7 Natural Ways To Prepare For Labour

As you get closer to your due date, you’re probably feeling so ready to give birth. 

It’s not unusual for women to start wondering if they can prepare for labour as they get to these last weeks. 

There are so many natural ways to prepare for labour, it’s hard to know which is the best to choose – or should you try them all?

Rest assured, your body was made to give birth and likely has been gently preparing without you realising. 

For some women, not doing anything can really mess with their ability to be patient and wait for labour to unfold in its own time. 

They start looking for ways to ‘get things going’ which can have the opposite effect they want.

Let’s take a look at some natural ways to prepare for labour, allowing the process to unfold as it should. 

How do you know your body is getting ready for labor?

Your body is sent signals from your baby that they’re getting close to being ready for birth. As their lungs reach the final stage of development, able to breathe after birth, certain chemicals interact with your body to begin the process of labour. Long before actual contractions start, your body is getting ready. 

Your cervix must ripen and shift position. This might be felt in slight aching or cramping, but it’s just as likely you won’t notice these sensations because you’re already dealing with back ache and Braxton hicks. 

As your cervix ripens, the mucus plug might start to come away. You might notice an increase in vaginal discharge, which looks like jelly and might be tinged with pink if your cervix has started to dilate slightly. 

You also might be feeling different emotionally. Impatient, restless, teary, obsessed with cleaning the house. Mood swings are a really big indicator you’re making the shift from pregnant to transitioning to motherhood. 

What can I do to prepare for labour?

First, let’s be clear – we encourage women who are having a healthy, normal pregnancy to embrace these last weeks and be patient with their baby and body. 

There is no need to hurry things along. Your baby is putting on the finishing touches and will chose his or her birth day when all is ready. Labour will begin when it is time for you to meet your baby. 

To allow your busy mind to step back and make way for your birthing brain, you might like to try one or any of these tips to prepare for labour:

#1: Practise relaxation techniques

Probably one of the most valuable techniques you can learn through pregnancy is how to release and let go. Relaxation encompasses not just the physical, but also the mental and emotional tensions we place on ourselves. 

Often the unconscious mind has absorbed all the stories about birth, positive and negative. This on top of facing a pandemic that is shifting how birth might look at your chosen birthplace, can increase your feelings of anxiety. 

It’s important to actively support your mental health at this time. Switch off or limit social media and the news, get plenty of sleep so you’re refreshed each day. 

Learning to breathe slowly and deeply helps your body and mind to seer into calm waters, preventing tension in your muscles, reducing stress hormones that might interfere with the hormonal shift needed for labour to begin. 

#2: Massage to prepare for labour

Massage therapy has incredible benefits for women during pregnancy, especially in the last trimester. It encourages the production of oxytocin, the love hormone we release when feeling good. Oxytocin promotes contractions of the uterus, so it’s a key ingredient in getting baby from inside to outside!

Massage therapy in late pregnancy has another really important effect. Sometimes babies are tucked up in positions which aren’t ideal for birth. This might change during labour but it can be something that causes worry or anxiety beforehand, increasing stress hormones which work against oxytocin. 

Preparing your body for labour with massage therapy can stimulate acupressure points that assist with cervical dilation and contractions by boosting oxytocin levels too. 

Nurtured Birth offers massage therapy that addresses functional issues preventing your baby from getting into the optimal position for birth. Releasing muscle tension will create the space your baby needs to move into the pelvis, or to rotate from breech, posterior or even tuck their chin in! We also offer Shiatsu massage for labour preparation, which utilises specific acupressure points. 

Get in touch with us to book a massage session to start preparing for labour by contacting us here

#3: Nourish your body 

Labour is like running a marathon –  it uses up a lot of energy and you need some key nutrients to keep your reserves well stocked. 

Your uterus is your strongest muscle, with vertical and horizontal muscle fibres intertwining to create a mighty force to birth your baby. Muscles need fuel to keep working, so ensuring your diet is nutrient dense and balanced is of great importance. 

In particular, protein is essential as it’s a building block of oxytocin, so things like bone broth and meat cooked on the bone are excellent sources. 

If you’re a vegetarian, find ways to increase your protein intake during your last weeks of pregnancy. You might like to seek the support from our naturopath at Nurtured Birth for more advice on how to best meet your protein and mineral needs. 

#4: Exercise to prepare for labour

It’s hard when you’re this pregnant to even think about moving. What if we told you exercise is one of the key factors in ensuring a normal birth, with a shorter labour? Research has shown exercise to be one of the best and easiest ways to prepare your body for labour. 

