January 30, 2017
Rest. Relax. Get some sleep. Sometimes we sound like a broken record when our clients are experiencing early labor, or prodromal labor contractions. In your childbirth classes, you will hear about the Phases and Stages of labor.
While these are helpful guidelines for starting to talk about what you might experience as your body gets ready to give birth, the truth is, labor is often not as straight-forward as we like to make it seem.
Some women will experience mild to moderately intense contractions for days, or even weeks, leading up to the big day. Other women seem to jump straight from nothing to full-blown hard labor, with no warm-up. In the middle there are the women that will follow a pretty standard pattern. All of this is normal! It is helpful to think about how you will prepare and cope in any scenario.
What can be difficult, though, is when what you thought labor might be like doesn't line up exactly with what labor really is like for you. Sometimes you are working hard through contractions, you are checked, and it suddenly seems like you haven't made as much progress as you hoped.
I want to tell you something. Labor is hard, and it is unpredictable. Progress can happen excruciatingly slow, and then suddenly a huge leap is made. If you are 4cm, and it feels like you have already been hit by a mack truck, it is ok. Let's not discount how hard the work can be just to get into active labor in the first place!
We often get the impression that early labor, up until somewhere between 4-6cm, will be easy. You are told to rest, relax, and ignore contractions. This is great advice!
Sometimes, though, the work of early labor is not as easy to ignore as expected. In fact, for some women, this phase can be even longer and harder than the rest of labor! The early, getting into active, phase of labor can take time, endurance, and patience. It can feel intense, painful, and come with a variety of emotions.
Remember that dilation is just one of many, many measures of labor progress. Cervical dilation can happen over the course of minutes (I've seen women go from 7cm to crowning in 15 minutes flat), or months (I've also seen women walk around 4cm for 6 weeks at the end of pregnancy!) If you are experiencing a longer, harder early phase, other changes are happening, such as:
Have you experienced a harder early labor phase in the past? What did you find helpful in coping? Do you have a story to share? We would love to hear about it!