documentaries made me feel empowered!
And I had a conversation with my mom's friend, who has 2 children under 2. She said listening to the hypnobirthing app on her phone while labouring was immensely helpful in helping her relax. I aspire to feel relaxed during labour! We talked about a bunch of stuff, but I immediately went home and downloaded a couple free hypnobirthing apps to hear what they sounded like and they were SO relaxing and gave me really positive feelings about labour! I want to feel empowered and calm about labour so I'm adding listening to the hypnobirthing tracks a few times a week to my pregnancy regime. Anything that can make me feel good about pregnancy and labouring is a huge plus in my books!
I'd love to hear how you prepared yourself for labour! What worked for you? What didn't? What surprised you about labour? Spill the beans!