As I mentioned in my post on styling your homebirth, early labor can be one of the hardest parts of labor. It’s not that it is the most painful or strenuous but rather that it is the one filled with the most anticipation and impatience! You are finally realizing that the day has at last arrived and that your baby will soon be in your arms but you also know you have a lot of work to do before then. Chances are you’re a little anxious and ready for things to really get rolling and because of that this is the time when a lot of mamas make some big mistakes that can derail things for the rest of their delivery. So, here are my suggestions to help you best handle the early stage of labor.
How to Handle the Early Stage of Labor
Get Rest! If at all possible take a light nap or at the very least lay down for a bit. A warm bath is a great way to help you determine if this the real thing or if it is just some intense prelabor. The more rest you can get now the better because you have a lot of exhausting work ahead of you!
Drink Plenty of Fluids! Staying hydrated is SO important in labor, especially if you would like to avoid having to have a saline drip IV during a hospital delivery. Drink more than you feel like it and empty your bladder often.
Stay Calm– I know it’s exciting and even a bit scary, but you’ve got this! You’re prepared, since you’ve taken those rockin’ birth classes that we talked about, and you are going to do just fine. So do your best to breathe deeply and stay relaxed, cool and collected. Diffuse some Peace and Calming essential oil or rub some Valor on the bottoms of your feet to help you keep it together and remain positive and calm through this anxious stage of labor.
Distract Yourself– Having an actual task to accomplish can help pass the time and keep your mind off of wondering just how far along you are. Some women like to bake cookies or put together treats for the nurses at the hospital (just don’t rush out of the house and leave on the oven!). If you are having a homebirth you can think about doing some of the things I mentioned in my homebirth styling post. Just do something to keep yourself from timing every last contraction!
Wait as Long as Possible to go to the Hospital– A good rule of thumb, especially with a first labor, is the 4-1-1 Rule: wait to head for the hospital until your contractions are 4 minutes apart (from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next), last 1 minute long and stay that way for 1 hour. Remember, the longer you are at the hospital the higher your chances are of receiving unnecessary intervention, so it’s smart to only be there when you need to be. Your labor will also slow a bit when you arrive at the hospital as you settle into your new atmosphere, so it’s important to make sure you have a good, solid labor pattern established before you go so that it doesn’t cause things to completely fizzle out.
Communicate with Your Labor Attendants– If you are having a homebirth or birth center birth it is a good idea to contact your attendants (midwife and doulas, also anyone who may be watching your other children) as soon as you suspect something may be starting up. This gives them a chance to prepare to come and not have to be rushing out the door at the last minute. Keep them as up to date as you can on your progress.
If you follow these simple guidelines, active labor will hit before you know it and you’ll be able to put to use all that awesome information you’ve been accumulating for all these months! Enjoy these last few hours of pregnancy and congratulations- you’re almost there!
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*I am not a medical professional- just a mom and doula sharing from my experiences and research.