You can spend hours preparing to give birth. From attending birth classes, breathing techniques, and physically packing your hospital bag, there is so much to do! But, how do you keep yourself busy, once contractions start? Whether you need ideas to keep you distracted or something to help ease the intensity, here are some of the best things to do during labor!
I broke this list up into two sections; One for the Early Phase and another for Active/Transition. This is because what you will be able to do and what will be comforting during these phases will be drastically different.
I remember when I was in labor, there were things during the early phase that were super helpful, but when my husband suggested them during the active phase I wanted nothing to do with them! It’s funny how fast our minds change. I can remember getting agitated pretty quickly during transition, which isn’t like me!
Things to do During the Early Phase of Labor
Before I share with you some helpful things to do during early labor, I want to give you an idea of what to expect. For many women, this phase is pretty long and boring. I’ve had friends where this lasted for a day or more!
For me, things happened fairly quickly. My water broke at midnight and by 11:30 am I was in transition. Surprisingly, during this time, I felt normal for the most part. In the beginning, I was able to rest and relax. My contractions were mostly in my back (I had an anterior placenta), so laying down became uncomfortable pretty fast!
Here are some of the BEST things to do during the early phase of labo
Whether your water breaks or contractions start to pick up, you will probably feel excited to meet your little one! It’s completely natural to feel that anticipation build, but if you aren’t well-rested it can take a toll on your body.
Even if it’s not for long, take a nap to gear up for when contractions become more intense. Your body will thank you later! You may want to encourage your spouse to catch some shut-eye as well, so they can be ready to help you throughout labor.
2. Prep Your Hospital Bag
If your water hasn’t broken and you don’t have to go to the hospital yet, take time to pack your bag. When I went into labor, it was a mad dash to get to the hospital because I was four weeks early!
It’s nice to go through your checklist and ensure that you’ve packed everything. Take your time to enjoy it!
3. Watch a Movie/Show
At this point, it’s not necessary to focus during contractions. If you have a favorite show or a movie that you’ve been wanting to watch, get comfy on the couch, and distract yourself.
Even when contractions do get more intense, it was nice to watch something in between! My husband and I watched “Friday Night Lights” while I was laboring in the hospital. We set the laptop up while I bounced on the birth ball!
4. Play a Game
I wish we packed a couple of games! While I was in early labor, I wasn’t comfortable enough to sleep, but I would have enjoyed playing a card game. I did do a few sudokus while my husband was resting. It was nice to have something to distract me, while contractions came and went.
5. Pick out your Announcement Card
Since my water broke four weeks early, I didn’t have these last-minute details prepared! But, I’m really glad I didn’t. I had a lot of fun looking through different announcement cards on Minted.
We ended up picking out this adorable pink buffalo plaid baby announcement. All of our friends and family loved it because they could detach one of the images and frame it!
6. Text Your Friends + Family
This one might seem obvious, but this took us a while to get through everyone! It was exciting talking to my friends about everything that had happened up until that point. It made me so much more excited.
A few of our family members didn’t answer and called us back during transition. My husband, bless his heart, tried to fill them in while talking me through contractions. Tip of advice, just don’t answer 😉
This is what got me through labor. My husband says I walked for at least 10 hours! I really believe this is why everything progressed as quickly as it did.
If you are still home, go for a walk around your neighborhood or pace in your living room. Just don’t stop moving! This not only helps things to progress, but it will keep your mind occupied too!
8. Practice Relaxing Through Contractions
If you are planning on having an unmedicated birth, it’s extremely important to practice relaxing through your contractions. This is where meditation, hypnobirthing, breathing, and visualization techniques come into play.
Practicing while you can concentrate and your contractions aren’t too intense, will help you to relax during transition. I found that by doing this, I felt more in control when things started to get more intense.
9. Eat a Popsicle
This might sound silly, but it tasted AMAZING!! After being checked by my midwife, she offered me a popsicle. It gave me a little extra energy and kept me feeling awake when I started to feel a little tired.
This is something I regret not doing. I wish I had some of the thoughts from that moment, to keep as a memory.
In early labor, you are still feeling pretty normal. This is a great time to keep a record of all the events that happened up until this point. It will be something beautiful that your baby can look back on!
