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I’ve had several births that I had the honor of being a doula at in the last month and it made me think about my own birth experiences and the difference between them. For reference, I had (full saga here) :
- A typical intervention hospital birth that thankfully did not end in a c-section
- A 26 hour long labor that ended in a great natural birth with midwives in the hospital
- An unavoidable c-section due to placenta previa and a hemorrhage at 35 weeks
- A 25 hour natural labor that ended with a successful v-bac (hospital, with midwives)
- A perfect, wonderful, 13 hour natural home birth of a frank breech perfect baby girl
When a friend and I were talking about birth experiences, I said that I’d had the gamut of birth experiences and could just have normal births from now on and she responded: “No you haven’t. You haven’t had multiples yet.” Here’s to hoping we didn’t speak that into existence! (I’m happy to have one at a time!).
What I did notice in reflecting on my births was a big change in my most recent labor, especially considering some factors. I’ve been to a lot of labors and though I’m slightly jealous of women who are able to breeze through (seemingly) without pain or noise, I am not those women.
Looking back though, I realized that I’ve never had a “normal” labor (is there even such a thing) to see what would happen. After my first birth I was nervous and afraid I couldn’t do it. Then, after the c-section, my labor was still long and I was discouraged, but after research I realized that first time v-bacs are often longer since the uterus can take time to contract effectively.
Then, even with a breech baby and my apprehensions about that, plus the fact that she wasn’t even sitting on my cervix until that lovely time when I went from 6-10 centimeters in approximately 1 contraction, my labor was still a full 10 hours less than my other labors and not any more intense. (And my daughter was born healthy and wonderful but you can read the full story here)
So, this is a long way of saying that I think there were a several factors that helped make my most recent labor my easiest. I’d love to hear if you’ve tried any of these factors and what made a difference for your labors, so please share in the comments! Of course, check with your doctor or midwife before making any changes when you are pregnant and always research for yourself anything you do while pregnant!
I’ve written before about how much I love magnesium and how we use it at our house, but I really noticed the difference during my last pregnancy!
I used several methods of magnesium supplementation, but most often, magnesium body butter (here’s the recipe) and magnesium oil (how to make magnesium oil). These are applied topically so the body only absorbs what it needs.
Magnesium was really the only dietary/supplement change I made during my last pregnancy and I noticed these things during pregnancy:
- No leg cramps (really bad cramps in the past)
- I slept great and never had the insomnia I’d had before
- No morning sickness- I had minor queasiness a few times but none of the vomiting or nausea I’d had in past pregnancies
I also think that magnesium was part of the reason that my labor was so much easier this time. Magnesium is needed for proper hormone function and muscle health and I really think that for me, optimizing these factors with magnesium made a big difference.
While it is safe to assume that about 50% of us are magnesium deficient (and pregnancy increases this need even more), check with your doctor for the best magnesium dose for you. Too much of a good thing can be bad! Remember, magnesium relaxes muscles, so it can not only affect contractions, but in too high of a dose could also affect other serious matters like heart contraction and diaphragm movement needed for breathing.
I discovered a great blog KatySays.com written by Katy Bowman who is an expert in biomechanics. She has some incredible information on her blog about pelvic alignment and she also just released her first five years of blogging as a book.
Thanks to her info, I stopped doing kegels and started focusing on pelvic alignment and squatting. If you haven’t already, check out her post, “You Don’t Know Squat” (and Part II).
I especially found her info (and my daily practice) useful when I had to push in a hands and knees/modified squat position (of which there are pictures that nobody shall ever ever see!)
I think another factor is that I used a Squatty Potty (I reviewed it here) which made elimination easier while pregnant and which also was the reason for dilating 4 centimeters in one contraction.
I’d had some Chiropractic adjustment during all of my pregnancies but it was sporadic and I often didn’t make it a priority at the end when the crazy nesting kicked in.
This time, because she was breech, I was at the Chiropractor twice a week without fail for the last 8 weeks of pregnancy. My chiropractor focused on pelvic alignment and the webster technique, which has a good track record of getting breech babies to flip.
