DOs AND DON'Ts OF EARLY LABOUR
Prodomol labour. Rehearsal labour. Early labour.
They all look like this-contractions that are 20 min apart or 10 then 6 then 2 then 12 minutes apart. What I mean is- your contractions are not steady and regular. Ugh...so frustrating!!
What you need to know is this: none them are actually LABOUR. Or at least, none of them are the kind of labour that leads to birth.
Hosptials have changed the criteria for active labour. Your cervix needs to be at least 5cm dilated and contractions steadily happening at about 3 min apart.
A lot of people though, go to the hospital far too early with contractions that are either too far apart or erratic. Usually this means that your cervix is also not ready. You will get sent home; wasting precious energy that you will need when real labour does start.
WHAT TO DO when those early contractions start....
GO about your usual routine, Planing on going to the movies, or out to dinner with friends? Go. In the middle of doing laundry- finish it.
Things rarely happen the way we see them in the movies or on tv where your first contraction is a screaming, belly clutching event that requires you to fly to the hospital immediately. Neither is it typical for your amniotic fluid to come gushing out of you like the Hoover dam just broke and again requiring you to fly to the hospital. Big drama makes good tv but birth is a much more sedate affair.
EAT WELL If it is lunch time, eat lunch. If it is dinner time, eat dinner. Keeping your energy reserves up and your blood sugar stable is good preparation for the hard work of labour that lies ahead. It is a good idea to check with your care provider at one of your last prenatal visits about any over the counter medication you can take in early labour to combat queasiness. If you need it, you will have it on hand and if not- no harm done. Lots of people find relief from taking a gravol and or a Tylenol in early labour. This helps with early crampiness, settles your belly and can help you to rest. Speak with your health care provider about which, if any would be right for you.
SLEEP WELL Try to work some extra rest in to your day. SERIOUSLY. You want as much energy reserves in your day as possible. Trust that real labour will eventually arrive. So, go lie down. Put your feet up and chill. Make a nap a part of this day. One of the biggest enemies of labour is fatigue. Try to stave it off as best you can in these early hours. Keep your energy reserves in mind. You will need to draw on them later.
Move on with your life. Keep a distant eye on the rumblings south of your waist. Practice a little benign neglect of your belly. Ignore labour until you cannot ignore it any longer.
START timing when you have a feeling that contractions have been regular for a while (like a couple of hours or so). Time the contractions for an hour then put the timer away. Let things move along some more..applying some more benign neglect as best you can...for another hour or so. Then, do some more timing and compare the numbers. Are the contractions getting longer, stronger and closer together? This means progress is being made. If not, keep practicing that Benign Neglect.
You probably were told by your care giver or in your prenatal classes when to go in to the hospital. Ask yourself, how close are you to that point. If you are no where near that point... put the timer away and proceed as before. It. Will. Happen.
WHAT NOT TO DO
DO NOT call everyone over to be with you...they will "watch" your belly and constantly ask you "was that a contraction?" You will all be focusing on each and every twinge you feel in your belly. A watched belly never energized anyone. One or two support people who are also ignoring the labour is fine.
DO NOT start obsessively timing your contractions. Remember- a distant eye on what is happeing down there is good. Hyper focus on your uterus is not.
DO NOT intellectualize the process. This is a primal event that doesn't fit well with too much thinking. Birth is a fluid landscape that changes from one moment to the next. Having varying contraction times early on for instance is normal. Having lots of contractions for 3 hrs and then having them fizzle out for a few hours is also normal. Starting off with good solid contractions and having them progress steadily is also normal! Fluid landscape. Diverse experiences. Don't pick it apart.
DO NOT try to do things to get labour moving. You don't need to seduce labour to you. If what is happening is truly labour- it will not stop. Let it move along as it likes. At the very least, balance out activity with rest. Certainly go for a walk if you want to (change of scenery and movement is always good) but don't go for a walk to see if you can "pick things up" If you want to take a long warm bath- do it because it feels good- not as an attempt to move things along. Let the process just happen. And it will.
Enjoy the slow pace of early labour. Believe it or not, prodromal/rehearsal labour has a job. Those annoying little contractions and the annoying big contractions are all doing something. They all are working to change your cervix and move your baby down. Don't be mad at them!
A quiet, gentle start to labour is a gift.
Your body knows what to do. Trust it.
Birth will happen.