When facing labour, there are many unknowns. Here's a crash course of tips and ideas to make your baby's birth a positive experience
Is this labour?
You’ve been feeling contractions on and off for days. Today they seem more regular — and when you actually write down the times, you find they are showing up every six or seven minutes. Is this it?
“It’s not unusual to have one (or more) false starts,” says childbirth educator and doula Samantha Leeson. Here’s what to look for:
• Before or in early labour, you are likely to have loose bowel movements as your body gets ready.
• You may notice that the mucus plug has come away from the cervix, often tinged with blood (called a “bloody show”). This can happen a day or more before labour starts, or during early labour.
• The contractions are more than 45 seconds long, and are gradually getting stronger and closer together. Shorter contractions that don’t increase in intensity are more likely to mean false labour.
Think it might be just a practice round? Your partner can massage your lower belly and back to make you more comfortable. Try having a warm bath (perhaps with a glass of wine) to see if this will stop the contractions. If not, it will help you rest and relax.
Labour supply list
• Snacks and drinks
• Music and CD player
• Warm socks: Feet tend to get cold in labour!
• Extra pillows
• Ice water and washcloth for a cool compress
• Tennis balls and rolling pin for firm pressure against your back
• Hot pack: Fill an old sock with two cups of uncooked rice and sew shut. Heat in the microwave.
• Exercise ball
• Plastic lawn chair for sitting in the shower
What happens during this stage
• Contractions usually start at about 20 minutes apart and gradually get closer together, until they’re about five minutes apart.
• Contractions last 30 to 45 seconds.
• The cervix thins out or “effaces.”
• The cervix begins to dilate and may be dilated three or four centimetres by the end of this stage.
Your goal for this stage
The goal in early labour is to relax and ignore it for as long as possible,” says childbirth educator Michele Sears. “I encourage couples to brainstorm before labour starts about what might work for them. Sometimes they pick a movie they’d like to see and buy the DVD in advance.”
Strategies couples have used to distract themselves
• listening to music
• going for a walk
• doing light housework
• packing for the hospital
• baking a birthday cake for the baby
If you can, sleep or rest; this will help you have more energy later. Or take advantage of the pain-relieving effects of natural endorphins that are released when you laugh (so make that movie a comedy) or have sex (or at least some affectionate cuddling).