It can be as simple as a walk for half an hour each day. Get your heart rate up a bit, move those muscles and breathe in fresh air – you also up your vitamin D levels and improve your gut health at the same time! 

#5: Raspberry leaf tea

Red raspberry leaf tea is a traditional brew offered to women in their last month of pregnancy. You may have the idea it’s to induce labour but instead it acts as a tonic, preparing the uterus for labour. 

Red raspberry leaves are chock full of nutrients, such as B vitamins, iron, calcium, iron , potassium and magnesium. It’s often referred to as the woman’s herb as it contains a compound called fragarine, which tones and tightens muscles in the pelvic area, including the uterus. 

Some studies have shown women who drink red raspberry leaf tea will have shorter labours and fewer interventions. 

Click here to book a session with Nurtured Birth’s naturopath to find out how herbal medicine can assist in toning and strengthening your uterine muscles before you give birth. 

#6: Eating dates

You may have heard of an old wives’ tale that eating dates can help women to have an easy birth. 

This tradition comes from the Middle East and is mentioned in the Quran as well. Research into this tradition has shown it to be an effective way to prepare for labour. 

Studies show women who ate 6 or more dates every day for 4 weeks before birth were more likely to go into labour naturally, have a shorter labour, and dilate more efficiently than those who hadn’t eaten dates.

Don’t like dates? Blitz some up in a food processor, add in almond meal, coconut and cocoa, abd roll the mixture into balls. These are healthy snacks and there’s any number of recipes to search. 

#7: Boost your oxytocin

In the last stages of pregnancy, your body prepares for labour in a number of ways. Progesterone levels start to decrease, which means your body becomes more sensitive to oxytocin, the hormone responsible for uterine contractions.

Oxytocin receptors in the uterus begin to increase in number and your levels of the hormone begin to build up. This is a wonderful time to boost your oxytocin levels, to ensure the process has every opportunity to progress. Ways to do this include:

  • Laugh – it really is a wonderful tonic to lift your mood and get that love hormone flowing
  • Embrace – hugs and touch with someone you love, snuggle your pet
  • Sex – intimacy is certainly a surefire way of boosting the love hormones, especially with nipple stimulation and orgasm
  • Tune in – listening to our favourite music can increase positivity and feel good feelings that lead to more oxytocin 
  • Share – your thoughts and feelings, your time, your ear or share food. Being kind and positive towards others makes us feel good inside, which sparks off plenty of that love hormone.

The bottom line – you don’t have to do anything to get labour to start but you can be an active participant in smoothing the pathway to a positive and empowering birth. 

Nuchal Cord – What You Should Know

The way your baby is growing inside your body is nothing short of a miracle. 

The umbilical cord and placenta are your baby’s lifeline – they bring in nutrients and oxygen and take away waste products. 

The umbilical cord is a much underrated part of pregnancy and is quickly forgotten once a baby is born.

One of the fears mamas-to-be worry about is the cord being wrapped around their baby’s neck. This is called a nuchal cord and is actually very common. 

Let’s take a look at nuchal cords and what this means if your baby has one. 

What is a nuchal cord?

The umbilical cord is the long tube connecting your baby to you during pregnancy. It contains three blood vessels:

  • One carries food and oxygen from the placenta to baby
  • Two carry waste from baby back to the placenta.

A healthy umbilical cord is filled with a special substance called Wharton’s jelly. This soft, gelatinous goo protects the veins inside the cord against compression and prevents them from kinking. 

As your baby grows, so does the umbilical cord. According to research on the topic, cords can be anything from 19 to 133 centimetres at birth. 

With all that cord, it’s no wonder babies end up getting tangled up in them sometimes! While there’s plenty of space and fluid for the baby to move around in, the cord tends to slip off easily. Babies even play with their umbilical cords and get their hands and feet wrapped up. 

As they get bigger and there’s less room, the cord doesn’t move as easily. So it’s not uncommon for it to be wrapped around their body or neck. When a baby is born with the cord around their neck, this is called a nuchal cord. 

Nuchal cords happen in up to 30% or 1 in 3 births, so they’re not uncommon. The cord is rarely wrapped more than once around the neck. 

What causes nuchal cord?

Mums who have been pregnant before or are in their third trimester will know just how much babies move around! Baby movement is a good sign of their wellbeing and pregnant women are encouraged to get to know their baby’s movement patterns.

