You guys, as a labor and delivery nurse, I have seen A LOT. I'm also a mother and have gone through this whole pregnancy and birth thing first hand. So, naturally, I've got a few pregnancy and labor tips up my sleeve.
Labor and delivery is my home and my passion but I know that's not the case for everyone. To you, pregnancy, labor, and delivery is a foreign world that is a complete mystery. That can be a pretty scary feeling, I'm sure. So, don't worry, I've got you, girl. Here are some of the best pregnancy and labor tips I could think of that I wish my mommies knew before they went into labor with their precious new babies.
Please note: I am not a doctor and I am not giving medical advice. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose, or treat any form of any disease. This article is for informational and entertainment purposes only. I am only telling you what my experiences are. Please refer to my Disclaimer Page for more information
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16 Pregnancy and Labor Tips
Over the years of being a labor and delivery nurse, I have learned a lot about pregnancy and labor. I have the inside scoop to all kinds of women, all types of labor, and every circumstance that pregnancy and labor might throw your way. When I tell you that these labor tips are important…trust me. Get a pen and paper because here we go.
Labor tip #1. Nothing Will Surprise Your Labor Nurse
We've seen it all, we've heard it all, and we've lived to tell the tale (or not tell the tale because, HIPPA). Take comfort in knowing that there's probably nothing that you can tell us (or show us) that will scare us.
Be truthful with your nurse and don't be shy. Y'all are going to be best buds by the time this is all over because there's probably very few people that have been where she will go with you. I mean, bright lights pointed straight at your girly bits while we stick our fingers in and look inside…while you push as hard as you possibly can? Who else has been there, really?
Be unapologetically real. We don't mind the moaning or the hand squeezing. The screaming doesn't phase us, and we will forget what your vagina looks like 2 minutes after the baby is born.
Labor tip #2. Take a Prenatal Class
Of all the labor tips, this one is the most obvious…Get more labor tips!!
Getting educated on labor and birth doesn't have to be inconvenient. There are classes all over the place, including on the internet. You can take classes at the hospital you are planning to deliver at, or even a hospital you AREN'T planning to deliver at just because you heard the class was good. You can search for specific classes like lamaze or hypno-birthing, or you can just take a general informative prenatal class.
Anything will be better than nothing.
You would. Not. Believe. how many people come into the hospital to deliver their baby without any preparation whatsoever! It baffles my mind every time. Some women waltz right onto the labor and delivery unit not knowing what dilation means, what it means when your water breaks, or that they even have to push. I'm not kidding you.
It's the hardest thing you will ever do in your life. You don't think you need a little bit of preparation before you jump right in? Someone once told me that childbirth is like running a marathon. You have to train and prepare before you start the race. Many people go to the hospital thinking that they don't need preparation because they want an epidural and so they won't have to experience pain. Let me tell you right now, that's a BAD IDEA for so many reasons, it takes a whole separate post to get into that. You have to do the work, girlfriend. Prepare for it.
Be smart about what labor education you decide to use
I recommend two online prenatal classes that you can't go wrong with.
The first one has been around for a long time and is a bit on the pricy side. Hillary from Pulling Curls is a 15+ year experienced labor and delivery nurse who educates with the focus on the couple. She dives right into everything you need to know in order to be totally prepared for labor and birth and is worth every penny of the price tag. Check out the Online Prenatal Class for Couples here.
The second online prenatal course that I absolutely adore is by Liesel at Mommy Labor Nurse. Obviously, she is also a labor and delivery nurse. She created a course that is absolutely incredible and is based on her experience as a nurse, her experience in her own labor as a mother, and of course, the best practices. I took this course during my pregnancy and absolutely loved it. What else is there to love about it other than the awesome content? It's super affordable! Check out Birth It Up here.
Labor tip #3. Think Twice About Your Birth Plan
I totally understand the impulse to control everything in your life. If you're anything like me, you are a Type A control freak that needs everything to be planned out and predicted before it happens. With most things in my life, I like to plan, plan, prep, plan some more, and then execute.
