Zita West, midwife to many an A-lister, and author of the Zita West Pregnancy Companion shares her tips for preparing for labour.
“It’s very difficult for first time mums as they have no previous experience to compare labour to, and, up until that point it has all been theory. To help women everywhere prepare for their first baby, here are my top tips, and preparing mentally and emotionally is really important. Having been a midwife for thirty years and with many colleagues who also work in midwifery, the experiences we all have when looking after women in labour have common themes.”
“I trained in the UK in the medicalised 1980s and then practiced overseas in Muscat, delivering my first baby in very primitive, non-medicalised conditions. This background taught me a lot about the women I was looking after and how they managed their mindsets in labour.”
Key tips for mind management for labour:
1. D-DAY PREPARATION
A common problem today’s women face is exhaustion during pregnancy and in the lead up to labour. There is far more pressure today to work right up until the end of your pregnancy to then get more time off afterwards which is a general trend. Without enough rest or mental space and lack of sleep in the lead up to labour, women are left mentally and physically exhausted for labour, ending up tired postnatally before they’ve even had the sleepless nights looking after a newborn! The problem is that it is very hard to get a woman to think beyond delivery day.
2. MIND, BODY, BABY
Connecting to your baby by talking to him or her really seals a bond before birth. Call me old fashioned, but putting your feet and having ‘you and baby’ time is a must. Believe me, if you don’t connect or make the time, your baby will seek attention in its own way!
3. LET YOUR HORMONES HELP YOU
Your hormones are your helpers in labour and your mindset can influence how it goes. Endorphins will help with the pain while oxytocin gives the relaxed, ‘spaced out’ feeling. There is nothing better than to be with a woman in labour and see how she progresses by the patterns of behaviour she displays at each stage. However, the position your baby’s head is in at the start can influence you labour.
4. A FRIGHTENED MIND = A LONGER LABOUR
Fear comes from many sources prior to labour, and it is important not to listen to dire advice and warnings about other people’s labours. If someone starts to tell you a story about their labour, stop them and ask of the story has a good ending. If it doesn’t, then tell them you don’t want to hear it. I have seen advice like this cause such anxiety for women. Fear causes adrenaline to be released and labour to slow down. These can be a number of things; from being nervous about your surroundings, to not having a rapport with the midwife and feeling tense with your partner. Once fear gets hold, adrenaline is realised and stops endorphin release. Atmosphere is key to enable you to settle and concentrate on having as relaxed a labour a possible. There are many techniques that can be practiced to help with breathing and relaxation, and these will help labour along.
5. EXHAUSTED BODY, EXHAUSTED MIND
You need a lot of energy to get through a labour, and hydration and hunger don’t help! You need complex carbs, and lots of them. I tell women to really stock up on carbs in the lead up to labour, as well as vitamin C and zinc. During pregnancy, you also need good stores of DHA and vitamin D which are both so important for foetal development.
7. A LABOUR OF LOVE
Having your partner with you and going through labour together can be a really bonding; however don’t force any partner to be in the room unless he really wants to be there. I have seen that a cause problem after the baby is born with a couple’s sex life, so make sure he is happy to be there with you.
8. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
To ensure you have the best labour you can, make sure you practice techniques ahead of labour such as hypnosis for birth, and positive visualisation will help throughout. I am also a great believer in the use of acupuncture in preparation for and during labour.
ZITA WEST PRODUCTS
Zita West has a range of antenatal and postnatal products to prepare and repair
VITAL ESSENCE 3 Prepares the body for labour. £26.50 for 90 capsules
VITAL DHA Vital from 28 weeks for the developing brain. £15.50 for 60 capsules
COMFORT DOWN UNDER Invaluable for the days immediately following delivery. £16.96 RESTORE AND RENEW LAVENDER BATH THERAPY. £12.76
UPLIFTING ORANGE CLOVE & CEDARWOOD CANDLE £25
YOUR PREGNANCY COMPANION
Your Pregnancy Companion is an informative and reassuring guide to pregnancy, birth and the first weeks with your baby. Full of the latest essential information and expert advice, it will help you to prepare yourself for motherhood and give your baby the best start in life. £25
“Among the many things I love about Your Pregnancy Companion is the fact that it is a companion that offers help and support from beginning to end and gets you thinking about a lot of things. I went through the same concerns as all new mums and this book addresses these really well. I have followed Zita’s work over the last 11 years; she looked after me for both of my pregnancies, births and beyond. I still look to her for advice and support as a mum.” Kate Winslet, foreword for Your Pregnancy Companion
All products available from www.zitawest.com
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Zita West Clinic Ltd
37 Manchester Street
London W1U 7JL
Telephone 020 7224 0017