Aug 13, 2015

The average length of labor is 12-14 hours. Sound exhausting? It is. But, the good news is that there are a few things you can do to keep labor progressing and shorten your amount of time in labor.

1. Keep Moving

In many cultures when labor begins, the woman starts her final preparations in the home before birth. The Amish are said to make bread. Others, clean the house. The key is to keep moving during the early stages of labor. Stop only to cope with contractions. Walking will help channel your baby into the birth canal. Working on on fours, will help take the pressure off your back and keep your baby moving along.

2. Keep Calm

Anxiety and fear will shut labor down. And lets face it, the arduous task of delivering a baby is frightening. But if you practice meditation, visualization, and/ or relaxation techniques, you can really help keep things progressing. Keep your mouth loose and relaxed. It is well-known among birthing coaches that a relaxed jaw equals and open cervix. There is a direct-connect there somehow and one body part knows when the other it tight and fearful. Low relaxed tones are good when vocalizing for release also. High, tight sounds are anxious and stifling. As contractions get more frequent and difficult, take advantage of the break in between and rest. Sleep even. But most of all stay relaxed.

3. Labor at Home

Many times, once you arrive to the hospital, your labor slows. Why? You’ve moved from a comfortable, familiar space to being connected to monitors and confined to a specific space. Sometimes even confined to a bed. All of your good progress will slow. If you plan to birth at the hospital, talk to your doctor or midwife about when she would like for you to head to the hospital. This answer may depend on if you prefer to labor medication free or if you’d like to receive some medication to help you cope. Your doctor will help guide you according to your preferences and your window of opportunity. Laboring in the comforts of your own home will help you progress more quickly.

4. Be Romantic

The magic ingredient that keeps labor moving is oxytocin. When a woman is induced, the drug that is administered is a synthetic oxytocin called pitocin. The difference between the natural and synthetic is that pitocin creates much harsher contractions that make it more difficult for a woman to cope. One intervention will many times leads to another - the need for pain management medications.

Oxytocin is the same hormone that is responsible for milk let-down when you breastfeed. It is also called the “love hormone” and is released during orgasm, nipple stimulation, and even kissing and cuddling. This is when the loving touch of your partner can really help keep your baby moving towards birth. If you are single or your partner is not available, snuggle with your pet. Studies show petting your dog or cat also releases oxytocin. Your dog may even be extra attentive during the stages of labor. They can sense what is going on and will want to help comfort you.

5. Be Upright

Do you ever wonder why births on television and in movies always show the poor woman flat on her back? Me too. Doctors don't even want you to sleep on your back, so why should you labor on your back? Birthing on your back is not the ideal position either. Imagine having to take the largest bowel movement of your life and then being asked to lie on your back to make it happen. It will certainly make the job more difficult. Let gravity help you out. Sitting or squatting with help are much more ideal positions to facilitate birth.

Bonus: Hire A Doula

A doula is a professional childbirth coach who knows all of the tips and tricks and can help you and your partner along in this journey. She will remember the details so you don’t have to. She will bring a calming presence in an uncertain situation. A doula-assisted birth shows great results. Just look at the statistics: 

  • 50% reduction in cesarean rate
  • 25% shorter labor
  • 60% reduction in epidural requests
  • 30% reduction in pain medication use
  • 40% reduction in forceps delivery
  • 40% reduction in pitocin use

Talk to your doctor or childbirth class instructor about a doula recommendation or visit your local La Leche League meeting and see who others have used. Knowledge is power and having a few tips and tricks up your sleeve before the big day can help you prepare and shorten the arduous task of child birth.

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Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a writer and mother of two and expecting her third. If you liked this posting please follow her on Twitter @writerbonnie or like her on Facebook at for more great info on Raising Kids. 

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