It isn't necessarily a bad thing. I encourage you to educate yourself and make sure you know your options. It's smart to do your research and make a list of things that are important to you. It's also important that you know why these things are important to you and who can make these things a reality for you.
The absolute BEST advice I can give you regarding a birth plan is to keep it simple and flexible. Maybe it's just the superstitious nurse side of me, but for some reason, the stricter, more rigid the birth plan, the further south it all goes. Keep yourself open and realistic about the changes that will happen within your mind, body, and outside sources during your labor and birth.
DOWNLOAD MY CUSTOMIZABLE BIRTH PLAN TEMPLATE to get a head start on labor. Don't go through all of the guess-work. Create the birth plan that was hand-made by a mother who just so happens to be a labor and delivery nurse.
I think it's about the willingness to be flexible. The best birth planners I've taken care of are the ones that are open-minded and relaxed. As long as you communicate your wants and needs verbally to your team, you will get the birth experience that you want, baby and body permitting. Just remember, it's not about the temperature in the room, right? It's about going home with a healthy baby.
Labor tip #4. Pack Your Hospital Bag Ahead Of Time
There will be things you wish you had in labor that didn't even cross your mind when you were pregnant. On the other hand, you will think to put things in your bag that are literally useless in labor and the last thing in the world that you need.
Here are a couple hints.
- Download my FREE Hospital Bag Checklist Here
- Don't pack your whole house
- Pack one bag for you and one bag for dad. You do not need a bag for the baby.
- Pack only enough that your husband can carry it in one trip by himself. Trust me.
- Bring maternity clothes for post-delivery. Don't expect yourself to fit into your skinny jeans yet.
- Have it ready by the time you are 37 weeks pregnant, just in case.
Labor tip #5. Stay Hydrated In Pregnancy and Labor
Water is your friend in pregnancy and in labor. Before labor starts, its important to down the fluids to keep your uterus (and all of the muscles of your body for that matter) well hydrated. Staying up on your fluids can prevent painful bouts of false labor. That's reason enough! Believe me. Make it easy to carry around a water bottle 24/7 with this cute one for awesome moms, like you.
During labor, fluids are just as important. If your body is low on fluids, the blood volume will be low, which means that the amount of oxygen being carried to your placenta will be decreased. Also, any medications given to you while your blood volume is low will be in higher concentration in your blood stream if you blood volume is low. Staying well hydrated throughout labor and birth can solve many problems that you might have encountered otherwise.
These are just a couple of the reasons why if you are in the hospital to delivery your baby, you will have an I.V to keep you hydrated. If you prefer not to have fluids running, and the situation is safe, then you are encouraged to drink fluids yourself instead.
Labor tip #6. Breathe
Although these labor tips might seem like no-brainers, when the time comes, you'll notice that you have to make the conscious effort to breathe in and breathe out.
There is going to be a time when you are in a lot of discomfort or pain. Whether you want a medicated birth or not, you are going to need to learn how to breathe through your contractions. You will probably not be getting an epidural the second you start to feel pain. There will be a waiting period and you don't want to be clueless as to how to tolerate pain for that time.
You are the only one that can provide oxygen to your baby inside your womb. No one can breathe for you, so please, do your baby a favor and don't hold your breath through every contraction.
When you are in pain, you have to remember to breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. Take it slow and methodical. Try not to hyperventilate or hold our breath. Breathe deeply to provide your uterus and your baby with the oxygen that it needs.
labor tip #7. Prepare For Your New Baby
Bringing home a new baby is a shock for every new mom. It seems like we prepare mentally for this momentous occasion for nine months but yet, when we bring the baby home, the unpreparedness really hits us in the face.
I've created a totally comprehensive list of baby items that I needed and actually used during my son's first year of life. There are “baby registry lists” all over the internet and at every baby store that you can find. But what you need is a comprehensive list of everything you need and nothing you don't without having to blindly chose things that you think will be good.
