Key info about labour and birth - Part 2: Things to do during early labour, by Kirsty Gallacher


 1.   Full Yogic - use it to get oxygen flowing. It can work really well between contractions - early on can be helpful to set you up for the hours ahead.

2.  Ujjayi or Circle of Breath - use between contractions to help keep the mind quiet and maintain a sense of calm in the birthing space.  These can help trigger the Parasympathetic response of the Autonomic Nervous System (sometimes called ‘rest & digest’ or ‘relaxation’ response.  When this side of the ANS is triggered in labour it allows the release of Oxytocin and Endorphins, so the uterus contracts and we have our natural pain relief.  Remember you can use any relaxation technique that works for you instead of these breathing practices, counting backwards, repetition of a mantra (e.g. HamSa or SoHam, or ‘breathing in breathing out’)

3.   Golden Thread - this is the long exhale through the mouth which can help during contractions.  Combine with counting, or upward visualisation, or count through your upward visualisation….

Remember, there are no rules about what to use and when.  The above are offered as suggestions only, based on what has worked for others and feedback I get. The important thing is to practice, practice, practice, so that the techniques are there for you when you need them, like second nature, no need to think about them.  As soon as you think you’re in labour, start with the breathing so you get into a lovely established rhythm and pattern and it will stand you in good stead as things become stronger.

Positions & Movement:  

Keeping mobile can help ease the contractions, give your mind something to do, and keep baby descending – so move if you feel like it.
Positions will ideally keep the knees lower than the hips as much as possible, to let gravity do some of the work for you.  UFO to progress labour (upright, forward, open) - can be done in a kneeling position with upper body leaning forward on something (table, chair, birthing ball….) or standing with soft or bent knees & leaning against wall, partner, lamppost, reception desk of hospital….  If labour is progressing fast (typically with 2nd baby), and you don’t need help from gravity, you might stick to hands and knees rather than UFO.

Movements are all about the pelvis - whatever position you’re in, sway it, rock it, scoop it, circle it, make figures of 8, u shapes, smiley pelvis shapes, hoola hoops, camel wobble & charlie chaplin walks.

Labour ‘stations’ - you can set up areas, e.g. birthing ball to sit on, wall space to lean against, something to hang from (kitchen sink, door handles), a chair or coffee table to lean on.  

Have plenty of pillows, cushions, etc to pad knees and forearms.


Rest & Relax:

Research is now indicating that women who are well rested and well nourished 24 hours before labour have faster, smoother labours with less intervention.  Of course, you don’t know when labour will start so try to make sure you’re eating well and resting plenty at the end of pregnancy.  The same research also indicates that women who eat and rest in early labour have smoother, faster active labours too….. so, make sure that you set up a rest station and balance the positions & movements above with rest!!   Supported lying on your left side, or sit ‘wrong way round’ and astride a kitchen chair - so you face the back (put a blanket or towel on the chair back to support forearms), and your tail bone will be free hanging off what would normally be the front of the chair.