There are 3 sure-fire tools to help you get through labor. A knowledge, a great support team, and a researched birth plan. Knowledge is incredibly important. If you don’t know what to expect then you are not equipped and prepared to deal with things. The most important thing about your labor support is trust. You should trust your medical professionals, your partner, and your doula if you choose to have one. A birth plan is equally as important. With a well written and researched plan you can know what is most important to you and why it is important.
The first thing that can help you get through labor is knowledge of the labor process.
Labor has 3 main stages:
1: Labor (Early and Latent)
2: Pushing (Baby comes out)
3: Placenta is delivered
Labor is the process of dilation and effacement. Dilation occurs when the cervix begins to open and effacement occurs as the cervix begins to thin. Think of it as a balloon. When you begin blowing up a balloon the opening is closed and thick. When you begin adding air even if it isn’t always obvious the opening has thinned out at least some and obviously opened up some.
Typically 2-3 days before you feel labor begin your body starts to prepare, often by losing the mucus plug. I’m going to be real here. It’s not pretty. It looks like a chunk of snot with a little bit of blood tinge to it. It’s kind of gross, but it is good news!
When labor does begin you can already be dilated, especially if it is not your first child or you are full term plus a day or two or more. During the latent phase which usually lasts until you are dilated to a 4 you can usually expect more mild contractions (not to be confused with pain-free) that you can talk or work through. If you are comfortable with your birth plan you can usually labor this part at home as it is typically more comfortable than being in the hospital being monitored every little bit while going stir crazy.
The active portion of the first part of labor usually lasts until you are dilated to a 7. This is the more uncomfortable part of labor that many women opt for some type of pain control. If you have decided to have a natural and un-medicated birth I highly encourage you to be signed up with a doula or at a minimum take as many birth classes as possible and be as educated as you can on different techniques and positions during labor. It is also important for your partner to be educated since they are going to need to help you stay focused through this rather challenging but rewarding time. This is when all of the hard work is done. Contractions are usually longer during this time and closer together not giving you much rest between contractions.
Transition is the last part of active labor. This is the time that exhaustion, fatigue, and just wanting to give up sets in. It is normal to feel defeated at this point but again with the right education and support for both you and your partner you will make it through. Labor is called ‘labor’ for a reason. It is hard work with a huge payoff. That bundle of joy at the end makes this all worth it. Transition can often accompany with body shakes and nausea, which again is good news even though it doesn’t seem so. Transition usually occurs rapidly. With longer contractions and even less time between than the previous stages. When your cervix is dilated to a 10 and you are fully effaced it will be time to push. Different positions and techniques can help out immensely during this phase. Continue reading