Giving birth is a demanding experience for every woman and there is no one recipe that suits everyone. Preparations for giving birth are important for every pregnant woman, and especially for those who want the birth to be as natural as possible. In this case it is important above all that you learn how to manage the pain and stress of giving birth. You can be helped in this by your birth partner.
Correct breathing plays an important role during labour. On the one hand, by breathing properly you ensure that your body is getting plenty of oxygen – which it needs to cope with the effort of labour. At the same time correct breathing also helps relax tense muscles. It is a good idea to begin breathing exercises, through which you learn to breathe correctly, as early as possible in your pregnancy.
Breathing is essentially very rhythmic. If you keep calm and focus on your breathing, you will realise that you inhale and exhale rhythmically and that your breathing is not too deep. In the case of exertion, for example during a powerful contraction, your breathing becomes shallower. Breathing that is too fast or panicky is a problem because it does not relax the muscles and instead tenses them even more and does not allow sufficient supply of oxygen to the mother and baby.
The tension and fear that many women feel with regard to the approaching birth and labour pains are very harmful to the progress of labour. The greater the fear, the more strongly you will feel pain, while at the same time increased levels of stress hormones also disrupt the contractions of the uterus and slow the progress of labour. Relaxation is therefore very important, and it is essential that you practise relaxing before the birth.
Create a positive environment for yourself, even in the maternity unit. Ask for a dimmer light or calming music. The latter will be most effective if you have already learnt to relax with it at home. You can also have a toy or an item of the baby's clothing with you, so that you have a "tangible" goal.
Massage is an important form of assistance to relaxation and can help reduce labour pains. Your birth partner should be ready to give you a massage. It is useful if he or she has practised massage beforehand, but it is not essential. The simple touch of a loved one's hand in the delivery room can have a beneficial effect.
Hydrotherapy helps relaxation if the whole body is immersed in water at body temperature. This is something you can do at home, during the first stage of labour, but only if your waters have not yet broken.
Acupuncture and acupressure are natural ways to reduce pain using needles or pressure on specific parts of the body. It is important to have sessions with your chosen practitioner during pregnancy, i.e. before the birth itself.
Hypnosis or self-hypnosis can help with muscle relaxation, although these are also techniques that you must learn beforehand, during pregnancy.