Prepare your body for labor and an easier birth (scientifically proven ways!)

Are you heading into the last few weeks of your pregnancy and starting to get anxious about labor and delivery? 

Perhaps you’ve been given an induction date that’s coming up soon and you’d rather avoid that if you possibly can?

While you may not be ready to try inducing labor at home (or even want to), what can you do to get your body ready to give birth? And to have the easiest birth possible?

No matter whether you end up being induced or not.

Note: this blog post probably contains affiliate links, which means we may receive small commissions from purchases made through links in this post (at NO extra cost to you). You can read our full disclosure for more information.

There’s a lot of uncertainty involved in giving birth, however there are two things you can do right now that will help!

  1. Get educatedtake a prenatal class, online is best since you can do it RIGHT NOW in your pyjamas. It’ll help you learn what to expect which is the biggest thing to take away some of the fear. This course is so affordable and created by an experienced Labor and Delivery nurse (so you know you’re getting the real info!)
  2. Read on and start doing these things right now to prepare your body for labor!

Preparing Your Body For Labor

Did you know there are some things you can do that are scientifically proven to prepare your body for labor? This is not just your usual bouncing on a birth ball, eating pineapple and spicy food kinda stuff.

By ‘prepare your body for labor’ I mean things that will actually: 

  • help you go into labor naturally,
  • shorten the length of your labor AND
  • make you less likely to tear or need interventions.

Um… as a soon to be second time mom in the last few weeks of pregnancy… can I be the first to say: YES PLEASE!

Here’s the scoop on those seemingly miraculous things you can do to help:

Throughout Pregnancy – Aerobic Exercise (ugh!)

I know you’ve probably come across a lot of articles claiming various stretches, yoga moves, squats and types of exercise shorten or make labor easier – but most don’t share evidence that supports their claims. So, as a person who has to be super careful about exercise during pregnancy (due to previous SPD/PRPGP aka my pelvis can’t keep it together anymore), I mostly ignore them…

If it’s not backed by research, I’m not risking another pregnancy where I can barely walk / exist without pain. #downer

Unfortunately for me (and anyone in the later stages of pregnancy), this study shows that there’s proof aerobic exercise throughout your pregnancy can help during labor:

  • to decrease overall time in labor, especially by shortening the first stage of labor
  • women were less likely to receive an epidural
  • babies were less likely to be born oversize (macrosomia)

How much exercise do you need to do though?

The study talks about “moderate intensity aerobic exercise sessions three times per week”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t specify a length of time (if you, like me, count down to the last second how long you have to exercise for…) so use your best judgement. 20-30 minute sessions seem likely and relatively reasonable to me. Although I’d much prefer 5 minute sessions…

If you haven’t been exercising should you start now? Please ask your doctor – if you haven’t been exercising, the last part of pregnancy is not the time to start an intense program but something more gentle could work for you.

Consider adding a bit more walking to your weekly schedule, but don’t overdo it. The last few weeks of pregnancy are hard on your body and adding exercise may have the opposite effect and just exhaust you which is NOT what you want heading into labor and then postpartum. 

From 32+ Weeks Pregnant – Drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

Red raspberry leaf tea has long been recommended by midwives as a uterine tonic. But, is there proof that it’s actually effective at shortening labor or starting labor?

This study shows that although red raspberry leaf tea didn’t have an effect on the duration of the first stage of labor, it did shorten the second stage of labor (pushing baby out) by an average of around 10 minutes. Women in the red raspberry leaf tea group also received far fewer forceps deliveries (which could mean less tearing!)

Since I’m looking at labor sometime in the next few weeks, that sounds like a good deal to me!

How to Drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea to Prepare for Labor

 

First, you’ll need to grab yourself some red raspberry leaf tea. It’s NOT the same as raspberry tea (which you might find easily in your local grocery store), but it IS the same as raspberry leaf tea.

You can probably find it at a health food store near you, or simply go online and add it to your next Amazon order (so easy.)

I ordered an organic, single leaf style (not a blend) just a week or two ago. 

In the study, women consumed red raspberry leaf tablets from 32 weeks of pregnancy. When it comes to the tea version, many women start drinking it from their second trimester (with doctor/midwife approval). 

Mama Natural recommends starting with 1 cup per day, watching carefully for uterine cramping (a potential side effect) and increasing up to 2 cups a day in the final weeks of pregnancy.

For me, since I have diet controlled gestational diabetes, I’m likely to be induced before I can go overdue. So, I plan to start drinking red raspberry leaf tea from around 34 weeks. 

