Disclaimer: Following these steps does not guarantee a fast labor, but evidence shows that they will help to shorten your labor as much as possible.
Every mom has one wish for labor: quick and easy. I remember this being a regular thought at the forefront of my mind when I had my son. I was dedicated to doing anything necessary to have the fastest labor possible. And I think this is a recurring theme! Every expecting mom I talk to shares that she wants a fast (or faster than the last) labor. And thankfully, there’s a plethora of research to say it is completely possible.
Today, I’m sharing 11 important steps for shortening labor as much as possible. Have something to add to this list? Share it in the comments!
Before we dive in, is your prenatal vitamin giving your baby what he/she needs to thrive? I covered my favorite options in this post.
#1 Practice Relaxation Techniques at Bedtime
While setting aside dedicated time during the day to practice relaxation techniques is great, it isn’t always possible. Thankfully, there’s a wonderful time every night that you’re guaranteed at least a few uninterrupted minutes. Aim to complete 15-30 minutes of relaxation practice as you wind down for sleep. If you’re planning to use a guided meditation during labor, be sure to incorporate it into your evening routine.
#2 Breath Through Bowel Movements
The closest sensation to pushing out a baby that you will experience is a bowel movement. It may feel odd at first, but take advantage of this time every day to practice breathing through the urge to push as opposed to bearing down. Your body is more than capable to eliminate the waste without active pushing. The same is true for delivering your baby! Not only will this practice retrain your body to remain calm, but it will also reduce your risk of tearing. (Just be sure to specify no directed pushing when it gets to delivery day!)
#3 Squat – A Lot
Ina May Gasking says, “Squat 300 times a day. You are going to give birth very quickly!” The reasoning for this goes far beyond simple glute strength. As Katy Bowman, Biomechanical Scientist and Birth Physics Expert, shares, our modern habits have greatly decreased the mobility of our bodies. This is especially problematic when it comes time to give birth.
Many birthing professionals have been tuned into this natural preparation for many years, often recommending squatting to prepare the body [for labor] and maintaining an active walking habit throughout the pregnancy. What often gets lost in translation is how essential this movement prescription is to a healthy birth. Also not conveyed is the difference between “keeping fit during pregnancy” and “preparing the body to deliver vaginally.” Fitness-type exercises are not specific enough to prepare for delivery and often times can create additional, counterproductive tensions in the body.Katy Bowman, Nutritious Movement
Intentionally pursue ancestral squatting and make a point to practice it frequently throughout the day for as long as possible leading up to labor. For a thorough tutorial on how to get started, read this.
#4 Scrub Your Floor or Pull Weeds
Getting on all fours has been long hailed as a favorable way to position baby and, when the time is right, bring on labor.
While a 2007 Cochrane Review found the hands-and-knees position to be ineffective at changing the baby’s position during pregnancy, other experts hail it as a great tool to prepare the body for the actual task of giving birth. From a strength standpoint, this position is effective at strengthening the abdominal muscles – something that is difficult to do with prenatal exercise restrictions – and is utilized as a preparatory pose in Katy Bowman’s tutorial on ancestral squatting.
Additionally, the gravitational pull while in the pose has been noted by many moms to reduce abdominal tension and discomfort.
#5 Park at the Back of the Lot
Unless intentionally incorporating long walks into our daily routines, the fact is that most of us are barely scratching the surface of how far we should be walking on a daily basis. Both natural and mainstream pregnancy websites, alike, praise the simple art of walking during pregnancy. But getting 2-4+ miles in a day can pose a challenge with our sedentary lifestyles.
One simple way to increase your steps for the day is to park in the back of the parking lot. If you have time, take the opportunity to lengthen your walk by circling a few rows of the lot.
Of course, this doesn’t fulfill the need to be intentionally walking. Try to incorporate walks as often as possible.
