Is this really it? Am I finally in labor? I think I am, but it isn’t what I had pictured it to be like! Early labor can be irregular, somewhat sporadic and a little confusing also!
As a doula, I have lots of experience in supporting my clients through this time of uncertainty and helping them navigate the process!
Signs of Early Labor:
- Mild to moderate contractions that last anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute long from beginning to end. They will feel like cramps, low backache, and can even radiate down the tops of the thighs. These may be regular or irregular in frequency. If you are consistently having them and they don’t go away regardless of your position or what you are doing, then it’s a good sign that you are in early labor
- Your cervix is effacing (softening/thinning/ripening), dilating to 5-6 cm, and moving from the posterior position into the anterior position. Those fairly consistent contractions are causing this cervical change
- You may notice brown or blood-stained mucus. This is normal as the cervix dilates and you will notice this on and off throughout the remainder of your labor
- Loose stools and soft bowel movements are often experienced
- You may or may not experience the spontaneous rupture of membranes. Sometimes this happens before contractions start. If you are negative for Group B Strep and fluid is clear, your care provider may give you time to stay at home until contractions start. You may want to consider staying active after resting in order to try to bring on contractions
What can I do while in early labor?
Here are a few things to do while in early labor (which can last hours or days!):
- Most importantly, REST! Nap when you can, even just slowing down and shutting your eyes counts. Conserve energy for when you’re really going to need it
- Keep yourself hydrated and nourished. It’s so important to eat while you can, but don’t overdo it. Chances are that it may come back up at some point during labor so I always suggest eating foods that stick to your ribs but aren’t spicy or heavy. Fruits, cheese, yogurt, oatmeal, eggs, toast….
- Distract yourself. Go to lunch with a friend, go see a movie. You’ll never forget that movie you watched while in early labor! With my first baby it was Notting Hill – I’m showing my age here! Haha! Hitting the grocery store and preparing freezer meals…..
- After you’ve rested, you can do more active things like walking, sidestepping the stairs, hands and knees, hopefully bringing on stronger and more frequent contractions and keeping your pelvis nice and open and loose. For other tips and info on the importance of movement in labor, click here
- Practice your deep breathing techniques and relaxation methods while contractions are still manageable. That way you can go into the next phase of labor relaxed, confident and in control of your breathing and keeping your body loose. Remember that a relaxed mind and body = relaxed and open cervix. Tight body and nervous mind = tight cervix, whether you eventually opt for an epidural or not. So important!
Keep an eye out for our next post on the next stage of labor – Active Labor!