From 34 Weeks Pregnant – Perineal Massage (To Avoid Tearing)

Has your doctor discussed perineal massage with you yet? 

Starting between 34-35 weeks pregnant, most doctors recommend starting perineal massage.

What is perineal massage? Basically, it involves stretching the perineum and vaginal opening in preparation for birth.

Wow, pregnancy and childbirth is so glamorous… not!

Here’s a short video of how to do it from an expert:

This is a great discussion of the evidence for perineal massage. The take home message:

  • best results for first time moms
  • decreases the risk of episiotomy 
  • decreases the risk of perineal trauma requiring stitches

All good things!

From 36 Weeks Pregnant – Eat Dates

Dates have been proven to help with labor. In the study, women who consumed dates:

  • were more likely to go into labor spontaneously (yes!)
  • arrived at hospital with a greater cervical dilation (yes!!)
  • were more likely to have intact membranes on arrival at hospital (waters hadn’t broken)
  • were less likely to need pitocin augmentation (help from artificial oxytocin)
  • had a shorter first stage of labor (yes!!!)

That’s a LOT of benefit for something that’s pretty easy to do. And delicious!

How Many Dates Do I Need to Eat to Prepare for Labor?

You should start eating dates:

  • starting at 36 weeks pregnant
  • eating 6 small dates (or 3 medjool dates) per day 

But, what about the sugar content?

If you split your dates up throughout the day and eat with meals, you won’t see such a big spike as you would if you sat down and ate 6 dates at once. (Good idea for us with gestational diabetes.)

How to Eat Dates (When You Don’t Like Dates)

What if you don’t like eating dates? Should you just not worry about it?

Not so fast!

Dates are incredibly versatile and there’s a lot of different ways to eat them. Don’t write them (and all those amazing benefits) off before you’ve tried:

  • eating them with a square of 80%+ dark chocolate is so so good
  • spreading them with nut butter
  • blending them up in a food processor and turning them into Bliss Balls with almonds, coconut and cocoa.
  • adding them to a smoothie (easiest option ever!) or making the most delicious salted caramel milkshake out of them (so easy – just add your dates, a big spoonful of almond or peanut butter, a pinch or two of sea salt, ice cubes and a glass of your favorite milk and blend it up)

You can even eat dates in savoury dishes – try subbing dates in anything that uses raisins or other dried fruit. 

From 36 Weeks Pregnant – Nipple Stimulation

Yes – it works. Why? Well, nipple stimulation releases oxytocin which is one of the major hormones responsible for labor and birth. Oxytocin drives contractions which is why synthetic oxytocin (called pitocin) is used during a medical induction of labor. 

Here’s what studies found:

  • A 2014 study found that women using nipple stimulation between 36-38 weeks of pregnancy were more likely to deliver slightly earlier, had a much more favorable Bishop’s score, and were more likely to achieve a vaginal delivery. 
  • Another study found that nipple stimulation significantly shortened the duration of the stages of labor.

How to Use Nipple Stimulation for Labor

There are two easy ways you can stimulate your nipples for labor:

  1. manually massaging the breast, areola and nipples (this is actually good practice if you plan to breastfeed – you could even express and freeze a little colostrum while you do it.)
  2. using your breast pump (way easier)

Each of the studies used a different duration of nipple stimulation, from 15-20 minutes (3 times a day) to up to an hour. You could always start with the shorter duration and increase it as your pregnancy progresses. 

Quick warning – please be careful with this one prior to 38 weeks (considered ‘term’). It CAN give you contractions / Braxton Hicks (personal experience) and you don’t want to risk evicting baby slightly too early. I’m holding off on any more of this until I reach 38 weeks next week…

Preparing for Labor is Preparing for Baby

It’s up to you whether you try any or all of these things – the best thing about them is there’s very little risk involved. It’ll get your body ready to go for the big day, and if you are ready it might be enough to tip you over the edge.

I’m all for anything that’ll make labor and delivery easier and faster! Because it means:

  • less exhaustion going into postpartum and the fourth trimester
  • less likely to need induction or augmentation with pitocin (which can mean a more painful labor and potentially more interventions)
  • less likely to need a c-section if the pitocin fails to progress labor
  • less likely to need interventions or drugs that can increase chances of tearing and make postpartum healing longer and more painful

It’s likely that I’ll be induced on or just after my due date (unless I go into labor early), but I hope doing this prep work will help everything go smoothly no matter what happens. As my favorite birthing course instructor says: the goal is a healthy mom, healthy baby and a healthy mind!

More To Read