- Related Read: How To Prepare For Motherhood the Smart Way: Must Have Baby Items That Experienced Moms swear By
Another essential way to prepare for your new baby is by having a Pregnancy Planner that has all of the To-Do lists, checklists, and pregnancy and labor tips that you could want in order to help you plan and document your pregnancy as you go. Trust me, even though your pregnancy brain is fogging your mind right now, you are going to want to remember this time as something more than a whirlwind of emotion. Write it all down in a pregnancy journal like this one.
Labor Tip #8. Avoid Dr. Google
If you are concerned about anything that is going on with your pregnancy or labor, try your best not to google your symptoms. You probably don't want random pregnancy or labor tips from some lady who had a baby 9 years ago and wants to write about it. OR from someone who believes crazy wives tales or superstitions related to pregnancy and birth that you have no business worrying about when you have enough on your plate already.
When you come into the hospital and say something like “My baby is hiccuping too much. I googled it, and I found out that this could mean that the cord could be wrapped around the neck, so I came in right away”. We call that “consulting Dr. Google.”
Just so you know, that is absolutely untrue. I just gave you an example of the things that I have heard over the years from people googling their symptoms.
Instead, what you can do is if it's during office hours, you can call your OB's office or email your doctor or midwife for advice or an appointment. If your suddenly concerned that you haven't pooped in three days in the middle of the night and now your big toe is asleep and you're wondering if that's ok, just call the 24 hour nurse advice line at the hospital in which you plan to deliver. Most of the time they can ease your mind and tell you that what's going on is totally normal. Or, if it's something to be concerned about, they can tell you over the phone that you need to come in to be evaluated.
No guessing, no wondering and you wont have to go into the hospital for them to tell you that there is nothing that they can do for that particular symptom and you get sent back home 20 minutes later.
Labor Tip #9. Take A Shower
If you are laboring at home, waiting for that greatly anticipated moment when you tell your partner “Let's go to the hospital”, or if your water just broke and you know you need to go in, there are a few things that you can do first– showering is one of them.
Showering can help decrease labor pains immensely. Some women spend most of their time in the bath or shower while laboring and it's their comfort zone. There is something about the movement of the water over your muscles that is a huge relief.
If you're a first time mom or are being induced (or both), I recommend it even more. You might be stuck in that labor room for quite a while and you'd be one of the lucky few if your health care team lets you get in the shower while laboring in the hospital.
Plus side! People are going to be all up in your safe space. There probably wont be very many boundaries between you and your nurse–y'all are going to get real close. If you shower during labor or after your water breaks before you go to the hospital, you'll feel better and less hesitant when your health care team is all up in your business.
This obviously isn't a necessity, though. If you feel like you need to go to the hospital and don't have time to shower, girl, go! This is just a great option for your pain relief and hygiene if you have time before you head out. As with all pregnancy and labor tips, use your best judgment when concerning your own labor and birth.
Labor tip #10. Eat Before You Go To The Hospital
Unless you are planning to have a c-section, you should make sure you have a light meal before you head to the hospital. Most of the time, when you are laboring in a hospital, they don't let you have anything to eat other than “clear liquids”. This includes jello, broth, juice, clear soda, and water pretty much.
It sounds awful, I know. You're doing all this work trying to get a baby out of your body and we are starving you. Well, we do it for safety reasons, not because we just like to torture people. So, just make sure you aren't hungry coming in.
Too many times I've admitted women in labor at 10 pm and they say “I haven't eaten since breakfast.” and I'm like Whaaaaaa? Why? If you are laboring at home, keep small snacks by you to munch on to keep your energy up. Labor and birth is hard work! You need your sustenance.
Labor tip #11. Be Realistic About Postpartum
Even though this is technically post-labor, I had to include this one in my labor tips.
