You are nearing your due date and beginning to wonder how you will ever get through labor. Maybe you took some classes to prepare, or maybe like most, were too busy with all the other million things you needed to get done. Perhaps you read a book or two. Maybe a family member or friend told you all you need to know to prepare. Regardless, now you are beginning to panic.
Labor, just like the term implies, is work. Yes, it is the hardest work you will do in your life and the most amazing work too. You, like all women, were born to birth. Labor and birth are normal physiological events. Labor is not unlike running the Boston Marathon. You would never just wake up one day, without preparing and decide to just go run a marathon. You would prepare for almost a year by eating well, working out and conditioning and training your body for the event. Perhaps you would look at the course and make a plan or instead, maybe even put together a team of folks to help you along the way. Preparing for labor and birth is much the same.
It helps to find out about labor. Knowledge is power and will decrease the fear of the unknown. Take a class or read about labor (www.childbirthconnection.org is a wonderful resource). Most first time labors are about 24 hours long and most of that time will be spent at home. Often in the beginning of labor, you may feel cramps similar to period pain.
It’s important to know what to expect during early labor and how to help yourself get through it. Let me share some tools with you:
- Put together a team of people who have unconditional love for you—people you can really count on. At South Shore Hospital, you can have up to 3 labor support people helping you. If you feel you may not need them all at once, perhaps they can take shifts.
- Stay well hydrated. Early labor can go on for a while. Drink a glass or 2 of water, juice or Gatorade every hour. Being dehydrated will cause painful but useless contractions.
- Eat if you are hungry.
- Try to sleep if you are tired or if it’s nighttime. A heating pad or hot water bottle will ease the pain. If you cannot sleep, walk around.
- Stay busy with distractions such as shopping or cleaning.
- Ignore the pains until you can no longer walk or talk through them.
- If the pain worsens, try a nice warm shower. The warm water will relax you and ease the pain. A long soak in a warm bath will also ease your pain and allow you to relax—even helping labor move along.
- If your back hurts, apply an ice pack to the lower back, get on all fours and rock back and forth or stand and lean over the back of a chair. Lower back pain is common and often it helps to have your partner push on the sore area with the heel of his/her hand during a contraction and rub the lower back between contractions. Ice is a natural anesthetic. Try putting a bag of peas in a pillow case and apply it to your lower back.
- Try a yoga ball—which makes a nice chair in labor by supporting you in a squatting position to help open the pelvis.
- Soft music, dim lights and slow deep breathing will provide further relaxation and encourage your body to open for you to birth your child.
Bottom line: keep Calm and Labor on.
Remember to always call your provider with signs of labor, leaking fluid, vaginal bleeding or any concerns at all. Your provider will help you decide the appropriate time to come to the hospital.