Skip to Content

How to Rock a Long and Difficult Birth

One of the more common reasons birthing mothers need medical intervention is because of a long and difficult birth.

Looking for a Way Out of a Difficult Birth

Especially first time moms; she becomes exhausted, her cervix is not dilating and she’s looking for a solution.

An Epidural

At this point, her solution is an epidural, which can be helpful… but probably not what she originally wanted.

This article is written to the woman planning a natural childbirth, to help her decrease the chances of needing medical interventions even when labor LONG and DIFFICULT.

1. Good Prenatal Nutrition

Good prenatal nutrition is the foundation of a good birth. By eating well, women are more likely to continue to stay low risk, gain less weight, and have greater endurance for a long, difficult birth.

Did you know that women who eat milk based probiotics during their pregnancies have a reduced risk of developing preeclampsia?

preeclampsia in pregnancy

I think nutrition is easy to gloss over when pregnant, but it’s a big fat deal. Hopefully, you have a midwife or other care provider who believes the same about good eating and will counsel you throughout your pregnancy.

Eat as if you, your baby and birth experience depend on it!

2. Develop the Appropriate Mindset

Expect your birth to be long and hard. Expect it to be exhausting and painful. Expect that you will rock it, persevere and birth your baby naturally.

Take a Birthing From Within childbirth class and build a pain coping mindset. Learn what coping mechanisms you fall on now, and develop new ones that will work for you during birth.

Here’s a great article on building a pain coping mindset for labor. Here is another and one more here.

16 tips for the woman planning a natural childbirth, to help her decrease the chances of needing medical interventions even when she's having a long and difficult birth.

3. Read Birth Stories

Find birth stories on the internet that were long and difficult. You might have a friend find them for you so she can weed out the ones that might not be as helpful.

You’ll definitely find some long, difficult birth stories in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. (You can find other good books to read at here.)

While you’re reading these stories notice how these women cope through their experience. Make a list of things that they do that you can recreate in your own home.

4. Work Through Birth Fears

Take a Birthing From Within childbirth class and learn how to work through your birth tigers (fears). Tigers only grow if not dealt with and the anxiety and worry can manifest at your birth. Tame those tigers, ladies!


5. Prenatal Exercise

Exercise will strengthen muscles that you will call upon in labor. If you have atrophied in pregnancy, how can you expect your muscles to come through for you at birth?

Whatever exercise you decide to do (yoga, swimming, walking, cardio, etc.) do it with the same mindset that you’ll need at birth. When you’re holding a squat during yoga, hold that pose even when it starts to get difficult and burn. When you’re swimming and you find your muscles beginning to burn, push through that sensation and keep going. When you do that you’ll build good birthing muscles!

Here’s a great yoga DVD you can do in the comfort of your own home.


6. Choose an Amazing Birth Team

If you don’t trust your midwife prenatally, how will you trust her when she says, “You can do it!” in a long labor? Work through issues that come up prenatally, and don’t sweep them under the carpet.

Check out my post about how to fire your OBGYN.

Also, construct a birth team that won’t leave you. Make sure your doula has a backup if for whatever reason she needs to leave. Make sure your midwife will stay with you through the end. Have your mother/sister on call in case your partner/husband needs a break. Set yourself up so that you have constant support throughout your birth no matter how long it takes

7. Find a Spinning Babies Savvy Doula or Midwife

Sometimes a labor is longer and more difficult because the baby is not in an ideal position. Often, the hold up is waiting for the baby to “assume the position” and then things will go quickly. Having someone at your birth that can identify the signs and symptoms of a baby not in the optimal position is priceless. She can potentially help turn your long and difficult labor into the birth of a baby.

Better yet, use this belly mapping workbook before labor to determine baby’s position.

If baby is not in the optimal position, use your doula and the Daily Essentials video by Spinning Babies to turn that baby. This video gives you practical ways to optimize your babies position for less discomfort in pregnancy and less pain during delivery.


8. Ignore Early Labor

When labor or early labor begins, ignore it. Pretend like your body is just playing a trick on you and it’s not really real. Go on with your normal daily activities as long as possible. Do not time contractions as that will start the time clock in your own mind thus encouraging you to start keeping track of how many hours you’ve been “in labor”.

9. Sleep!

If you wake up in the middle of the night in labor, go back to sleep. If you start contracting, take a nap. If your contractions start spacing out, sleep in between them. Get as much sleep as you can! If you have to pick between being active or sleeping, I would lean more towards getting rest.

10. Stay Hydrated 

Even the American Society of Anesthesiologists agree we need to keep drinking.

“Without adequate nutrition, women’s bodies will begin to use fat as an energy source, increasing acidity of the blood in the mother and infant, potentially reducing uterine contractions and leading to longer labor and lower health scores in newborns. Additionally, the studies suggest that fasting can cause emotional stress, potentially moving blood away from the uterus and placenta, lengthening labor and contributing to distress of the fetus.”

Drink water, coconut water, gatorade and other nourishing liquids like broth.

electrolyte cubes for labor and birth

11. Stay Nourished

Eat fruit and other nutritious, easy to digest foods. You can’t expect your body to run for hours with no fuel, so eat and drink as often as possible.

snack ideas for labor featured

12. Limit Vaginal Checks

A vaginal check won’t make your labor any less long. All a vaginal check will tell you is what you’ve already done but it will not tell you how much longer you have to go.

Check out this post about how your vagina isn’t a crystal ball.

