Early Labor in Real Life
Mouths drop like mics hitting the floor when I tell my first time clients and students the answer to that oh so popular question - “How long is a normal labor?”
In this day in age where we can see speak to our family and friends in another country with just the touch of a button, why hasn’t labor caught up!? Moms in labor be like -
“COME ON BABY!! Don’t you get it that we’ve been waiting anywhere from 9 months to ten years for you to make you appearance in our lives and now that things have seemed to be starting up, we have to wait, while working reeaaally hard the whole time, another day to see you!? AHHH!”
The fact of the matter is that labor, which is split into three stages, averages around 24 hours for most first time moms. The longest of the sections is typically Early Labor. Well, Early Labor is the pits for most parents to be. Especially you the first timers. Mom is feeling things but is totally able to go about her day so everyone is confused. Why is everyone confused? Well, we expect this:
((Photo credit Universal))
RIGHT AWAY. I mean, that’s what happens in the movies so, thats got to be what happens in real life. Sorry to burst your bubbles parents. Our bodies are made to do this work in a timely manner but its got nothing to do with the clock on the wall. Let’s check out somethings that are happening in within Mom’s body during early labor.
The science: Mom’s cervix needs to thin (or efface) and dilate. Its never done this before in this pregnancy so Mom’s body needs to start to figure things out. A glorious symphony of hormones continues to release including prostegladins, oxytocin, relaxin, adrenaline, and - my favorite - endorphins. Now, following our theme of slow and easy, the three hormones Oxytocin is the hormone that starts contractions. If a surge of oxytocin is released to quickly, both Mom and Baby go into a spin of “WHAT ON EARTH IS HAPPENING!?!” madness that isn’t fun for anyone involved. Therefore, its much better to let the body do its thang in Early Labor.
With all the above going on, Mom has got to figure out what to do. Most parents now-a-days want to “labor at home” before heading to the hospital or place of birth for many reasons. Quite frankly, many places won’t even admit you until you fit certain criteria. Being turned away is usually at the top list of in convinces and fears for all parents so they wait. So, you wait. Let me paint you a picture of how this “waiting” usually goes for parents who haven’t educated themselves on what labor is like.
Mom tells partner that she’s been feeling what she thinks are contractions for a little while when partner wakes up in the morning. Dad or Partner decides to stay home because “WOOHHOOO! We are going to meet baby soon!” Mom gets all caught up in the excitement and adrenaline kicks in so they go for walk. Then they eat. Then they watch TV. Then they walk the stairs because we need to keep busy! This is happening!! More eating. Mom still feels things, that seemed to pick up when she was on the stairs (WOOOOHHHOOO!) but now that she is sitting, they are less noticeable again. Wait, was that one?! Better get on the birth ball.
The saga continues …
This pattern usually will last until around dinner time. All of a sudden, contractions are really getting noticeably stronger and consistently more frequent. Mom is having to stop what she is doing, focus through her contraction, and then carry forward. She is tired now. Partner is tired now. Baby. Isn’t. Here. Adrenaline has kicked its last surge. Its getting dark outside. Mom is just now hitting Active Labor. Her body is not prepared because she has not rested. Her work is beginning at the end of her shift. Yikes.
Lesson of the story - When labor feels like it is starting, there are three things Mom should do. Follow this beautiful arrow ------------------------------>
Do those three things and if it turns into Active Labor - you are ready for it. If it turns into nothing - you haven’t lost anything! So, Mom to be, if you find yourself in Early Labor with noticeable “these could be contractions” contractions, here’s a short but ultimately comprehensive list to chose from:
Well, Cat, you've told me what I can do... whats the one thing I shouldn't!?
Great question. Here’s the big DON’T!
—Wondering when you should maybe plan on heading to the place of birth? Check back here in a week or so and you’ll hear it from me! --
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Cat is the founder of Birth Freely Birth Services. Her passion is empowering women through education and providing them with continuous labor support so they can have the birth they desire!