2. When you think you’re in labor, make sure you’ve noticed a pattern of contractions for AT LEAST an hour before making a bold proclamation on Facebook or Twitter that you’re in labor. Remember to look for 5-1-1. Contractions that are at least five minutes apart. Contractions that are at least one minute long, and contractions that have been coming that frequently and at that length for at least one hour. (The contractions should gradually be increasing in intensity). That’s a good gage as to when a first time mom “might” consider going to the hospital or birth center.
3. The average woman’s first time labor will last between 18 and 24 hours. Some women labor longer, and some women labor shorter, hence “average.” However, this is truly an accurate picture of how long you can expect your labor to last. The good news is this: the hardest part of labor, transition, usually only lasts a couple of hours, at the worst. One man documented his wifes contractions for the entire labor, from the onset of her labor till the end, she had 45 minutes worth of pain for her 24 hours of labor.
4. Ignore it till you can’t ignore it anymore. If you’re not sure you’re in labor, then you’re probably not in active labor yet.
5. Early labor often feels like menstrual cramps, and can last that way for days.
6. Losing your mucus plug really doesn’t give clear indications that labor is close. Don’t call your OB, midwife, or doula at 3AM letting them know you’ve lost your mucus plug, because they may tell you to go find it. However it doesn’t hurt to mention it at your next visit.
7. If your water breaks, or if you continually feel like you’re peeing on yourself, without question, call your care-provider immediately. Also go put on some Depends. You’ll thank me for it, and it’ll be nice not to leave a trail following you. Remember the acronym COAT when your water breaks. Pay attention to Color, Odor, Amount and Time. The color should be clear, the odor should not be stinky, the amount can vary – did you have a lot or a little, does it come out with each contraction? And last but not least, make note of the time your water breaks, (most OBs want you to deliver your baby within 24 hours of your water breaking) these are all important things your care-provider may want to know. Also if you are GBS positive remind your care provider of this when you mention your water has broken.
8. Eat at home while you still have the desire to do so. Once you’re at the hospital eating is not typically an option, clear liquids are okay (unless you’re having an epidural, then it’s ice chips ONLY). My favorite drink is this fantastic labor-aide found here.
9. Drink, drink, drink. Pee, pee, pee. An empty bladder helps relieve some of the pain of the contraction and staying hydrated is VITAL for your body and your baby.
10. If you can still talk through or laugh in between your contractions, you’re still in early labor – unless you’re a hoss.
11. Once you’re bellowing like a moose or breathing heavy like you’re working out, and your partner looks concerned, you’re likely in active labor.
12. Stay moving! Sway back and forth leaning forward, get on all fours, sit on the birthing ball, just stay moving. Try to avoid being in bed till absolutely necessary. For some fantastic practical tips on moving through labor visit this link here.
13. Through and after your contractions, make sure you think about breathing all the way down to your baby. One of the first things L&D nurses will do if your baby shows heart decelerations is give you oxygen. So, when you breathe through your contraction think about/visualize breathing all the way down and to/for your baby. You’re not the only person experiencing labor, your sweet baby is too and he or she needs you to breathe for him/her.
14. If you’re getting an epidural, try to wait till you’re at least four centimeters.
15. Remember there is more to progression of labor than just how dilated you are. The position of your cervix, how soft it is, how effaced it is, and the station of the baby all make a difference in your labor. In my experience, I have found that once a woman is completely effaced, she’ll plow through labor like a mack truck with a driver on speed.
16. You cannot escape the pain of labor, meaning, if you’re attempting an unmedicated birth, freaking out over the pain of the contraction will only worsen it. Try to imagine contractions like waves washing over you as you surrender to each rush. Visualize your cervix opening wide for your baby. I can always tell if a woman is trying to escape the contraction if she yells, or says, “No, no, no, no!” through it, or shakes her head and scrunches up her face and tenses her body and does what I call crazy legs, where she moves them like a toddler throwing a fit on the floor – back and forth through the contraction. These are signs that you’re letting fear of pain take over your body rather than trusting that your body is doing exactly what it should be and that you are created to do this – labor and give birth to your child. Trust the process, if you do, others will too.
17. Avoid getting in the tub too early in your labor. Otherwise it may slow down your labor. However, if it’s the middle of the night, and you’re uncomfortable with cramping that keeps you up, feel free to get in the tub. It may ease off your contractions just enough so you can get some sleep.
18. Feel free to use a shower at any point in your labor…this doesn’t seem to stall out labor.
19. If you’re birthing at a birth center or your home, don’t worry so much about writing a birth plan. However if you’re birthing at a hospital and you want an excellent sample go here. I encourage all parents to pay apt attention to your desires for newborn procedures. What are those you ask? Ah…look here, and here.
20. The hardest part of labor are the two weeks following it. Make sure you spend time understanding breastfeeding and life with a newborn before you give birth.
21. You may poop while you’re pushing. Most women do. It’s not a big deal. Personally, I think it’s a sign that you’re pushing effectively if you do poo. Just think of it more like Hershey’s Kisses, rather than Tootsie Rolls. Bearing down for pushing is the exact same thing you do when you bear down for a BM. There’s just no easy way around it.
For more of my labor tips and advice visit this link: How To Help A Woman In Labor
Every woman’s labor and birth is unique and may not always fit into the tips listed above – especially if there is potential for a precipitous labor (more likely with mothers who have already experienced childbirth). The tips on this blog post are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended as, nor should these tips be considered, a substitute for professional medical advice.