For a long and difficult labor, vaginal checks can be very discouraging. You may feel that you’ve done a wild amount of work and have hardly anything to show for it. Avoid this emotional roller coaster and limit vaginal checks to when absolutely necessary. Persevere throughout your labor as if you have hours and hours to go.

vagina is not a crystal ball

Another reason to limit vaginal exams is to reduce the risk of infection to you an your baby. Read more about that here.

vagina is not a vacuum cleaner


13. Use Birth Affirmations or Verses

These words of encouragement will bolster your spirits when you feel doubt and despair. These beautifully designed encouraging words on cards can be read prenatally but also someone in your birth team can read them during labor.

birth affirmations portfolio

14. Benefits of Natural Birth

When times get tough, have your birth team remind you of why you chose to have a natural birth, and the benefits for you and baby. It’s easy to forget these things while in the throes of labor, and depending on how important these facts are for you the more strength you will draw from these reminders.

15. Reminders of Reality

When you are exhausted, in labor land and you feel lost, it’s helpful to have someone remind you of the purpose of labor. Having someone tell you that you won’t be doing this forever, there is an end, you get to meet your baby soon can be extremely encouraging.

16. Visualizations and Hypnosis

The mind is a powerful tool, and in birth you should use it to your advantage. Visualizing your baby descending and your body opening can be very effective. Visualizing something opening, like a flower, or riding the waves of the ocean can be a helpful coping mechanism during labor. This is why the program Hypnobabies is SO EFFECTIVE.

Using the home study course prenatally trains your mind to relax and cope through the most difficult of labors!

How to Rock a Long and Difficult Birth

I hope after reading this article you start to understand the mindset needed to give birth, and the even stronger mindset you need to rock a long and difficult birth.

When birth doesn’t go as we had envisioned or planned it is easy to get discouraged and give up.

Prenatal preparation to birth is HUGE. Take the time to prepare for ALL the possibilities of birth.


Tuesday 23rd of February 2016

When I was pregnant I read about a million articles like this. I did yoga 5-6 days/week throughout my pregnancy, walked 2.5 miles a day, did all the exercises recommended by my midwives and birth educators, ate a super healthy diet. I had visualizations and affirmations and an amazing birth team at my birth center. What none of the articles I read seemed to mention is that sometimes, the natural vaginal birth that you plan for and prepare for and visualize is just not possible. I went into labor at 42 weeks (after trying everything to get labor going, including having my membranes swept FOUR times and two rounds of herbal induction). Although I dilated relatively quickly (10 hours) and rocked that first stage, the second stage did not go well. I pushed for 12 hours and my baby stayed at 0 station. Nothing we did could get that baby to move, including many different attempts to manipulate, shift the baby, move me in different positions, etc. Ultimately my midwives recommended a hospital transfer, where I had a c-section. My baby girl was healthy and beautiful, and she latched on to breastfeed immediately after being placed on my chest. I was devastated by how my birth went, because I felt like I had done everything possible to have a normal vaginal birth, and I couldn't do it. It took me a long time to process my birth experience-in some ways, I am still processing. More and more, I am feeling betrayed by the natural birth community and articles like these, because there is such an emphasis on the idea that if you just do everything right, you can have a vaginal birth. It sets up a dichotomy that women who don't have a normal vaginal birth are somehow failures. And while I am perfectly aware of our out of control c-section stats in the US, and the role of unnecessary interventions in undesired birth outcomes, I feel like I am also proof that sometimes you can do everything "right" and still need a c-section. I am one of less than 7% of the patients at my birth center who needed a hospital transfer, and an even tinier percentage who needed a c-section. After spending a long time feeling guilty and questioning what I did wrong, now I feel pissed off when I read articles like this. Because I did every single thing you talk about and plenty more, but having a vaginal birth was just not possible in my situation. This vision of birth as being so normal and natural-I am on board with that vision, but let's temper it with some reality. The reality is that birth can also be very dangerous; before modern interventions, many women and babies died in childbirth. I am glad that my baby and I were able to ultimately deliver safely, and I refuse to feel guilty about it anymore.

Lindsey Morrow

Tuesday 23rd of February 2016

Hey there. Thanks for commenting. You went through a very hard birth. And I get what you're saying. There's a hole in childbirth education that prepares women for the unknown, the unexpected. That if you follow the formula, you can control the outcome. As we both know, it's just not that simple. While I don't think we should stop writing articles likes this (they're motivating, thought provoking and encouraging) but maybe there should be more articles like these:

A goal of mine as an educator is preparing women like you for the unknown, the unexpected.

Take care,


Alison Price

Saturday 30th of January 2016

Maybe I missed it, but where was the birth tub or shower mentioned? These work magic, especially with certain herbal teas brewed for the tub.

Lindsey Morrow

Saturday 30th of January 2016

Yes, hydrotherapy is AMAZING for labor - long or not! Do you have any herbal tea recipes to share?


Thursday 21st of January 2016

"Benefits of Natural Birth

When times get tough, have your birth team remind you of why you chose to have a natural birth, and the benefits for you and baby. It’s easy to forget these things while in the THROWS of labor, and depending on how important these facts are for you the more strength you will draw from these reminders."

I think you mean throes. (Sorry, I had to say something. Not trying to be critical, but I would want someone to say something so I could fix it if it were me.)

Overall, nice article!

Lindsey Morrow

Thursday 21st of January 2016

Side note: This page has been viewed countless times and you're the only one who said something. Pat yourself on the back!

Lindsey Morrow

Thursday 21st of January 2016

haha yes! I welcome all feedback from my virtual editors. Thanks! ♥


Sunday 10th of June 2012

I think it is perfect even for those planning a hospital birth!

Lindsey Morrow

Sunday 10th of June 2012

I thought so too!