#6 Swap Out Your Chair for an Exercise Ball
Another tool to properly align the pelvis and strengthen the core is the Exercise Ball. Spinning Babies considers an Exercise Ball to be an important part of a mom’s labor and delivery prep kit:
The birth ball comforts and strengthens your lower back. Your pelvis is better supported and symmetrical. The pelvis opens a bit, maybe not as much as squatting, but certainly without the effort of squatting (Squatting is good preparation, too). You are able to sit upright comfortably after only a few tries with the ball. Sitting upright helps the abdomen be a hammock for the baby and encourages the baby to settle in an anterior position when the mother’s ligaments and fascia are balanced and she hasn’t waited too long.Spinning Babies
Simply swap out your chair for an Exercise Ball by the start of the third trimester and avoid traditional chairs as much as possible. Be sure to look up the appropriate size ball for your height to ensure that your body is in the most optimal alignment.
#7 Drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
A beloved uterine tonic by herbalism and midwives, alike, Red Raspberry Leaf Tea is a powerful addition to your prep kit. Aviva Romm, former President of the American Herbal Guild, longtime Certified Professional Midwife, and Yale-trained MD, considers it an important her for pregnancy:
This herb is a mineral rich tonic, traditionally used to support a healthy pregnancy and tone the uterus to help a woman prepare for birth. Some studies have shown that it can help to expedite labor and reduce complications and interventions associated with birth.Aviva Romm, 5 Safe Herbs for a More Comfortable Pregnancy and a Better Birth
Plan to start drinking this liquid during the second half of pregnancy!
#8 Intentionally Seek Out and Address Emotional, Mental, and Relational Blocks
Ina May Gaskin speaks regularly in her books about emotional, mental, and relational blocks stopping labor in its tracks. Unaddressed doubt about your capabilities as a mother, a concern with your spouse/partner, discomfort with your care provider, fear of how a family member will behave after the baby is born, or the residual wounds of past sexual abuse can all inhibit the body’s ability to progress naturally through labor. Grantley Dick-Read, an OB in the early 20th Century, also noted this strange phenomenon in his book, Childbirth Without Fear.
So, what can a mama do before labor and delivery to speed things up? Get to the root of any blocks that may potentially be a problem. Journaling is a personal way to get some of these things out. If you feel the need to discuss them more in-depth, don’t hesitate to find a compassionate listener. A counselor, therapist, or your doula are other people you can turn to if you feel the topic is too sensitive to discuss with your immediate sphere.
#9 Get Comfortable with Birth
Birth is a beautiful and crazy thing. For many moms, their exposure and understanding of this process come from the TV and horrific birth stories retold by friends. Unfortunately, these terrifying stories and fictional reenactments only cloud the ability to have a positive birthing experience.
Seek out positive birth stores to reinvent the idea of what birth looks like in your mind. The first half of each book by Ina May Gaskin share dozens of birth stories from real moms. The Birth Without Fear blog is an impressive collection of positive birth stories from more modern moms. Many moms have also published their birth videos on youtube. You can watch raw footage or edited highlights. (Though I highly encourage watching at least one positive birth in its completion before having your own baby.)
If you aren’t familiar with birth physiology, then seek out a birthing class that will teach it to you. Hypnobirthing and the Bradley Method are both well known for their high-quality classes. You can also search online for a natural birth course or video series to take your learning to the next level.
#10 See a Chiropractor
Chiropractic care has been proven to shorten labor by 25-40%, depending on the research referenced. This goes back to some of the principals Katie Bowman shares about pelvic alignment and ligament flexibility.
Care through the duration of your pregnancy is best. At the very minimum, plan to see your provider weekly through the third trimester. Be sure to seek out a Webster Certified Chiropractor – which is a specialized type of training for pregnancy.
#11 Hire a Doula
We could dedicate an entire post to the benefits of a doula – and maybe I will at some point! I highly encourage you to seek out a doula to support you throughout your labor. The evidence to support doulas is astounding:
25% decrease in the risk of CesareanEvidence on: Doulas
8% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth
10% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
Shorter labors by 41 minutes on average
I especially encourage first-time moms to hire a doula. (Though every mom should have this type of support person!) Some homebirth midwives also act as a doula. So, if you are going that route, be sure to speak to your provider about her approach!
In closing, the final key to a fast labor? Go into pregnancy with as many resources at your fingertips so that you can have the best labor possible! Educate your care team on your wishes and know the “why” behind what you want.