Am I in labor? What are these cramps? They are far apart but sometimes get closer. Then stop. Then start. I’m feeling pain in my back. Am I dilated? When do I go to the hospital or the birth center? When do I call my midwife?
No two labor and births are the same. Not even with the same mama. Four over here and all were different. But thankfully there are stages and things happening to your body that you can prepare your mind for and try to remain as stress free as possible to welcome your baby into a loving, low stress environment.
I don’t provide this information for you to obsess over. Labor doesn’t have a specific agenda or timeline. But it’s helpful to know what is happening to your body during the process.
Childbirth can be broken into three different stages.
Early labor, active labor and transition
Pushing and Birth of your baby
Delivery of your placenta
Let’s start with breaking Stage 1 into three separate pieces since it is the longest stage.
What is Early Labor?
Early labor is the longest portion of your labor lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days to a week. This is the time that your surges will be mild and far apart in time. Also the time where my husbands jokes are still funny. Sometimes they become closer, then stop completely, to start up again. This is not the time to start watching the clock and timing your surges.
You have heard the saying, a watching pot never boils. Well it does indeed boil, however while continually watching the pot, your perception of time is what makes it appear slower. However, during early labor the continuous timing of your waves cause anxiety, frustration and in return can slow your progress.
What to expect during early labor:
• Surges lasting approximately thirty to forty-five seconds
• They are five to twenty minutes apart
• Surges feel like strong menstrual cramps
• Aching in lower back
• Diarrhea, loose stools
• Bloody show
• Loss of mucus plug
If you are planning a hospital or birth center birth this is not the time to rush out. Where are you the most comfortable? This is the place you should be to allow your labor to progress peacefully and naturally without intervention or disruption. This is the time to complete small projects around the house preparing for baby. Engagement that doesn’t involve focusing your every minute into timing contractions and obsessing…are they getting closer? Are they getting stronger? Is my body progressing fast enough? Here are a few examples of activities to do at home that provide distraction from the surges.
• Prepare freezer meals and healthy snacks for yourself and other children if others call you mama
• Prepare for your postpartum period. Do you have all YOUR supplies ready for this time?
• Create a special letter to your baby
• Do some baking
• Have you washed all your baby clothes and linens?
• Take a nice long bath.
Very importantly, save your energy. This is not the time to run a 5k. They don’t call it Labor for nothing. It is hard work.
Early labor is also a great time to start practicing your breathing techniques for when the intensity picks up.
Please NOTE that once you are no longer able to relax and enjoy these distractions, you are most likely entering into active labor.
Active labor comes with more intense surges lasting 60-90 seconds and three to five minutes apart. These are the waves that do NOT go away when you lie down or try to ignore with distractions.
Part 2 Active Labor, will be up soon!
If you have any questions on Early Labor please comment below or send me an email via my contact page!
Best wishes as always!