Mothers chronically forget to take care of themselves. We bring a new baby into our lives and our whole world starts to revolve around them. This even happens before the baby is even born. We have a baby shower for the baby, we create an entire space for the baby and make sure we have everything to make our baby as comfortable as possible. All of this is wonderful.
But what about you?
Make sure you are focusing on yourself too. You are going to be recovering from childbirth of one kind or another and it's going to be uncomfortable. You're either going to have a sore bottom, stitches, or a surgical incision.
Download the FREE Postpartum Recovery Checklist Here to make sure you have everything you need to make your recovery from childbirth fast and easy.
Breastfeeding or not, you're going to have full, leaking breasts for at least a few days (weeks or months if you are breastfeeding).
And last but not least, you're going to be exhausted. Taking care of a new baby is a tough job. You're going to happy you prepared to make your life simpler when you're only getting a couple of hours of sleep at night the first few weeks home.
Labor tip #12. Labor Is Not Like The Movies
Most of the time, labor is not an emergency. Most of the time, you don't feel your first contraction and look at your family with wide eyes and say “it's time” and then everyone scurries in a frantic dance to get you (whose suddenly become helpless) into the car to rush you to the emergency room.
My favorite of all of the labor tips: The moment you start feeling contractions IS NOT LABOR.
Unlike in the movies, labor can be a long process. So basically, don't be afraid to go out in public once you are term because of the fear that you might break your water in the check out line at Target or go into labor while eating dinner. You'll be fine.
Another thing that drives me crazy about birth in the media is the sweaty, angry screams that “laboring” actresses display. You don't need to scream your baby out. Most people actually don't. In fact, it helps to keep your breath in your lungs to help push down into your pelvis as opposed to pushing in your face.
Also, if your water breaks at home before labor kicks in, you wont suddenly have the worst pain you've ever felt requiring you to “hurry” to the hospital before the baby falls out. If this is your first baby, you're baby falling out should be the last thing that you're worrying about.
Labor Tip #13. You're Better Off At Home
Ok, that sounds bad, but I just wanted to get your attention.
Delivering in the hospital is safe and you can have the delivery experience that you want. I delivered my son in the hospital and had an amazing experience that I couldn't stop thinking about with a smile on my face for months. In no way, shape, or form am I against going to the hospital to have your baby.
- Related Read: The Day I Became A Mother: Our Birth Story
Now that that's settled, I still think you're better off at home for a while.
Here's a few reasons :
- Most hospitals only admit you for labor if you are in “active labor”. If you are a first time mom, you might think that you are in active labor three times before they even keep you at the hospital. I know, it's so hard, but it's for your own good. Labor can last for days for a first time mom before it really kicks into gear. You DON'T want to be at the hospital that entire time.
- You wont have to be monitored. Straps around your belly during a long labor can be frustrating and irritating. Your nurse has to do everything possible to keep you on the monitor in every position that you're in. In the middle of breathing, sleeping, socializing-whatever you're doing- your nurse is going to have to come in frequently to readjust you and help keep your baby on the monitor. If you're home during the early part of your labor, that's hours of strap-free labor.
- You'll be more comfortable. Honestly, you don't have to be in bed throughout your entire labor in the hospital as long as everything is going well. They will probably let you out of bed here and there. But that's just it. Here and there can be frustrating and painful for a woman who wants to exclusively labor on a birthing ball or in the shower. At home you can be in whatever position you want for however long you want.
- You can eat and drink what and when you want. At home, there is no one telling you what to eat or drink. You aren't limited like you are in the hospital. Once you're admitted for labor, you're done eating–regardless of how long it takes for you to get the baby out.
Labor Tip #14. Stop Worrying About The Poop
We have a question during the admission process that goes something like this, “Do you have any fears or concerns…bla bla bla?” You know what answer I get all of the time? The fear that they are going to poop during delivery.
I TOTALLY get this concern. It sounds mortifying, doesn't it? But it's totally not! It isn't a big deal to anyone when you poop during pushing. From a nurse's perspective, it's actually a good thing when you poop during pushing. It means that you are pushing the right way. You use the same muscles to push a baby out that you do to push the biggest poop of your life.
