Labor advice for first time moms is such a hot topic! Who isn't looking for a little help when it comes to the hardest thing your body has ever done?
Being a pregnant mama for the first time is so exciting! Envisioning what you're baby is going to look like, imagining how sweet his snuggles will be, and looking forward to rocking him lovingly in the nursery you worked so hard to create. Aww, so fun.
But wait…before all of that we have to actually get him out of our bodies. As a a first time mom, I'll bet you need some really solid pieces of labor advice for first time moms.
Good thing you're here. I'm a labor and delivery nurse and a mom of two. I've got the labor advice your looking for and then some.
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Labor Advice From a Labor Nurse
Going into labor for the first time can be scary, right? Yep. For a few reasons.
- You don't know what to expect
- Your body has never done this before
- You're unsure if you'll be able to manage labor pain
- You don't know how to prepare
Labor advice isn't always about how to manage labor pain. You need so much more than a high pain tolerance to have a good labor and delivery experience.
Let's start with these 21 pieces of labor advice for a first time mom.
1. Do Your Research
It's important to equip yourself with the ability to make decisions for yourself and your baby. That starts by doing some research.
Doing your research can look a few different ways.
Start by reading posts (like this one) from trusted sources. Make sure that the information that you read on the internet is written by someone credible that has a leg to stand on when it comes to labor advice for first time moms like you.
After you've gotten a good idea about the basics of labor and birth, talk to your family and close friends about their birth stories. If you've done a little research prior to talking to other moms, you might have a good list of questions that you're interested in getting answers to.
After those first two steps, you're ready for a prenatal birth course. This is SO important. Taking the right course will help you get a handle on exactly what to expect in labor and birth and will give you the tools to have a great birth experience. Knowledge is power. Take advantage of every opportunity to gain some.
2. Have a Game Plan
For your entire pregnancy (or at least your entire third trimester) you're going to try to prepare for labor, get ready for birth, and make sure that you have everything you need for the hospital. But when the time comes, do you have an actual game plan?
Having an organized game plan that keeps you and your partner on the same page when labor is finally upon you is going to be life-saving. When you have a plan, you will be less likely to panic when things start to change and you have to take action.
The last thing you need is to be running around the house trying to get everything in order and figure out what you need to do next while you're also trying to breathe through your contractions.
3. Go With The Flow
I want you to stop anticipating what's going to happen next. Whether you are anticipating when you should head to the hospital, obsessing over how many more hours until your nurse is going to check you again, or fearing the possibility of a c-section, I want you to quit it.
Take your labor one step at a time and make decisions in real time. There is no need to try to predict the future and make decisions for yourself before you need to.
Go with the flow and allow your labor experience to progress organically.
4. Be Flexible
I believe that birth plans are a great idea. I 100% support writing a thoughtful and reasonable birth plan with your partner.
I also believe that you should be extremely flexible when it comes to labor and birth.
Labor is unpredictable. There is no way to know how your labor will unfold before it happens. It does more harm than good when you are relentless about having your delivery be exactly what you envision with no wiggle room.
It is smart to know what you want to happen, be educated about what could happen, and have an idea about what you hope to avoid. I just hope that you will be flexible and not freak out when things change and when labor does not go how you expected it to.
5. Be Patient
Let's be honest, this should be at the top of the list of labor advice for first time moms.
Labor can be long and frustrating when it's your first time.
It's very possible that you will have contractions for a few days before you finally get into active labor. This applies to you whether you are going into labor on your own or being induced. Either way, prepare to be uncomfortable for many hours or even days.
Don't be disappointed when you've been contracting all night long and you head to the hospital just to find out that you are only 1 cm dilated. If you're being induced, understand that it can take multiple doses of medication an many hours before anything starts to happen.
This happens to first time moms all of the time.
Be patient with yourself.
6. Stop Looking At The Clock
Your body and your baby have no idea what time it is. You don't need to either.
When you start laboring, you don't need to start timing your contractions until you feel that they are very uncomfortable and you can tell (without timing them) that they have become more regular and closer together.
Once you are in labor, the last thing that you need to do is watch the clock waiting for your nurse to check you again, wonder how long you've been 4 cms, or set a time goal for yourself to have the baby out by.
Give your body the opportunity to do what it needs to do in it's own time. Knowing the time or obsessing over how long it's been will not make labor go any faster.
7. Change Your Position
Throughout labor, it's important to move around and stay out of the same position for too long. Especially if you are on your back, make sure that your are turning side to side to allow your baby to rotate and make his way into an optimal position for birth.
