Many women question whether it’s safe to engage in sexual intercourse during pregnancy. Many soon to be mothers and fathers are worried that they might hurt the baby or cause some sort of damage. Of course if you are experiencing a high risk pregnancy, you are at risk of pre term labour or your waters have broken, it’s best not to have sex. But if you don’t have any concerns about your pregnancy, here are some great reasons to have sex:
- Many women find that they have a higher sexual libido during pregnancy meaning more enjoyment in the bedroom.
- Baby is cushioned safely inside several layers – including the amniotic sac, uterus and mucous plug – meaning it’s not in danger of getting any kind of harm from penetrative sex.
- Orgasms cause the uterus to contract which in turn strengthens the uterus. The stronger the uterus is, the more chance that it will work fast and hard because of all the practice, giving you a shorter time in labour.
- When baby is nearly ready to arrive, both sperm and orgasms can help induce labour. But don’t worry – unless you are almost on the verge of labour this won’t work.
So go enjoy some more fun in the bedroom while you can – after the birth chances are there’ll be stitches, pain and long sleepless nights.
A very common question is exactly how to know when you’re going into labour. Below are some of the more common signs:
- Losing the mucus plug – this is what keeps baby safe during pregnancy. It may come away in one piece, chunks or as a yellow discharge.
- Having a bloody show – similar to a light period or spotting.
- Nesting - many women experience a burst of energy and feel the need to clean the house top to bottom.
- Diarrhea - a common sign that the body is cleaning you out in preparation for labour.
- Dropping - some women feel the baby drop into the birth canal or feel extreme pressure on their pelvis.
- Back pain – it’s common to have back pain, especially towards the end. This can either be the beginning of contractions or due to baby being posterior (facing mother’s stomach instead of spine to spine).
Now for the bad news.
- Some women don’t experience a single sign that they are about to go into labour. When I went into labour, two contractions just two minutes apart were the first sign my baby was on the way out. In fact, up till then, I’d felt as if labour was less likely, every day I went overdue!
- Many of these ‘signs’ can happen for weeks or days before labour actually begins. I personally had extreme back pain for three weeks on and off before labour, while one girl I know had a show for two weeks without any sign of labour.
Once labour has begun, it can slow down or even stop. Many things can disrupt labour so here is a list of tips to help establish labour and speed it along.
Being upright - when upright the babys head will put more pressure on the cervix to encourage dialation.
Movement - moving your hips around will encourage the baby into the perfect position in the pelvis. Try standing and slow dancing with your partner, gently swaying hips. Try bouncing on an excercise ball and moving hips around in circles on the ball.
Visualisation - with each contraction imagine your cervix opening and your baby descending.
Relaxation - this one is very important. If you are uptight and frightened and fight the contractions your body will too and you wont dialate properly. It is also possible though unusual for a mothers cervix to start to close up again when she is too scared and frightened and not relaxed enough. Ina May Gaskin spoke of this occurance and I think I may have experienced it myself. When I was labouring with my daughter the labour moved along very very fast so that the sudden speed and intensity had me frightened and scared. A nurse said I was 9cm and called an ob who checked me 10 mins later and said I was only 7cm. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of embracing each contraction and relaxing through them. Relaxing through pain may sound difficult, I recommend deep breathing with an open and relaxed mouth, this really helps.
Hydration - so important to keep your fluids up in order to keep up your bodys energy levels! Have someone on water duty to give you a sip between each contraction. Powerade or similar is a good idea.
Choose your support people - you must be completely comfortable with those you choose to support you during labour. This includes hospital staff as well. If a member of staff is bothering you then ask if someone else is available. A woman needs to be in a completely comfortable and relaxed environment with only good and encouraging support.
Note to support people - offer alot of encouragement to the labouring mother until she tells you to shut up. Wait until after each contraction to tell her how brilliantly she managed it. Massages are a brilliant idea to help her relax, especially in the lower back area. Burning some clary sage oil (to encourage good contractions) and lavender (to help mum relax) is also good along with some nice and calming music.
Are you wondering about the best way to deal with visitors? Or do you have someone close to you expecting a baby and want to know the best time to visit? Below is a basic guide.
- Don’t visit at the hospital unless you are a close friend or relative it may not be appreciated. It’s hard enough for a new mother to deal with a baby that’s often awake at night as well as keeping to a hospital schedule during the day. If you want to let them know you’re thinking about them, send a text or phone them.
- Don’t give flowers as a gift unless you think they’ll be really appreciated. Out of all the things a new mother needs, flowers is not high on the list. Often a new mum can get 5 or 6 bunches and in hospitals it’s hard to get a single vase sometimes. At home they can often end up in the way. If you want to bring something pretty make it functional.
- Phone ahead. In the first few weeks the schedule can be varied so it’s wise to phone ahead. The new mother might prefer visitors only at certain times of day or when her partner is home to help with the baby.
- Don’t stay too long. Half an hour per visit is enough in the first few weeks. The new mother will have a lot to do, ranging from feeding and changing baby to keeping her baby’s washing under control or even just trying to fit in a nap.
