Early labor tips for your first birth.
Written by Mary Love
Here you are, at the end of your pregnancy and all you have left to do is gracefully wait for labor. No big deal, just a life changing event that you and everyone you know is (clears throat) patiently waiting for. Unless you're planning a scheduled cesarean section or induction of labor when your labor will begin is anybody's guess. I have been catching babies long enough to know not to predict when your bundle of joy will make its big entrance. Or is it an exit?
The longest part of labor is actually getting into labor. And when I say labor, I am referring to good, strong, active, no turning back labor. Labor is all about passing time, and it is best spent at home or somewhere other than where you plan to give birth. Unless you have special circumstances outlined by your midwife or physician, the optimal time to arrive at you intended place of birth (or have your midwife arrive if you are planning a home birth) is when things are really cooking and there is no stopping the labor train.
Birth is like a watched pot that never boils. It doesn't go any faster in a hospital or birth center. In fact, one of the best ways to prevent unnecessary interventions is arriving in active labor - this is usually when the cervix is dilated more than 6 cm. We will talk more about how to know you are in active labor in another blog post, but for now, these are my tips for early labor success.
It probably isn’t actually labor. Don’t get excited yet, you will just wear yourself out.
Pretend it isn't happening for as long as you possibly can. Don't over think it, actually, best to try not to think about it at all.
2. Ssssshhhh...Keep it a Secret.
That is right, when you start to feel some contractions or cramping don’t tell anyone. Not even your partner and labor companions. (Of course, you can always call your midwife or physician to check in and get some recommendations.) Don’t post on social media, don’t call your mom, don’t have your best friend catch a flight in from across the country. The last thing you need is more people anxiously watching you - and this might not even be the real thing. When contractions are too intense to get through by yourself, this is the time to wake up your partner (and your birth team) and let them know things are cooking! After this, notify people one at a time and on a need-to-know basis.
3. Try to Make it Stop.
I know you are excited and really want it to be labor, but (see number 1) do everything you can do to get it to stop. Drink lots of water. Go back to bed. Get in the shower. Take another nap. Eat something. Take another nap. If this is "false" labor, these things should make the contractions go away. If it really is the beginning of labor, these are great ways to pass the time and get you prepped for the hard work ahead.
4. Don’t Time Contractions.
Put your timer away. Don’t open a contraction app. Don't look at the clock. While labor is a lot like a endurance sport, you aren't training for the Olympics. Timing contractions will not tell you if your are in labor and they certainly won’t make it go faster. In reality, timing contractions will probably make labor seem longer and just tire you out. If you are wanting/needing an app to tell you that you are in labor - you aren’t in active labor yet. If you, or your birth partner have the ability and bandwidth to time every contraction, you aren’t in active labor.
Timing contractions won’t even tell you when is the right time to go to the birth center or hospital. Labor progress isn’t about quantity it's about quality. You can have a million baby contractions every 3 minutes and be weeks away from giving birth. You can also have some MAJOR contractions every 10 minutes and get the job done (hello 3rd baby!).
5. Eat and Drink.
Food and hydration are essential for good body function. Have something to drink within arms length at all times. Fuel your body now because in active labor eating and drinking is challenging. Eat whatever you like now, however, you might want to avoid eating spicy foods and things you may regret throwing up later.
6. Find Something to Do.
Go to work. Go out to dinner. Netflix marathon. Go swimming. Walk your dog. Go to the beach. Bake something amazing! Anything to distract yourself from what is happening with your body. Remember, it is all about passing time. You are welcome to do anything - except try to make your labor go faster.
7. Don't act like you're in labor.
Don't huff and puff. Stop moaning. Get off your birth ball. Forget about the miles circuit. Put the meditation scripts away. Don't under any circumstances shake the apples. These are all great tools for coping with active labor, but before you absolutely need to use then, they will just tire your out.
Actually, give it a shot, right now, I dare you. Pretend like you are in labor right now. Start rocking back and forth. Add in some panting and deep breathing. Now moan on the exhale. Tiring isn't it?These things work great when you are in active labor and become natural ways to distract and cope with the intensity of labor. At that point, labor will be far harder than any of these things and they will be useful rather than exhausting.
8. Call your Midwife or Doctor
Believe it or not, we like to have an idea about what is happening. We will ask a couple questions and help your sort out what is happening. Believe it or not, midwives are pretty good at assessing labor progress over the phone. If your midwife tells you you can stay home and take a nap - please do it. If they tell you it is time to come in, it is probably time to come on in for a check. Don't be disappointed if you are sent back home - remember, it is all about passing time, and you won't be pregnant forever.
There you have it, my top recommendations for getting through labor, or at least early labor. It is a marathon, not a sprint and I don't recommend starting the race before it as even begun. Happy Birthing!