To ease your mind a little bit, here's what the process ISN'T: You push and then a huge turd falls onto the bed for everyone to see and then we all laugh. No. Many times, your body has done most of the work in the days before labor and there won't be much poop anyway. Clearing your bowels to make way for baby is a process that your body naturally knows to do. Thank goodness!
Instead, this is what will probably happen: You'll push and push and push until you get the hang of what you're doing. As you start to push in the right place and start moving the baby down, small amounts of poop come out onto the pad that's under you. Then your nurse changes your pad in one quick motion without anyone even noticing there was poop there at all. Ta da! No worries, your poop isn't any different from anyone else's anyway.
Labor Tip #15. Plan Your Visitors Ahead Of Time
Think about who you want in the delivery room based upon what they can do for you. This experience is not theirs. It's yours. Just because so-and-so said that they want to be there during the birth of your baby doesn't mean they should be.
All of your visitors should be offering something to the table. The father of your baby is an obvious choice but then after that, what do you get out of having a bunch of people staring at you? Can your mom be in charge of massaging your back during contractions? Can your sister be in charge of ice chips and cold wash cloths? Catch my drift?
- Related Read: Dad's In The Delivery Room – What NOT To Do
Visitors just sitting in the corner of the room watching you like a circus animal is just weird for everyone involved.
Remember. The people in the room during labor will either have to step out at every vaginal exam or they will see (and smell) all of your goods. You will not have a blanket to cover your undercarriage while you're pushing. If you don't want someone in the room to see e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g, then they shouldn't be there.
If you don't want them to come, let them know before you go into labor. Prepare them ahead of time what your wishes are so that they aren't surprised when you invite them to come see you after the baby has already had their grand entrance.
Labor Tip #16. Don't Be Afraid
Time and time again I see women dominate their labors like a boss (these are the women that should be giving us labor tips, amiright?). Every time I see these superhero women breathe through their labors like its NBD, I have this internal conversation with myself where I always come to the same conclusion.
They weren't afraid.
These women aren't missing pain receptors “down there”, are they? No. Absolutely not. Yes, some women do have higher thresholds for pain than others but these wonder women are still feeling intense pain that takes over their entire body and prevents them from walking or talking just like you and me.
Our bodies all have the same basic anatomy. The process of labor is the same in every woman. Although we all get to the point of labor in very different ways and we take drastically different paths to arrive there. During our pregnancy and labor, our bodies are pre-wired to do this amazing thing that we have no control over- birth a baby.
Here is the conclusion that I have reached after seeing just about every type of birth out there: Women who go into labor with the expectation that they are going to feel pain, know that the pain will probably be the worst pain they've ever felt, and know that they CAN do this, are the women who are the most well controlled.
If you go into the hospital expecting that you cannot do this, you NEED your epidural, and you are terrified of what you might go through during this process, you will feel more pain than the woman in the next room pushing out their baby completely naturally.
- Related Read: 8 Things Your Labor and Delivery Nurse Wishes You Knew
Pregnancy and Labor Tips
I could go on forever but I'll save the rest of my pregnancy and labor tips for future posts! Good luck with your pregnancy, labor, and birth!
What other labor tips do you wish you had before you had your baby? Let me know in the comments!
What To Read Next:
- 8 Things Your Labor and Delivery Nurse Wishes You Knew
- The Ultimate Guide To Packing Your Hospital Bag: What To Bring When You're Having A Baby
- The Best Way To make Your Birth Plan Your Reality
- Dad’s Guide To Labor and Delivery
- How To Prepare For Motherhood the Smart Way: Must Have Baby Items That Experienced Moms swear By
- The Good, Bad, and The Ugly: What You Need To Know About Postpartum Recovery
- Understanding The Fourth Trimester – Before You Let It Slip Away
- The Day I Became A Mother: Our Birth Story