During this time, I found myself praying for my birth and the safety of my baby girl. This time was great for connecting with God. You can recite Bible Verse or simply pray to God.
Things to do During Active Labor + Transition
You will know that you’ve hit active labor when your contractions are consistent. These surges will feel powerful and you probably won’t be able to talk through them. During this phase, you will need to focus – especially if you choose not to have an epidural.
If I’m being honest, this phase is still a blur. I remember feeling the intensity of labor, mostly in my back. I was so focused on breathing that I don’t have a strong memory of what this stage felt like. But, here are some things to do during labor that helped me to get through it!
1. Play Music
I would suggest waiting until the end of early labor to turn on your birth playlist! You will want to be sure that you have a good size playlist too. Spend time before birth adding songs that will make you feel calm and relaxed.
I made the mistake of not having enough songs and starting too early. By the time I was in active labor, I was feeling irritated by the same music repeating over and over.
2. Walk Some More
As you get closer to transition, walking won’t be as easy. But, up until this point just keep moving. Once you stop, you will notice a huge difference in the sensations of your contractions. I feel like walking helped to keep my labor progressing as well.
3. Birth Ball
While I was pregnant, I loved my birth ball exercises and routine. I really think this helped me to feel more open during labor.
During the active phase, I found myself bouncing and swaying on the birth ball. This movement helped to distract me and it felt like contractions were progressing too!!
Here are some ways you can use a birth ball during labor:
4. Meditations + Hypnobirthing
I highly recommend you trying meditations while you are pregnant, to prepare for labor. Once you are in the active phase, these meditations can help you to focus on each contraction and breathe through them.
Meditations are a great way to help you relax your mind and body. Adding affirmations to this will keep you motivated to push through each surge. This was one of my favorite affirmation mediations:
This may sound simple, but breathing through every contraction helps to ease the pain. When I would get to the peak of a contraction, my husband would remind me to breathe, sometimes even counting four breaths in and four breaths out. While I was focusing, he would also remind me to relax in different areas of my body that would tense up.
6. Take a Shower
This will feel AMAZING. I had a ton of people recommend this and I’m so glad they did. When I was about 5cm, I hopped in there was a definite relief. I stood in the shower for the most part, but when I started getting tired I used a chair to sit on while my husband ran the water on my back.
If you are planning for labor, make sure you pack a bathing suit top or bra that can get wet!
7. Counter Pressure
If you have back labor, counter pressure will be your friend! This is something I would have my husband learn more about and practice together before birth.
Looking back, we had NO IDEA what we were doing. I just had him push on my back and hips. But, even this helped a lot!
Here is an awesome video about counter-pressure:
8. Light Soft Massage
When I read this for the first time in Hollie de Cruz’s book “Your Baby, Your Birth,” I laughed and thought there was no way this would work. But, I was amazed at what a difference it made. I swear this distracted me from the pain.
While I was pregnant, my husband would practice soft touch massage. I would highly recommend having your spouse learn how to do this. It was a total game changer!
In between contractions, it was easy to start doubting whether or not I could do this. Every time I would tell my husband “give me the epidural,” he would talk me through meeting our baby girl.
I would envision holding her and cuddling her little body. I would go through the sequence of events leading up to bringing her home. It made me super excited and helped me to stay motivated.
10. This too Shall Pass
Our minds are so powerful. I believe we can convince ourselves of anything. The thought of “this won’t last forever,” helped me to frame birth in a positive light. It felt like there was an end in sight, even if I didn’t know when that was!
I almost put this under visualization, but I thought that it was more important than that. The imagery of waves instead of painful contractions helped me to breathe through them and gave me comfort that they would pass.
As I would begin to feel tightening, I would imagine the wave gaining traction. When the contraction was the most intense, I would picture the wave peaking. There was a lot of relief that came from knowing that I was on the way down from the wave.
Looking back on my birth, I believe that each of these things helped me to have a positive birth experience. If you want to hear my unmedicated birth story, make sure you check it out here!
If you are giving birth soon, print these out so your hubby can help remind you! You’ve got this mama…. You are going to rock this birth! I hope that these things to do during labor help encourage you and help you to enjoy it.