- Do offer to help. If you do plan to stay very long, offer to help. This can range from something simple like doing a few dishes even to looking after the baby for half an hour so mum can either nap or catch up on something she needs to do. As a new mother I can still remember thinking to myself all the things I could be doing instead of sitting and talking for an hour to another visitor.
- Don’t just gift newborn baby items. Babies grow very fast and especially if a baby is an average or large size, will grow out of a lot of newborn items in 4-8 weeks. If you plan to gift clothes go for items in a couple of different sizes (size 00 dress, size 000 jumpsuit). Clothes are nearly always appreciated but with toys and other items it might be wise to check that you aren’t doubling up on something the baby already has.
Going to be a dad soon? Congratulations! Below is a guide to helping make the transition into your new family as easy as possible!
- Read your partner’s birth plan and talk about anything you don’t understand. Understand that you may be her main communication with the medical staff – in the middle of labour it’s hard to think about anything but the pain. If you know the basics such as what dilation and an epidural is, you’ll be more of an asset during the labour.
- Source everything she needs ranging from cold packs to drugs. In early labour particularly, you may be left alone. If something happens you also need to know what’s going on and help her in any way needed.
- Don’t be offended by the way you get treated by your partner! Few women go through labour without a few choice swear words or at least snapping at anyone who doesn’t instantly recognize when they want or need something, especially when it’s to relieve their pain.
- Be prepared to help with everything baby related. Changing nappies, feeding and burping doesn’t come naturally to all women like in the movies! Be prepared to help position baby if your partner is breastfeeding (by moving the baby or getting more pillows.)
- Give your partner attention too. No matter what kind of birth she has, she’ll be in at least some pain and also probably be dealing with plenty of hormones. For the first few days or even weeks, it will be common for her to break into tears over something simple. Give her lots of hugs!
- Support your partner. It can be hard for a first time mum to stick up for her rights. If a midwife or doctor says something that your partner isn’t happy with or doesn’t agree with, support her. Sometimes the medical professionals are right but sometimes a mother just knows if there is or isn’t a problem with her baby. If needed ask for a moment alone to discuss any big decisions so you can present a united front on anything from feeding (breast or bottle) to tests and needles.
- Try to take at least a minimum of a week off work. Your partner will need the support as she and baby form a relationship and begin to start a schedule. Remember – your baby probably won’t have a permanent unchanging schedule till about 2-4 months or even older.
- Don’t complain about anything that doesn’t get done. Your partner will probably be hormonal, sleep deprived, often food deprived (babies have a great way of asking for a feed as soon as a parent sits down to eat) and may even have postnatal depression or blues.
- Try to help around the house. That can be anything from doing the dishes to grabbing some takeaway.
- Vet visitors. Try and arrange a schedule for visitors and be prepared to step in if your partner or baby need a rest. If your partner plans to breastfeed with visitors, you can help adjust a cover on her and position baby. For more information see my visitor guide.
Returning to work soon? Or just want to be prepared for any eventuality? Below is a basic guide to getting prepared.
Before returning to work:
- Start expressing about 4 weeks before you return to work. This way you can build up a store of frozen milk.
- Express once in the morning when building up a store. This is when you’ll have the most milk. Offer your baby one breast and express the other breast at the same time or just after. This way by the time baby is hungry again both breasts should be enough to provide a full feed.
- Pumping at the same time you feed your baby actually brings down milk faster – the baby suckling on one breast brings down milk in both.
- If the milk isn’t coming down or isn’t fast enough, try using hot packs.
- Leave your child with a carer for a day or two and let your breasts fill up. This way you can discover how long the maximum is between expressing as well as how much you get during the day.
Further posts on expressing at work and storage, transport and use of expressed milk coming soon.
Many women expect that if they’ve been trying for a baby for awhile, they will instantly feel a connection to this intimate part of their body. However, this isn’t always true. Yes, the bonding process begins at conception, but like any relationship, it takes time. Here’s some things to remember:
- Imagine meeting a long lost mother – you will have a connection, but of course you won’t instantly be able to share your deepest secrets. The same is true with a new baby. Like all relationships, time is key.
- Especially in a first pregnancy, it is hard to connect the feeling of little kicks in your stomach with a real live human. Yes, your brain knows there’s a baby there. But sometimes it just doesn’t seem real!
- If you don’t have an instant connection with your baby, don’t be alarmed. It will come. When I first met my baby girl I felt the same as I would towards any small, helpless child. Protective. But I did not feel as if there was any special connection. However, the more time I spent with her (especially after we were back in our own house, on our own schedule) the closer we became.
- Don’t be alarmed if a complete stranger seems better at calming your child than you are, in the first days after birth. Newborns respond to warmth and comfort, without really caring about the source. They also feel stress, which you will probably be experiencing a lot of with no sleep and a new baby! Babies also smell their mother’s milk which can upset them even if they’re not really hungry.
Heres a list of tips I have compiled that I found to be helpful in making the birth easier:
Baby’s position (highly important from about 36weeks)
- You want the baby to be LOA, basically head down with the babys spine in the front of your belly
- If baby is lop/rop (babys spine to mothers spine) you need to help baby turn before labour begins.
