If you’d like to know how to have an easier labor, you are not alone! Plenty of women around the world are searching for ways to have an easier labor and delivery or how to give birth faster. I’m sure you can imagine that no one WANTS a prolonged or difficult labor! Thankfully, science and traditional wisdom have a whole list of things that actually DO shorten labor. Read on for all the details!
My Own Long Labor Story
My first labor was long. From the time I realized I was in labor until the baby was born was over 30 hours.
That labor also was kind of inconsistent. I would have some hard contractions and then for a while I wouldn’t have any or they would be really light.
I had taken a Bradley class during labor, and according to my Bradley instructor, most first time labors are around 12 hours long with contractions that start out light and far apart and gradually get closer and closer together.
I had done a lot of preparing for labor. I mean, the Bradley class itself is a 12 week program!
But I wasn’t prepared for a labor that went nothing like the textbook labor.
I did end up utilizing an herb that can help make labor faster, butI wish I had known some of these physical techniques to shorten labor that are available now.
Lucky you will have a whole arsenal of ways to make labor easier and faster that will hopefully help you have an amazing labor!
Exercises for an Easier Labor
One reason that birth can be long and intermittent like my first labor is the baby being in a position that just takes longer. The baby’s head might not be applied to the cervix which means the cervix doesn’t have that pressure which helps it to to do its thang. Or the baby’s back might be against the mother’s back which also doesn’t lead to a good strong series of contractions that are highly productive.
This is where different exercises come in.
By doing a series of any of these exercises that all promoted optimal fetal positioning, you are lining yourself up to have the quickest labor that you can.
All of these exercises are great. They can be practiced in the third trimester and used during labor as well.
Choose the set that speaks to you the most. Don’t underestimate that your intuition helps you gravitate towards the exercises you most need.
The Miles Circuit
The Miles Circuit is a set of prescribed positions and movements for a pregnant or laboring woman to move through that help the baby to get in the optimal position for having a quick birth. Lots of women have great things to say about it!
Forward Leaning Inversion
The Forward Leaning Inversion is a position made popular by Gail Tully, the midwife who developed the Spinning Babies program for optimal fetal positioning.
If you go visit that page, Gail explains how the Forward leaning inversion is so good in pregnancy or in labor to make room in the lower uterus for the baby to snuggle into the absolute best position to put pressure on the cervix and minimize rotation needed to descend. You can do this daily in pregnancy and you can even do this in labor, right on your hospital bed! She explains how on the website. I encourage you to practice these a few times a week as you get closer to your due date and daily at the very end. The forward leaning inversion is so helpful in speeding up a labor.
It can be an intimidating move. My best recommendation is to buy the Spinning Babies Daily Essentials video (DVD or streaming) because you can get detailed instruction on the Forward Leaning Inversion along with a 35 minute Daily Activities stretch routine AND a 28 minute Yoga Flow routine for pregnancy that will feel so good.
Hip opening exercises and stretches are so good during pregnancy. We often get tight hip flexors and a gentle stretch or movement is just what we need to keep things from being painful or even slowing down labor. When our muscles get tight, they clamp down in an unnatural position. This causes other parts of our body (like our ligaments or even uterus) to have to move into unnatural positions to adjust around the tight muscles. By simply stretching our hips, we are giving ourselves a better shot at a labor that moves along at a good pace. If you’re wondering what hip openers to do, you’ll appreciate this nice round up over at Baby Chick.
Going for a daily walk is both harder and easier than it sounds. It’s also much more helpful than you might imagine, especially if you are not an incredibly athletic person. We all get a fair amount of walking in our daily lives, but going for a nice, daily walk is incredibly good for your muscles and ligaments and also for your mental health. I can’t encourage you enough to get out and walk as close to every day as you possibly can.
Foods for a Faster Labor
Dates, the fruit of the date palm tree, are the only food I know of that has been proven in studies to speed up labor. Several studies have shown that eating dates in late pregnancy can shorten the first phase of labor, ripen the cervix, and reduce the need for Pitocin or other augmentation of labor.
If you’d like a look at the research, here is a nice round up on studies done about eating dates for a faster labor.
Herbs to Speed Up Labor
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea is my personal favorite herb to speed up labor. I had an almost unbelievable experience with RRLT during my first labor. After I witnessed the power of red raspberry leaf, you can bet I continued to drink RRLT in my other pregnancies.
RRLT is simply the leaf from the bush that grows red raspberries. It has long held a reputation as an herb that can help to tone the uterus and prepare it for labor.
If you’re looking for an easy and safe way to prepare for the fastest labor possible, you should definitely start drinking red raspberry leaf tea in your third trimester (and even throughout your labor!).
Crampbark & motherwort are 2 more herbs that can be used at the end of pregnancy and during labor to ease pain and help things along. If you want to read more about these, I recommend these 2 books by Aviva Romm: the handbook The Natural Pregnancy Book or the textbook Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health.