I’m convinced that my little one just wanted to hit the ground running (which she did and hasn’t stopped since) but she was delivered breech. Even though the chiropractic didn’t get her to flip, I think it did help make labor easier.
Fats are needed for proper hormone production and the body needs certain kinds of fats to make hormones correctly. Specifically, the body needs more saturated fats and absolutely no artificial fats like vegetable oils and margarine.
This pregnancy, I made it an absolute priority to consume a lot of saturated fats from sources like coconut oil, butter, tallow, animal products, etc and avoid completely all sources of vegetable oils. I also consumed plenty of Omega-3s from wild caught fish, fermented cod liver oil and chia seeds.
Being at Home
I know this won’t be a popular opinion with everyone, but I really do think that being at home during my labor made a big difference for me. Obviously it isn’t always the best option and even for me, a c-section save my son’s life (and mine).
For my specific birth in my specific case, it was the right decision and I also think it shortened my labor a lot since I was in a completely comfortable and safe environment and was able to really relax.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Betsy Greenleaf, the first board certified female urogynecologist in the United States. She is double board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, as well as Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Have you had a natural labor? Was there anything that made your labor easier or harder? Tell me below!
Discussion (59 Comments)
Hi all: I am an old man, so no pregnancy here :), but just wanted to confirm and share, that my really bad leg cramps, are COMPLETELY gone after taking magnesium. I take it as oral supplement.
Do you think magnesium would stall labor or prevent labor from starting
Wonderful post! I had two midwife-assisted hospital births and three home births, so this post really speaks to me. I didn’t know about magnesium at the time, but that makes a lot of sense. I drank red raspberry leaf tea and nettles throughout my pregnancy.
I did squats and different back strengthening exercises that may have helped align my pelvis, along with the kegels. I had also started using coconut oil and healthy fats in my diet and for my first (and only so far) pregnancy the labor only lasted 12hours from first contraction ever to baby! And while I wouldn’t call it easy it wasn’t the nightmare I anticipated. Next time I’ll have to try the magnesium, just started to help with insomnia and fatigue and it is working magic!
This is good! I have super long labors (#1 was 30 hours and ended in a c-section for fetal distress, #2 was 56 hours, successful VBAC, but we did transfer to the hospital for failure to progress and odd heart tones), and would really like to do anything I can to make the next one easier! I think the magnesium and squats are probably the things I should focus on with my next pregnancy.
Haven’t had any kids yet either, but love learning about this stuff for future reference! It’s so amazing how our bodies work! Thanks for sharing your experiences and advice.
Oh. My. Word. I just tried the squats. I had no idea how tight I was! I couldn’t get past step 2. I’m only 8 weeks pregnant. Hopefully I’ll have time to get my pelvis aligned before this one comes! Thanks for this article. After having a very traumatic birthing experience with my first, I’m hoping for things to go much better this time.
Brilliant Katie! I have yet to have a baby but these principles will get my body prepared and ready for wonderfully natural pregnancy whenever that day comes! I have also been using magnesium for achy muscle after exercise, restless legs at night, my back problems and for better sleep – LOVE IT! thanks again!
Could you go into specifics about the fermented cod liver oil?
I did magnesium with #3 and no morning sickness! It was so nice to tell reveal the news on our own terms…rather than run to the bathroom and give it away 🙂
A lot to think about here – I’m currently 5 months pregnant with #2 and desperate to keep things natural as possible despite baby #1 being 10lb 6oz and this one looking to be no smaller plus a previous emergency c-section. Thanks for a great post!
I ate dates for the last six weeks of my pregnancy because of a study I saw online. I also remained active (running and ballet) until I was about eight months pregnant. Once I neared my due date, I speed walked which often triggered contractions. I woke up one night with contractions around 2 AM and delivered by 5:30. My labor was 3 1/2 hours from start to finish. I was prepared to refuse any interventions, but turns out I didn’t need to!
my granddaughter is 37 weeks and very big , baby is in place.she is so ready for him to be born. she is drinking red raspberry tea to see if it will bring on labor.she is 20 years old and very mature , single.
this tea is caffeeine free.so i think its ok for the baby.