- There are yoga moves that can help, crawling on all fours, sitting with a straight posture, never slouching, prop up the seat in the car so it tips your pelvis forward.
- See www.spinningbabies.com
- Baby being posterior means you’re likely to go past your due date, you’re likely to get back pain, the labour will be longer and the baby will be harder to birth if they don’t turn during labour.
Raspberry Leaf Tea
- Start drinking a cup a day through the third trimester. Increase amount toward due date.
- Raspberry Leaf Tea strengthens the uterus so when you go into labour your contractions will be more effective.
- You can get it from the health food shop, if you don’t like the taste its available in tablet form.
Evening Primrose Oil
- Very good to help the cervix begin softening and dilating.
- Won’t put you into labour, not unless you’re about to go anyway.
- I would recommend it because if you get to the stage where you need to be induced you are more likely to get away with a more natural induction method of just having waters broken.
- May make labour faster and easier.
- Usage: Starting at 34 weeks, evening primrose oil can be taken orally. It is generally recommended to take two 500mg capsules a day until 38 weeks. At that time usage can be increased to 3-4 capsules per day. An entire capsule can also be inserted vaginally. It is best to do this before bed, so the capsule can dissolve while you sleep. You can also use the oil during perineal massage, and massage it on the cervix as well. Applying the oil directly to the cervix will produce the best results, but the ingredients in evening primrose oil can also be absorbed through the external skin or stomach. Make sure you wear a panty liner to bed!
- To help prevent tearing, the perineum should be massaged and stretched out by pulling the thumbs down and out. There are also muscles inside the vaginal wall that should be massaged and kept soft to encourage an easy pushing stage. There are many good instructions on the internet for perineal massage.
- Also to prevent tearing, really up to the midwife, they should be supporting the perineum during crowning, tell you to stop pushing if the baby is coming out too fast, basically the slower the better.
- If you can manage naturally and avoid the drugs it will be better for you and the baby. The baby will also be more alert.
- Gas and air - very good, doesn’t affect the baby, helps you to relax and concentrate on breathing. Try to hold off as long as possible and save it for the worst part of labour. Some people experience nausea and dizziness from it.
- Pethidine - not so good. May make you feel sick, drugged and out of it and may not actually help with the pain.
- Epidurals – If you ask for an epidural you will need a catheter and a drip. You will be stuck to the bed. Being unable to move or feel things will make it hard to push baby out which means you may need vacuum extraction, forceps or even c/section. Also there are risks associated with the procedure as with any intervention.
- I still think pain relief has its place, if things aren’t going well then get an epidural for sure, but if you can avoid it then that is certainly better.
Natural forms of pain relief
- Read heaps of birth stories online to find out how different women cope with the pain.
- There is a thing called a tens machine, certainly give it a go, some women find it wonderful for early labour.
- Shower and bath are great! They help with relaxation which is very important during labour. Also baths and birthing pools help to support your weight giving more freedom to move. Birthing pools have been called the natural epidural.
- Moving around, walking, bouncing on a fit ball, rocking hips, that sort of thing will help to speed up labour. Good to do during early stages.
- When you first think you might be in labour, sleep and rest as much as you can, gather strength up.
- Once you can no longer sleep, then keep moving. Keep hydrated, sip on powerade or ice cubes. Dehydration means increased pain & decreased ability to cope. (Check with your hospital however, some have rules on eating/drinking during labour.)
- If you go into labour with a posterior baby, stay leaning forward at all times, do not lie down on your back. Keep leaning forward or on all fours until baby rotates.
- Once things get a bit more serious you need to change tactics to relaxing between contractions. If you are stiff and resisting it will be harder for your body to open up. You need to have found something that really works for you for during the serious contractions.
- When the pain in getting really serious, go with the flow, do whatever works, just go with what your body tells you. For instance for me that was sitting in the bath slumped forward with my eyes closed really relaxing between contractions and when they hit I sat bolt up right, broke my hubby’s fingers, inhale breath with gas and air and exhale breath with a birthing wail sound. It distracted me from the pain, and it worked! This was how I managed through transition.
- You will begin to feel some pressure at the front of your pelvic bone, when you feel that you know baby is going down, its almost time.
- When it gets to the stage where you think I can’t bear this anymore, it hurts too much, that’s when you know you are near the end, it’s almost time to push.
- It will feel a bit like you need to do no.2’s, tell the midwife!
- Research different positions that you can birth the baby in. Lying on your back is bad, closes up the pelvis and makes it difficult, like pushing uphill. If you are totally upright baby will come out a lot faster but if nobody supports the head you will probably tear impressively. Many women like birthing on all fours. I birthed Koen in a sitting slightly reclined position and there was a mirror at the end of the bed so I could see, which was an amazing experience.
- Remember, when they say time to push, whenever a contraction comes, PUSH, it eases the pain.
- After bub is born, you get a flood of natural endorphins, pain is all gone and you feel on top of the world! Best feeling ever and very worth it.