Other Natural Ways to Make Labor Shorter
Clary Sage Essential Oil
Clary sage is my favorite essential oil to use at a labor. This essential oil is calming, grounding, and promotes regular contractions. It also helps make pain a little more manageable. Sounds great, right?
Not long ago I was attending a birth at local hospital that is not known for being very natural friendly. The mama and her partner had packed and brought this essential oil diffuser to the hospital with them. I actually don’t know if they asked if it was okay or not, but by the time I arrived they had lavender diffusing in the hospital room. Her labor was moving along a little slowly, so by the time the lavender has stopped diffusing, I asked if we could replace it with clary sage. As the oil started to diffuse, the energy in the room changed. I felt more energy and I could tell that the couple did, too. A nurse came in and mentioned that she really liked the smell in the room. I feel like the clary sage brought a good upbeat change that was needed for labor to progress.
Clary sage is reputed to encourage uterine contractions and make them more productive. It isn’t recommended during pregnancy because of its ability to stimulate contractions. It’s definitely worth a try during labor and if nothing else, it smells amazing! You can get clary sage essential oil from Amazon or straight from Eden’s Garden, which I recommend. They have free shipping and a great rewards program plus good sales a few times a year!
There are several pressure points that can strengthen your contractions and decrease your pain. Here is a pretty good article on the Mama Natural website about how to find these pressure points and when to use them. You might want to review this a few times and maybe write the information in your Birth Not Plan for your partner and/or doula to consult during labor.
Rebozo Sifting or Lifting
Have you heard of a rebozo? It’s a Central American scarf that women have put to very good use in helping other women to have good labors. Over the years, midwives have developed a few techniques that can be helpful for any person in labor, and some that are warranted in specific situations.
Rebozo sifting is a nice technique where the long fabric of the scarf is wrapped around the mother’s belly while she leans forward on a wall or on her hands and knees. Another person then holds the top two ends of the scarf and gently but rapidly alternates a quick pull up on each side, which rocks the mama’s belly back and forth.
This kind of sifting can be very relaxing and helpful in loosening tension in the muscles or ligaments of the birthing mother.
Rebozo lifting is a technique that is useful when the labor seems to be stalling out and baby has not settled deeply into the pelvis yet. Often this happens when a mom has some diastasis recti (a spearation of the muscles in the abdomen) and the baby is sort of spilling over into the loose abdominal muscles instead of being held back more firmly in a straight up and down position. By cradling mom’s belly with the rebozo while she is standing and then gently lifting and pulling back on the belly during a contraction so that the baby’s body is drawn more into mom’s core as baby is being squeezed, a few contractions can accomplish what might have taken hours without this gentle technique.
Surrounding People Management
This may not seem super obvious, but it’s important that you banish people from your labor bubble who are making you uncomfortable. If you are having a home birth and are laboring upstairs while your slightly obnoxious in-laws are hanging around downstairs, you may not even realize the effect that their presence is having on your labor. It’s entirely possible that the energy they bring into your space is actually slowing your labor down.
Same goes for nurses you don’t care for in the hospital. If you are tensing up every time your nurse enters the room, it may be time to ask for a different nurse. This is entirely within your rights as a patient and might be just what you need to do for your own wellbeing.
Hire a doula
Studies show that having a dedicated support person, a doula, at your side during labor and delivery can shorten your labor.
One review of many studies indicated that continuous labor support of any kind (not just from a doula) shortened labor on average by 41 minutes. Other studies looking at just doulas actually show an even larger reduction in labor time. In addition, many studies show far more benefits than just shorter labor. A doula’s presence has been shown to reduce pain! Sign me up!
Evening Primrose Oil
I didn’t know if I should put this under herbs or not, but Evening Primrose OIl (EPO) is considered a natural way to ripen the cervix and prepare the body for labor. EPO can be taken internally as a gelcap, and it can be applied externally (but also internally 🙂 ) to the cervix.
Switch your Focus from Shorter & Easier Labor to Best Labor Possible
We all think the shorter a labor is, the easier it is. I’m here to tell you that is not always the case. My third labor was by far my shortest and also my most difficult. I woke up to a contraction that made me cry with its intensity. I mean, I wasn’t ready for it coming during deep sleep at 6:30 in the morning! And it didn’t slow down from there at all. It felt like 2 ½ hours of transition. It was a like a freight train on the loose. A bowling ball dropped down a cliff with no slowing down until it hits the bottom. That labor was short, yes, but it was terrifyingly strong. I really don’t recommend it. I’ll take a textbook 6-12 hour labor over that one any day!
You came here looking for how to have an easier labor, and I hope you found it! I wish you all the best in your upcoming birth. ✨Doula peace and calmness sprinkles from me to you. ✨