Move around as much as you can. Try these positions to help progress your labor and get baby into a good position for birth:
- Left and right side lying with a peanut ball between your legs
- Sitting straight up
- Hands and knees
- Hands and knees with upper body lifted
- Sitting on a birthing ball
- Leaning over a bed or countertop
8. Listen To Your Body
There are so many pieces of labor advice for first time moms out there, but you know your body better than anyone else. Listen to what your body is telling you. Do what feels good and right in the moment.
If you imagined using certain positions, employing specific coping techniques, or planned on going to the hospital at a certain time but then real-life happens and your body is telling you differently…listen to it.
9. Ask Questions & Stay Informed
When you are laboring in the hospital, there is a lot of moving parts and there might be a lot going on around you that you don't initially understand.
Make sure that you are asking questions of your labor team. The best question that you can ask during labor is “why?”.
You should always know why you are receiving a medication, why an intervention is being used, and why decisions are being made.
Staying informed during your labor and birth will allow you to feel empowered and in control of your birth experience.
10. Ask For Advice
You don't have to make decisions on your own. When you find yourself in a situation that you did not anticipate and you don't know what you should do next, ask for advice.
Talk to your partner who probably sees things a little more clearly since he is not the one feeling labor pains. Talk to your nurse who is your advocate throughout your labor and birth. Ask your family or loved ones what their perception of the situation is so that you can get clarity that you are unable to find within yourself while trying to manage your labor.
Advice first time moms are often looking for:
- Is it normal that I'm feeling this way?
- I'm considering [insert intervention], what do you think?
- This isn't working for me. What else should I try?
- What do you think I should do?
11. Discuss Your Birth Plan With Your Provider BEFORE You Go Into Labor
A mistake that I see frequently with first time moms is that they make an idealistic birth plan based on ideas they found on the internet, fads that are popular on social media, or based off of how they imagine labor to be rather than the realities of delivering at a hospital.
When you make your informed and realistic birth plan, make sure you show it to your provider so that he/she can look it over and let you know if anything conflicts with hospital policy or if something on your birth plan is not recommended for safety reasons in your specific case.
Every pregnancy, every baby, and every pregnant mama are different. A birth plan that worked for one person does not necessarily make for a good or smart birth plan for another person.
Discuss your options with your provider so that you aren't disappointed when you go to the hospital and find out that what you thought was possible, isn't after all.
12. Come Prepared
There are definitely items that can make your labor SO much more tolerable than if you didn't have them. For me, having a portable mini fan was an absolute life-saver during my labor.
There are a number of things that can make all the difference in your birth experience. Find out what you absolutely must pack in your hospital bag when you're having a baby.
13. Have Something To Focus On
Some women come in with a literal focal object to look at during their labor. This helps them re-center themselves when things get rough. A physical focal point can be something in your room or something you brought with you – even an ultrasound picture will work!
If focusing on a photo or object doesn't work for you (it wasn't really my jam either), focus on something else.
As long as you have something to focus your mind on other than “when is this contraction going to end?” or “this hurts so much”, you'll have an advantage over those that don't have something to focus on.
Try focusing on these things:
- Breathing throughout the entire contraction
- Your vocalizations
- Your labor playlist
- Relaxing each muscle group on-by-one
- Repeating affirmations
14. Don't Be Afraid To Push
This is so important.
First of all, you have to push. If you are going to have a baby vaginally, you're going to have to push (ok, there are few exceptions but almost never for first time moms).
Pushing seems scary because you assume that pushing is the most painful part of having a baby. We've all seen the movies where the poor pregnant woman screams at the top of her lungs with sweat dripping down her face as her baby shoots out of her. Girl, no. This does not have to be your reality.
Listen, whether you like it or not, you're going to push out your baby (unless you have a c-section). Being afraid of it does you no good. But you know what? Pushing is not as hard as the rest of labor. *mind blown*
I promise that I'm not making this up. 90% of the women I have ever helped deliver would agree that pushing was a relief. Contractions are significantly more difficult to manage than pushing. Wrap your mind around that and push with confidence.
15. Stay Hydrated & Eat Small Snacks
When I was preparing for a natural birth, I spoke to one of my co-workers who had recently had a natural birth herself and she gave me one of the most helpful tips I'd ever heard.
It was simply this:
Between every contraction, have your partner give you sips of coconut water and a small bite of food.
This helped me through early labor at home AND all the way through active labor in the hospital. Literally between every contraction my husband assisted me in taking a sip of cold water or coconut water to keep me hydrated. He also occasionally reminded me too take a bite of something that would keep me nourished and feeling energized.
So simple, right? It makes all the difference.
