Why this podcast?
The Birth Hour was the very first podcast that I featured on this blog (For Every Woman) and I love listening to the huge range of birth journeys and experiences that can be found there.
I especially love that the host, Bryn Huntpalmer, has created a safe haven for women to share both their birth stories and all the emotions that come along with them.
The episode I am going to feature here is a bit different as it is not a birth story but one of five fantastic ‘Know Your Options’ bonus episodes co-created with doula, childbirth educator and lactation consultant, Stephanie Spitzer-Hanks.
I just happen to know Stephanie from the prenatal yoga course I did whilst pregnant with my first baby and living in The Netherlands so how could I not feature one of these fantastic episodes?
How does it look?
Episodes generally last for forty-five minutes to an hour and are released a few times a week. Every kind of birth is featured, from home birth to birth centre to planned cesareans and there is no judgement.
Why this episode?
As Stephanie points out at the beginning of the episode, even if you are planning on getting an epidural the minute you arrive at the hospital, you will still be in labour for a while before you get there.
These coping techniques could be so valuable during that time.
If you are planning on a totally unmedicated birth then this episode is a must! And, it’s only seventeen minutes long.
Who should listen to this episode?
Based on what I wrote above….. all pregnant women and their partners.
This episode is the fourth in a series of five bonus episodes aimed at ensuring pregnant women know their options ahead of the big day. The other episodes are also only fifteen to twenty minutes and cover –
So, what are some of the coping techniques that Stephanie suggests?
#1 – Breathe
If you can take a prenatal yoga course then great but even if you can’t, practicing calm, slow breathing will be so helpful during your entire labour, from your first surge to after your baby is born.
,Breathing calmly will help keep you relaxed and that, in turn, will help your body to do its thing.
It’s probably the simplest suggestion but it might just be the most important.
#2 – Movement
Keeping mobile and changing positions will help to encourage your baby to move down and create space for them to do so.
Walking, using a birthing ball, squatting, all fours, lunges. Pretty much anything goes and try to switch it up every half hour or so.
Using rhythmic movement, like swaying or rocking, during your surges, can also be calming and comforting.
#3 – Water
A deep tub that lets you submerge your belly completely is wonderful but Stephanie points out that a warm shower can also be really helpful.
Letting the warm water run over your belly or back can be relaxing and help with any discomfort. If you are tired, take in a plastic chair and try sitting on it backwards and leaning over the back.
#4 – Counter pressure
I think it’s fair to say that until you have experienced labour you cannot know how helpful this is!
On a personal note, having my husband put pressure (and a lot of it) on my lower back during my surges was absolutely essential and I recently attended a birth where the mum really needed this too.
Putting pressure on the lower back or hips can really help to counter both the pain and the pressure that you might experience during a surge and it gives your partner something to do that helps, like really helps!
#5 – A calm, supportive birth partner
That, in essence, is what a doula is but if you don’t have a doula, a calm partner, friend or family member (who has done some serious preparation) can also help you to stay calm.
I love that Stephanie points out that whilst a partner or family member will be emotionally involved in the birth experience, a doula is simply there to support and focus on you.
That’s her job.
#6 – Tools for your birth bag
If you have hired a doula to support you she will have many of these things with her but many are so simple that you can use them at home yourself as well as bringing them with you to the hospital.
Lip balm – Absolutely vital. All that calm, slow breathing you are going to be doing? It drys your lips out, like instantly. Try to have your partner apply some and give you sips of water at least every couple of surges.
Bendy straw – So you can have those sips of water even if you are on your hands and knees or lying down. As a doula, I even carry these in my birth bag.
Unscented massage oil or lotion – If massage is helpful to you it can be nice to have this with you. During pregnancy and labour, however, your sense of smell is heightened and you might find that even your favourite scent is too strong so unscented is best.
Music – Whether that’s your favourite dance tracks to get you moving and get your baby moving down or some relaxing, meditative music for later on, music can help create the atmosphere you want.
Flameless candles or twinkle lights – They create such a cozy, relaxed atmosphere.
Using these in the bathroom while you are in the tub can also be great because the bathroom can be a super private space. Hanging out in there with your partner and doing some slow dancing or having a little romantic time can really help get the oxytocin flowing which is so important for a smooth birth.
Turning off the lights and putting on the candles and some relaxing music is pretty much the first thing I do when I arrive at a birth.
Birth ball – Many hospitals will have these but it’s great to have one at home. You can use them to sit on during pregnancy and in labour they are great for sitting on whilst rolling your hips, bouncing on or leaning on when you are on hands and knees.
Tennis balls – Having your partner roll these up and down your back can feel great, you can try putting two inside a sock and doing this or just having one in each hand.
To wrap up
I love that these techniques and tools are super simple and yet oh so helpful. I hope that you check out the full episode as well as the other bonus episodes (and have your partner listen too!).
Each bonus episode also has great free PDFs that you can download to help you in your birth preparation.
I’d love to hear about the most helpful thing that you or your partner did during your labour.
Emily Wills is a doula based in Stockholm. She believes that birth can be a beautiful and empowering experience and started this blog as a way of sharing some really great podcasts. She is also a mother of three and an enthusiastic runner.