Early labor is characterized by the ripening and dilating of the cervix, usually to about 3 or 4 centimeters. Typically it involves mild to moderate contractions that grow in intensity and don’t go away. Early labor can last anywhere from two to twelve hours or more. Oftentimes, this is preceded by hours, days, or even weeks of prodromal or pre labor. What should you do during this part of the process?
GO ABOUT YOUR DAY OR NIGHT AS BEST AS YOU CAN.
One way we can hope to induce labor and intensify contractions is by stimulating the uterus to do its thing by increasing the flow of oxytocin in the body. Nipple stimulation or clitoral stimulation are excellent ways to get that hormone flowing. Vaginal penetration is ok as long as the bag of waters is still intact. If you’re not sure if yours has broken, best to hold off so as to avoid introducing bacteria into the body and possibly ending up with an infection.
Water is calming for most people and often helps get labor going. Hop in the tub for 30 minutes or sit on your birth ball in the shower. Note: water is great for every stage of labor!
Stay (a little) Active
All of that prenatal yoga you did during your pregnancy was in preparation for this stage of labor. Breathe and come into poses that feel natural to you. Being in nature and walking outside is also a great option during this time. Bouncing on your birth ball or trying some body balancing techniques will also help you stay comfortable and encourage your baby to get into a good position for delivery.
Eat and Drink
As soon as your contractions are becoming more regular, it’s key to remember to eat and drink like you normally would. You don’t want to run out of energy or become dehydrated during the long and intense birth process. Eat your meals, snack away, and drink lots of fluids.
Fold your baby’s clothes. Put together the rocking chair that’s still in its box. Clean out your refrigerator. Bake a birthday cake. Cook chili.
Especially if you’re in early labor in the evening or begin to feel contractions in the middle of the night, do your best to sleep through them. Sitting up all night waiting for things to intensify will only leave you tired in the morning and bummed that nothing has changed.
Grab your partner and watch a movie together. Binge on Netflix. Play a board game. Look at old photos of the two of you. FaceTime with family. Go shopping. Build a snowman. Play video games. Walk your dog. Oxytocin is widely referred to as the love hormone, so find the thing that will ignite the spark between you and your partner. Bond during this time and go into the rest of labor together as a team.
Call Your Doula
Stay in touch with your doula so she knows how you’re feeling and can help you gauge the intensity of your contractions. She can also remind you of all the great things you can be doing to take your mind off the clock!
What did you do during early labor? Share below!