16. Your Support System Matters
I know that you've been preparing fr labor in every way that you can. You have been taking every piece of labor advice for first time moms that comes your way. You're so smart for doing that.
I just hope that you don't forget about the people who are going to be around you and supporting you through it.
The first thing you need to do is think very hard about who you want in the room with you while you labor and deliver your baby. It absolutely matters.
The second thing that you need to do is give your partner resources that will help him be the best support that he can be for you. I don't know what I would have done without my husband's excellent support during both of my births.
Send your partner to these essential resources:
- The SupportingHer course geared toward educating your partner in how to be the best support he can be during your labor and delivery
- This list of things that your partner SHOULD NOT DO while you're in labor
- A list of ways he can be the best partner he can be during your labor
17. It's Called Labor For A Reason
I know that you have a high pain tolerance, you do well with pain, and you've read all of the Hypnobirthing books on the market. You go girl. But labor is still labor. You have work to do.
I support whatever method of pain management that you've chosen. Whatever gets you through labor is exactly what you should do.
Whether you've chosen hypnobirthing, lamaze, an epidural, or relying on your high pain tolerance, you have to know that labor is going to be hard.
No matter what method you're using, labor isn't going to be easy from start to finish. Prepare yourself to do the work.
18. Stop Comparing
I want you to have an incredible birth experience. I want you to have exactly the birth that you desire. Unless what you want is to have your best friend's birth experience.
Everyone is different. Don't compare yourself to anyone else.
Your body is going to do things at it's own pace, your baby is going to react to labor in his own way, and your labor is going to be unique.
19. Consider Your Own Hospital Gown
Does this sound silly and completely unimportant? Ok, fine, it's not important. But it's also not silly!
Comfort is huge during labor. Labor and birth is one of the most uncomfortable things that you're going to go through. Why not try to make yourself a little bit more comfortable in any way that you can?
Here's the thing. Hospital gowns are THE WORST. They are one-size-fits-all, the are completely open in the back, and they have to be lifted up over your belly to be monitored. You're basically naked when wearing one in labor.
If you have your own hospital gown, you can have what is important to you.
Here's what makes a good labor gown:
- Closed in the back to keep you modest in different labor positions or while walking.
- Buttoned in the back to stay modest but give easy access for epidural or spinal.
- Tied or buttoned over the shoulders to allow for easy breastfeeding
- Buttoned or tied in the front to allow for easy fetal monitoring and skin-to-skin
20. Prepare For A Natural Childbirth (even if you want an epidural)
I totally understand the feeling that you just want to get an epidural, sleep through the tough parts of labor, and have a pain-free birth. Wouldn't that be nice?
Sometimes that is the reality for some lucky women. Other times, things get in the way of your plan to have a epidural take away all of your pain.
Here are a few reasons why your plan might get derailed:
- You get sent home with painful contractions because your cervix isn't changing
- You get to the hospital too late and are unable to get an epidural
- Your lab work does not allow for an epidural
- The anesthesia providers are held up in surgery and unable to do an epidural when you want one.
- Your epidural does not work well
- Your epidural only works on one side of your body
Yikes! Although these things don't happen all of the time, they DO happen. Prepare to have a natural labor so that when you get that pain-free labor with an epidural instead, you'll be pleasantly relieved.
21. Your Baby Is Not Going To Fall Out
I understand that you've heard horror stories about women delivering their babies in the car, their closets or the toilet. But that almost never happens to first time moms.
Getting your first baby out is going to be a lot of work and quite a bit of pushing. A first time mom can push for anywhere between 15 minutes and 3 hours and be completely normal.
There's no need to get checked every 20 minutes because you're curious if your complete or your worried that the baby is coming. If your going naturally, you'll know when the baby is coming. If you have an epidural, you'll probably still know.
Helpful Labor Tips For First Time Moms
I hope this labor advice for first time moms was helpful for you! Labor is such a mystery sometimes. It's nice to have a grasp on what to expect. Whatever you do, don't doubt your incredible strength and abilities.
Remember that the type of birth you have does not define you as a mother. Go into motherhood understanding that you are incredible for being able to carry and delivery your baby – whatever the method. I pray that you will always be able to look back on your birth experience and feel happy and proud.
What is the best labor advice for first time moms that you've ever heard? Let me know in the comments!
What To Read Next:
- 18 Vital Tips To Manage Labor Pains Like A Boss
- 25 Ways To Prepare for Labor and Delivery for A Better Birth Experience
- 16 Indispensable Pregnancy and Labor Tips From A Labor and Delivery Nurse
- 8 Things Your Labor and Delivery Nurse Wants You To Know About Having A Hospital Delivery
- Dad's Guide To Labor and Delivery