Updated: Mar 30, 2021
Wondering if there are any evidence-based ways to improve your labor experience? You're in the right place. Here are a few easy-to-implement action items:
Eat dates the month before your due date. According to numerous studies, these wrinkly fruits produce an oxytocin-like effect on the body, helping women spontaneously go into labor and dilating the cervix (Al-Kuran et al., 2011; Sagi-Dain et al., 2020). Start loading your plate with 75 grams of dates (3 medjool or 6 deglet noor) in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy.
Practice Breathing. "Breathing exercises with deep inhalation and exhalation in pregnant women are effective in reducing the perception of labor pain and shortening the duration of the second stage of delivery" (Yuksel et al., 2017). It doesn't have to be fancy, just deep breaths in and slow breathes out, preferably accompanied by low-pitched sounds.
Help baby get into position. Ideally, baby should be head down, facing your back. To encourage this position and to resolve the dreaded breech position (baby head up), see a chiropractor for the "Webster Technique" in the last month of pregnancy (Pistolese, 2002).
Hire a doula. This was a game changer for me. The data agrees, showing that continuous support during labor leads to increased spontaneous vaginal birth, shorter duration of labor, decreased caesarean birth, and a more positive childbirth experience (Bohren et al. 2017).
Hop onto a birth ball. Laboring on a birth ball (sitting, rocking, or leaning) can signficiantly reduce labor pain (Makvandi et al., 2015).
Get in the birthing tub. Sliding into a tub of hot water is bliss at any time, and studies show that "water immersion during the first stage of labour reduces the use of analgesia and reported maternal pain" (Cluett et al., 2004).
Don't deliver on your back. Studies show that labor duration is reduced when mommas assume a "flexible sacrum" birthing position. These positions include kneeling, standing, all-fours, lying on side, squatting, and giving birth on a birth stool. (Berta et al., 2016).
Al-Kuran O, Al-Mehaisen L, Bawadi H, Beitawi S, Amarin Z. The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery. J Obstet Gynaecol. 2011;31(1):29-31.
Yuksel H, Cayir Y, Kosan Z, Tastan K. Effectiveness of breathing exercises during the second stage of labor on labor pain and duration: a randomized controlled trial. J Integr Med. 2017 Nov;15(6):456-461.
Sagi-Dain L, Sagi S. The effect of late pregnancy date fruit consumption on delivery progress - A meta-analysis. Explore (NY). 2020 May 30:S1550-8307(20)30201-9.
Pistolese RA. The Webster Technique: a chiropractic technique with obstetric implications. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2002 Jul-Aug;25(6):E1-9.
Bohren MA, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C, Fukuzawa RK, Cuthbert A. Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Jul 6;7(7):CD003766.
Makvandi S, Latifnejad Roudsari R, Sadeghi R, Karimi L. Effect of birth ball on labor pain relief: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2015 Nov;41(11):1679-86.
Cluett ER, Nikodem VC, McCandlish RE, Burns EE. Immersion in water in pregnancy, labour and birth. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(2):CD000111.
Berta M, Lindgren H, Christensson K, Mekonnen S, Adefris M. Effect of maternal birth positions on duration of second stage of labor: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2019 Dec 4;19(1):466.