Labor kind of sounds like a to the point right to it type of word! You hear the word "labor" or someone will say "I am in labor" and instantly you believe baby will be here ANY second. Well baby is coming but they will come after a few stages which will include pains, aches, cries and lots of exhaustion! Let's dive right into what you MAY expect when you labor does in fact, begin.
Phase one [Early Labor]
I think I am in labor phase. This is the phase where you are PRETTY sure that labor is starting. Things are feeling different, crampy, you notice that things are changing and getting stronger as the minutes and hours pass. Contractions are till DECENTLY mild and when I say mild it isn't to sound insensitive because I know they DO hurt, they just are not comparable to when you are about to push. When you start to experience these contractions they will be somewhat tolerable.
You can walk around more still, you might be able to talk or text while still being able to catch your breath or they still stay pretty spaced out. This can happen for a few days, hours, you just won't really know. I always tell people to just pay attention to their body and you will usually have a pretty good idea on when labor is starting because the consistency will be there. Things are moving in more of a pattern and gradually getting stronger and closer as they continue to come.
During the early stages of labor there are some things you can watch for which includes:
*Mild cramping but sometimes this can be pretty intense. This cramping might wrap around to your back and may sometimes shoot downward into your pelvis with or without contractions.
* Water might break or leak. Remember if your water breaks it doesn't mean you need to rush in however please do contact your provider so they can help you get checked out to make sure all is well. Even with a leak, contact your provider as soon as you may suspect anything.
* You might feel hungry but sometimes the pressure from the contractions can be a bit much making you feel ill sometimes and even tired and dizzy. Be sure to take it easy and not to force yourself if you aren't feeling well as you might throw up and you want to make sure you are feeling rested for when active phase two begins.
DOULA TIPS FOR PHASE ONE EARLY LABOR:
Okay this sounds almost unlikely but try to rest. Even though you are feeling cruddy try to rest as much as you can or even try a warm bath or a warm shower. The heat will be a really nice distraction from the aches and pains you have been experiencing and will help you. Distraction is important during any stage of labor and it is important to remember that if you even so much as slightly shift your attention to something else you won't be fully focused on your aches and pains. Try not to rush everything! Labor will progress so take a shower, a bath, take a nap, start to pack your belongings just take it easy because before you know it labor will be in an active phase making it a lot harder to function through the pain and aches. PARTNER [or whoever may be with you] THIS is the time that you can really step in and ask them how you can help, what you can do. Sometimes just doing nothing and just BEING present is enough from start to finish! Call your doctor if you feel need but remember just watch your contractions. Pay attention to consistency and when they get to 5-1-1 then ring and see what they suggest. 5 minutes apart, 1 minute long and for ONE hour. Trust that gut! You know what is best, always!
Phase Two [Active Labor]
The oh my gosh this sucks and really hurts phase! This phase usually is around 4-5 cm and lasts until transition which is around 8 cm. It is important to remember that EVERY SINGLE labor will be completely different for EVERYONE EVERY TIME. So please keep that in mind. You have to trust your gut because again you know what is best, don't go based off how someone else's labor went or how a previous labor went for you!
During active labor there are some things that you can watch for which includes:
* Intense cramping that are starting to get stronger and much closer together! At this point in your labor you are having a harder time focusing when you have a contraction which also makes it harder to walk and talk.
* Discharge will be changing and you may even start to have some goopier discharge. Losing your plug isn't a huge deal however, when you are in active labor your mucus will start to look tinged meaning things are stretching and moving quite along.
* You might be super tired, in tons of pain or in some cases very little pain. Remember that your tolerance to pain will be different than others but again keep watch on contractions that will help determine how quickly things are moving and when to call your provider.
* This is about the time you would be arriving to the clinic or if you have a midwife they would start to show up to your home or space. You will be monitored and checked out and this will give everyone a better idea on where you are at in your labor. You need to remember that you have a VERY short window as far as when you can get an epidural so make sure you understand and know what you want when you go in that way you can make sure to get what you need.
Doula tips for Phase Two Active Labor
Rest. Again this sounds impossible especially if you are in a ton of pain but resting will help a ton. If you choose to get medication use this time to sleep and rest, if you do not choose to get medication there are multiple ways you can do your best to stay comfortable during this time! You can take a bath. Most birthing centers or if you are having your baby in your home try to use your bathtub as the tub will do a really good job at keeping you comfortable and distracted. Try a birth ball you can try rotating your hips and your partner can use this time to massage your lower back or if you have a doula they can do the same. BREATHE. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to remind people to breathe during labor. You are in a LOT of pain but holding your breathe is only going to make you even more exhausted and you WILL feel super dizzy. BREATHE and do it in a pattern and make that a habit as when it comes time to push the breathing will also be very important.
Phase Three Transition:
THIS IS IT! Look at you and how far you have come. Labor is absolutely crazy and I cannot tell you how many times I have heard "I cannot do this. I do not want to do this" and EVERY single time I have heard that it meant that they were in transition! This is when the baby is fully descended and ready to rock and roll and meet you and the world!
During Transition there are some things that you can watch for which includes:
* AN INTENSE shift of pain and pressure in your lower back and abdomen as baby has completely shifted and is in the birth canal ready for you to push!
* You might feel shaky or even super nauseous and this is normal as labor is a very intense phase. If you have chosen to get an epidural a lot of these feelings won't be there or won't be as intense as you won't be able to feel as much. You will still feel pressure and aches as your body is still going through an intense journey.
* Your water might break on it's own or your provider might break it at this point and most of the time the water isn't broken until late active labor or during transition as this helps baby move faster but this also intensifies contractions all over the place.
Doula Tips for Phase Three Transition
Make sure you are slowing your breathing down. Focus on your partner or on whoever is in the room with you as they will really help you in so many ways. Ask for help if you need it and be sure to remember you are doing an AMAZING job and your baby is so close to being here. This phase is really intense as you are moving from 7/8 cm to fully dilated at 10 cm. Breathe, move around if you can, squeeze some hands and try to imagine your baby and their little face. Once you are fully dilated it will be time to start pushing. PLEASE remember to breathe and bear down. Your nurse/doula/midwife/partner will help you bear down up and OVER your baby that way you can get a nice push which will help baby come down and out to you! You are amazing. Remember all of this sounds super intense but you are incredible and strong and you have amazing capabilities so do NOT forget it!
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