How do you know if you are in Active Labor?
When most of us think of active labor, we think of the following rule. The 5-1-1 Rule should NOT be your Holy Birth Grail for gauging active labor. It is vague. You are concerned with when to head to the hospital or the birth center. Yet all you remember from your care provider are these numbers. 5-1-1. When your surges are five minutes apart, lasting a minute, and have been consistent for over a hour.
A regular pattern can suggest active labor but this pattern can also suggest early labor. It could be Prodromal labor. Most importantly while monitoring your surges, pay attention to your body’s signals, not just the contraction timer on your phone.
No one wants to be sent home because you are too early and no one wants to arrive too late if you are planning on receiving medication.
Unless you have a special condition, your best plan is to labor at home as long as you can. If you missed my previous post on Early Labor:
So let’s discuss active labor!
What is active labor? Intensity in waves are starting to pick up, they are becoming closer and you are no longer able to ignore them. Distractions are not helping. Now you feel as though these are definitely different then your prior surges, and if you are planning a birth away from home, now may be a good time to pack up.
First things first. Pick up the phone to call your medical care provider before hopping in the car. They will be able to get a feel for where you are in labor just by speaking with you and advise whether to come in or stay in the comfort of your home a little longer.
What to expect during active labor:
•Surges are becoming stronger, closer and longer
•Lasting 60 – 90 seconds and coming every 3-5 minutes
•Unable to walk and talk through surges. Complete focus on breathing
•Cervix dilates from 4cm – 7cm
•Water may break during this time
•May feel nauseated, shakiness
•Increased back pain with your surges
•Active labor typically lasts between two and eight hours
•Take a warm bath or shower
•Create a soothing, calm environment by using music, aromatherapy, soft lighting
•Utilize proper breathing techniques during your surges and calm breathing between. Nice deep breathes keep mother and baby well oxygenated
•Use deep moaning sounds during your surges
•Massage and touch from birth partner
•Swaying and holding partner
•Use of birthing ball and peanut ball
•Hypnobirthing (self hypnosis, deep relaxation)
•Take one surge at a time
•Relax between surges. Use this time to prepare for the next one
Remember the absolute best way to prepare for your birth is with education. Take a childbirth education class outside of your local hospital. Creating confidence is done through knowledge. Birth Centers are a great place to look! Hire a Doula. Join online pregnancy groups!
Next up is the final phase of the first phase (Early, Active,Transition), Transition. This is the most intense and shortest phase where the cervix dilates from 7cm to 10cm.