Early labor can last for many hours, perhaps even days. And while early labor is not usually very painful, it can be exhausting and hard to tolerate.
During early labor, your body and your baby are preparing the cervix by getting it into the right position, thinning it and starting to open it. Your uterus is slowly starting to contract, making it smaller from the top down, to push your baby further and further into your pelvis.
Most people – your OB, midwife, mother-in-law or girlfriends, will tell you to take a walk. And sure, that’s great advice. If you’re like me, 20 minutes later you’re back at home, walk done!
And your mind… what’s your mind doing? For all too many of us, it’s freak out time!
Instead of panicking and stressing over what might be a long labor ahead (or not!) here are three things to do in early labor.
Sleep, if possible. This is a super hard request, we know. You are so excited to meet your baby and the time has finally come. BUT. And this is a big but. Active labor takes a lot of energy, usually pushing parents-to-be right past the very edge of any resources they thought they had, and then asking for more. Excitement burns a lot of energy. If you can, ignore your early labor signs – until you can’t ignore them any more.
Do something that consumes your attention but doesn’t require a great deal of physical exertion. Go to a movie. Bake a cake. (Happy BIRTH day to you!) Start baby’s book. Do all the laundry in your house – it might be awhile before your bed sheets get at the top of the priority line! Get a pedicure.
Netflix and chill.
For reals. Seriously, binge watch a new show on Netflix and then… Have sex. Ok – disclaimers. Don’t have sex if your water has already broken. Don’t have sex if your care provider has told you otherwise. Don’t have sex if you don’t want to.
Intimacy, love and touch all release oxytocin – THE key chemicals that makes birth happen, makes it quicker and less painful.
Soon you’ll be lost in a gorgeous pair of eyes and counting tiny toes. This is the moment before the biggest journey of your life. Take some time to breathe, be present right now and rest.
Is there anything you shouldn’t do in early labor?
Unless your care provider has told you otherwise, don’t jump the gun and rush to the hospital or birth center. You will feel pressure – more than you’ve ever felt – in your vagina. Rely on your birth education, doula and care provider to guide you to the right time to leave. For most people, that’s active labor. For most people, that’s when contractions are four minutes apart, lasting for at least one minute, for more than one hour (4-1-1). In all things, trust your instincts, even if they’re counter to everything you’ve learned and just read. If you have an overwhelming need or desire to be at your birth location, go.