How to Keep Your Cool When Labor Begins
As a birth doula, I talk families through early labor all the time. We talk about what to expect in our second prenatal meeting. Early labor is the time when contractions begin but are not yet close together, regular, or intense. You may have bloody show, digestive symptoms, and contractions can be 5+ minutes apart.
The onset of labor can cause a lot of nervousness in first time parents. Firstly, we have this idea that you need to DO things in early labor to bring on active labor. As a doula, sometimes I see a birthing person become exhausted by the time active labor sets in. They have spend their entire beginning phase walking, standing on their head, doing jumping jacks, or cleaning their whole house.
When I was in early labor with my first baby, I was a wreck. I felt some contractions start randomly throughout the day and I was so sore. I was at 41 weeks and I felt like I was waiting an eternity for things to start. I felt so frustrated and tired. It was around Easter and we had candy in the house. I drowned my sorrows by eating a chocolate bunny, then took a shower. After my shower, strong contractions quickly set in and I threw that bunny up everywhere. Don’t be like me. Don’t eat the bunny.
Early Labor is the Start of a Marathon
Birth is a marathon. Firstly, labor sets in and you’re learning what contractions might feel like. Your body is working hard by coordinating muscles, softening, and opening. Secondly, it’s important to know that the first part of the process could last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. You don’t know how long your birth might be. It’s important to save energy. Thirdly, it’s important for your body to be properly fueled when things get intense and fast paced at the end of the marathon.
Three Tips to Stay Sane in Early Labor
Stay Well Hydrated
Drink lots of fluids. You don’t need to go crazy, but drinking fluids now will help you stay hydrated for the long haul. Try some coconut water or other electrolyte drink in early labor to get an extra boost. You may not feel like drinking much later. Also, staying well hydrated will help your muscles work better in labor.
Rest as Much As Possible
Ignore it until you can’t ignore it any longer. When you feel contractions starting, rest as much as possible. If it’s night time, tuck yourself in bed with some pillows and stay in bed until you can’t any more. Rest is so important when labor begins. You’re preparing for the marathon. Resist the temptation do DO and simply rest and relax. Gather a snack at your bedside and a good drink with a straw.
Remember my story about the chocolate bunny? Don’t be like me. Don’t eat the bunny. In this time, eat easily digestible foods with some protein. Ideas include fruits and vegetables, greek yogurt, oatmeal, toast and peanut butter, bone broth, etc. Try to eat small snacks throughout this time to boost your energy. Here are some ideas for snacks and drinks for birth.
What did you do in early labor? What was helpful to you?