So it won’t surprise you to know baby movement is one of the main causes of why they can be born with a nuchal cord. 

But there are some other causes of nuchal cords, such as:

  • Insufficient Wharton’s jelly 
  • Being pregnant with twins or more babies
  • The cord is very long
  • You have excessive amniotic fluid, known as polyhydramnios.

How is nuchal cord diagnosed?

You might be surprised to know many nuchal cords aren’t diagnosed before birth. A nuchal cord can be picked up on ultrasound during one of your regular scans. But it’s important to remember the cord can untangle, especially if you’re still in early pregnancy. 

If a nuchal cord is diagnosed before birth, this will be noted in case your health care providers want to monitor baby during labour. 

What are the risks?

Complications happening with nuchal cords are extremely rare. Research into this area actually shows 

The main concern with nuchal cords is compression during labour. However, it’s important to remember that compression of the umbilical cord happens naturally during contractions. 

Babies usually cope incredibly well with this temporary lack of oxygen but any signs of distress will show up in their heart rate during monitoring. Your midwife will check your baby’s heart rate during labour to watch for this and make sure it’s not impacting on your baby’s well being. 

It’s a normal part of labour for a baby’s heart rate to drop during contractions, then recover. Research has shown this is often due to baby’s head or cord being compressed during a contraction or when mothers are pushing.

Studies also show a cord around the neck is unlikely to be the main reason for adverse outcomes. It’s likely those events happen in babies born with other complications as well. 

Is normal birth possible with nuchal cord?

It’s absolutely possible to have a normal labour and birth with a nuchal cord. Your care providers may suggest more frequent monitoring to ensure your baby is coping fine. To avoid increasing the chances of fetal distress, you can ask to have monitoring while you’re upright, such as sitting on a birth ball or standing. 

C-sections as a ‘just in case’ measure aren’t recommended by leading maternity care experts such as the UK’s College Of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Instead, care providers should support women to give birth with as few interventions as possible, to reduce any small risk of complications with nuchal cords. 

How do I prevent complications?

Unless you have had a late ultrasound just before giving birth, there’s no way to know if your baby has a nuchal cord. Which is why it’s so important for pregnant women to be informed about how to achieve a positive birth experience with as few interventions as possible.

Interventions are often suggested to women without them understanding the ripple effect of those procedures. From breaking the bag of waters to the more invasive induction of labour, these interventions have the increased risk of causing a complication that was very unlikely to happen without it.

Even though nuchal cords rarely cause any complications, no woman wishes to put her baby in danger if there was something she could do to avoid it. 

Supporting women to have a normal, active birth is the first and most important step we can take to reduce complications and interventions that might lead to further issues.

This starts with women being informed and aware of what normal birth is. From there, offering pregnancy and birth care that supports women in achieving a normal birth, without rushing the process that must unfold for birth without complications. 

Finally, respecting a woman’s right to choose what is right for her and her baby. Care providers work in a system that encourages intervention as action. Instead, women should be informed about the way an intervention can create more problems. 

Can a nuchal cord be prevented? 

Nuchal cords are very much a normal occurrence of birth. There is an extremely small risk of anything going wrong but nuchal cords can’t be prevented. Being told your baby has a nuchal cord can cause a lot of anxiety and stress, but it isn’t anything you have or haven’t done. 

The best thing you can do to avoid complications is to work towards having a normal birth. You’re aiming for an active, upright labour, with the type of support and environment that promotes oxytocin. Caring, supportive birth team who will actively help you to achieve your birth wishes. 

Things to think about:

  • Avoid induction: this increases the strength of contractions which can increase the risk of fetal distress
  • Avoid having an epidural: these are common with inductions and tend to mean you are confined to the bed, lying down
  • Don’t have your membranes ruptured as this can increase cord compression which is more of a risk than nuchal cord
  • Monitoring should be done only as necessary and avoid being trapped lying down on a bed for long periods. 

Is nuchal cord an emergency?

Remember, your baby is getting oxygen through the cord and placenta while in labour and even in the first minutes after birth – which is why delayed cord clamping is SO important. You can read more about that in Delayed Cord Clamping And The Umbilical Cord

If your healthcare provider is not seeing signs of distress, then a nuchal cord is not an emergency. 

Nurtured Birth can support you to become informed about your birth choices and choose the right care provider for you. Please contact us to discuss how we can nurture you through this incredible journey.