Women are often told there is nothing they can to do increase their odds of having a positive birth experience, no matter what that looks like for them. If an expectant mum is hoping for a more gentle labour experience with few to no unnecessary interventions, she's often told "good luck" and nothing more. While labour may be unpredictable, there are many, many things expectant families can do to prepare so they can have a more informed, involved and positive experience in relation to their care.
Early labour presents the perfect opportunity to help "set the stage" for the type of birth experience you are hoping for. A few small steps can lead your labour down a path that may feel more relaxed, easier (physically and emotionally!) and require fewer interventions, including the use of syntocin (the drip), an instrumental delivery and cesarean birth, to name a few. These are my top five early labour tips for expectant families!
REST AND MORE REST!
Getting rest during early labour is critical. This may take the form of being seated, taking a nap, lying down listening to some hypnobirthing tracks, music or a guided meditation. Oxytocin, the hormone that promotes contractions + labour progression, has a helper hormone- melatonin, which is of course created in the evening when most people are resting or sleeping! Resting also allows you to feel more energized when active labour begins, when it often becomes more difficult to rest and you may spend more time and energy focusing through the surges. You also want to ensure that when it comes time to push, you have the energy in which to do so! I cannot tell you the number of mums who were in early labour, took a nap and woke up to serious labour progression and contractions that woke them up!
EAT AND DRINK!
Early labour is the perfect time to have a snack or even a meal if you have been experiencing early labour signs for awhile. Again, this is about keeping your energy levels up for when active labour begins and when it comes time to push! Those calories are critical, y'all! Get yourself a little bit of dark chocolate (yes, it must be dark) to help your body create more oxytocin. Small nibbles can go a long way in also helping you feel good! My husband fed me grapes during my last labour and I swear, this loving gesture added some serious oxytocin-vibes to help me meet our baby!
TRY TO REMAIN CALMLY IN THE PRESENT
For many expectant mums, early labour tends to be the longest stage. This is also when a wave of emotions can present themselves and become overwhelming. It's easy to get really excited (as expected!) but also feel anxious or fearful during this time. You may wonder how long this stage will last, how long active labour will last, how much more intense the surges may become, etc. etc. etc. Can you see how these thoughts can spiral out of control? Staying in the present moment, remembering these tips and taking one surge at a time can help you remain more relaxed, which as you guessed it, can help labour progress! You may call upon music, hypnobirthing tracks, a bit of massage, having a few intimate moments with your partner, etc. to bring you back to the present. If your mind begins to wonder ahead, gently redirect it back to the present and visualise your body softening, loosening and opening to meet your baby.
It can become really easy to become totally, utterly consumed with your labour. You're timing contractions and just staring at the contraction timer on your phone, perhaps. You keep asking yourself if you have packed everything in your hospital bag... does your partner remember the comfort measures? Taking your mind away from your labour can actually help it progress! Anytime we focus on something too much, the situation may actually start to feel more stressful, overwhelming or daunting! To add some balance, maybe you start preparing a freezer meal, call a positive friend, watch your favourite television program, take a shower, etc. These are all things that will help you feel good while also helping your mind take a "break" from labour.
RE-THINK TELLING OTHERS
Some people really enjoy telling others when labour has begun. For some, this may lead to endless comments, messages, texts and even phone calls from well-meaning people who may now start interrupting the flow of labour. Others may offer unsolicited advice or worse, start creating a climate of fear for the expectant parents. Not only can these communications become annoying very quickly, they may also leave you feeling emotionally exhausted. If you are opting to tell others about going into labour, make sure you consider how things may play out afterwards. It's totally okay to tell your closest family and friends that baby has arrived after the big event has happened if that's what you wish!