In a medical setting, keeping labor to a 12 hour time frame is fairly typical to move patients in and out and avoid long-drawn out labors. Many times providers and facilities are using a very outdated (misled) method of assessing labor and have coupled that with techniques of increasing facility income by number of patients in and out of the facility. While long painful unhappy labor isn't ideal for mom's and baby's oxytocin levels and neurological function, a long labor doesn't necessarily mean mom and baby aren't doing well. We have to take it situation by situation and ultimately ask mom if she prefers to speed up labor. Augmenting labor (speeding labor up) is prevalent in many births, even without an initial labor induction.
Labor augmentation isn't ideal. If mom's hormones aren't at an ideal level, and baby is fitting well in the pelvis, speeding things up typically just increases pain and distress (and cesarean). Allowing your body to naturally progress through labor provides your body and baby's body with the hormones and the time to allow the pelvis to move and baby's skull to mould and fit together like a key in a lock. Speeding up the process with medications, herbal remedies or a breast pump may be effective, but not always safe or necessary.
When to Speed up Labor
Much of the means of speeding up labor naturally have nothing to do with speeding up the labor process, but making the labor process more effective through supporting the biology of the birth. So, yes, labor would, as a result, not take so long - but it is not due to forcing the baby through the pelvis, but enabling the baby to fit through the pelvis and comforting mom. Of course, there are often times where a provider suggests you get things moving a little faster and these techniques provide very valuable.
- Of course, the first approach is to hire a provider that understands biological birth.
- Ask why someone would want to speed up labor.
- Time limits from the provider
- Time limits from the birth facility
- Time limits because you're exhausted
- Recommendations for getting the baby out sooner than later due to medical reasons. This would be the only case where augmenting labor may be useful, though I would have to ask myself, "Is augmentation actually the safest course of action, or would cesarean be more appropriate to reduce the overall short and long-term risks?" Because, in fact, if there is a medical complication, augmenting labor may very likely increase these risks.
- Decide if speeding up labor is the answer, or following your instincts with possible physical and emotional guidance from a doula would allow labor to progress more smoothly.
Techniques to Speed up Labor Naturally
When and how to speed up labor might be something you're thinking of during pregnancy, or during a long labor. Here are techniques to prevent long labors and to speed up labor when time limits seem to be approaching faster than you'd like.
The following methods to speed up labor should be used with these thoughts in mind:
- These methods to speed up labor can be used in conjunction with one another, or on their own - though nipple stimulation is the most intense of the techniques
- These methods to speed up labor can be used to prevent a long labor
- These methods to speed up labor can be used to avoid medical (or herbal) labor augmentation
- These methods to speed up labor can be used in conjunction with any medicated birth or medical (or herbal) labor augmentation
- These methods to speed up labor can be cycled through, revisited at a later time and are often common doula techniques to create a happy healthy birth
Quiet, Calm, Dark to Speed up Labor
Oxytocin, the prime labor hormone, works best in a quiet, calm, and dark space. Oytocin works synergistically with melatonin and dopamine and as such is heightened in dark settings. Continue this environment prior to and during labor (to include the first few hours after the birth). This practice not only creates a calmer environment, but also reduces adrenaline for a safer (normal risk of postpartum hemorrhage) experience.
Clear the Room & Hands Off Mom to Speed up Labor
This is similar to quiet, calm and dark - with an enhanced attribute. The more people and stuff going on in the space, the more mom's logical brain turns on and the less her instinctive brain (the part needed to progress through birth) works. No talking - definitely no asking her questions. No watching TV or carrying on conversations in this space. No touching (unless this is obviously desired by mom). Clear the room down to mom's main support person (as long as that support person is calm and providing positive energy to the mom). The more vaginal exams, monitoring and general fiddling with the mom, the more intense labor sensations will be felt and the longer labor will be (and the more likely recommendations to speed up labor will occur). Historically (I'm talking pre-city culture), women labored on average about 2-4 hours. Labor was thought of quite differently in those times.
If you can't move, your pelvis won't move, and baby won't move. Labor is a blend of feeling safe (building oxytocin) and being aligned (whole body alignment and soft tissue mobility) for baby's movement through the pelvis. Speed up labor by getting baby into a good position prior to labor through prenatal aligned movement is ideal. Continuing this through labor and birth, by mom following her instincts is also ideal. Walk, stretch, belly dance, get some bodywork. If labor feels intense or long, having a knowledgeable doula to provide you with positioning and movement guidance can be quite helpful. This could be side lying releases, massage, hip squeezes, rest, rebozo work and various other forms of movement (and relaxation) suggestions.
Emotional Release to Speed up Labor
It is quite common to have emotional tension holding a mom back from smooth labor progression. Whether this is causing prodromal labor or a long labor, getting your emotions out is ideal. Use the feel, yell and tell method to speed up labor.
- Feel your emotions - your anger, your frustration, your annoyance, your hurt, your fear.
- Yell - Do you know what it feels like to be alone in the woods - or any solitary place - and just yell? If you don't, you should try it. It is quite liberating. It works in similar ways to how crying releases hormones causing sadness and anger. Sometimes all we can do is just let those hormones flow. Giving a deep empowering Tarzan and Jane like roar can really help you move through adrenaline and let oxytocin rise.
- Tell someone what you're thinking or feeling. If you're thinking of something, you are preventing your instinctual brain to take over. Get it out. Tell someone what you're thinking and/or tell the person you're thinking about what you're thinking. If you're annoyed at the way someone is treating you, speak up. If you need to vent about your fear, let someone know. If you're worried you left the stove on, call someone and have them go check. If you'd rather birth in the hospital after planning a home birth, tell your midwife or birth team it is time to transfer. If you just don't understand why you're experiencing labor this way, tell your doula that you're pissed off and tired and just annoyed that you're still in labor.
Sometimes, letting these emotions out is all your mind needs to no longer hold the weight of these feelings and speed up labor.
Kissing, Intimate Touching to Speed up Labor
What gets the baby in, gets the baby out. Birth is intimate. This might make you feel uncomfortable; however, that doesn't make it any less true. Oxytocin peaks during orgasm, and after childbirth. You're meant to enjoy labor with those you love, and those that will love the baby. Kiss and be intimate with your significant other. Eye gazing, skin to skin touching, and open mouth kissing allow oxytocin to rise enabling contractions to be more effective.
Nipple Stimulation to Speed up Labor
While similar to being intimate, nipple stimulation can be slightly different. Ideally this would be involved in your intimate connection. Nipple stimulation (as will happen during breastfeeding) releases oxytocin, the hormone that causes contractions in the uterus (and contractions in the alveoli of the breast to express breastmilk). Using nipple stimulation aggressively, whether through the hands, orally, or with a breast pump, will stimulate contractions. It is very important to note that stimulating contractions in this way is often used first, unfortunately, when there is an alignment issue and baby ends up just being jammed into the pelvis instead of helped through the pelvis through movement and the other emotion-supporting techniques.
Looking for guidance to prevent or remedy a long labor? Get in touch!