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Three Tips for Easier Labor

For a smoother delivery:

1. Watch your weight

Extra pounds can slow the baby's descent through the birth canal. A recent study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that average-weight moms who gained more than 35 pounds during pregnancy doubled their risk of failure to progress -- a leading cause of cesarean sections. Aim to gain 25 to 30 pounds.

2. Sip sports drinks

The ice chips and water usually offered aren't really the best options for keeping up your strength during childbirth. British researchers have found that isotonic sports drinks, such as Gatorade, boost energy and are digested quickly.

3. Take a breather

Even if you're fully dilated, it's okay to wait if you don't feel like pushing right away, according to a new study from the University of Utah School of Medicine. This type of labor -- known as "rest and descend" because the process allows the baby to move down naturally -- can safely last up to five hours, as long as you're monitored, both electronically and by your doctor. A big plus: It lets you gather the strength you'll need when the urge to push finally comes.