Dos and Don’ts of Early Labor

Expectant families spend a lot of time at the end of pregnancy feeling anxious. The anticipation and trepidation of impending labor and an expanding family brings a mixture of feelings from many expecting parents. Every blip, bump, and cramp is interpreted as a possible sign that labor is imminent, and the constant living on high alert sometimes predisposes people to take too much action too soon when labor finally begins. 

A pregnant woman at the start of her labor stretches for a moment between contractions. She looks a bit nervous about the delivery ahead.

Early labor has many names: prodromal labor, pre-labor, or false labor. This is the first phase of the first stage of labor and is often the longest, lasting approximately twelve hours for a first time parent but sometimes lasting for days. Most practitioners define early labor as contractions up to four centimeters, though many other cervical changes may be happening during the early stages of labor too, so don’t get too hung up on the number. A few simple tips can help get you through early labor and get you into the best place possible for active labor.

Don’t stay up all night

Labor tends to begin at night when it’s dark, you’re relaxed, and your body knows it’s safe. It can also be really easy to want to jump into action when those first twinges of labor begin, but resting is one of the best ways to set yourself up for labor. Labor is more of a marathon than a sprint, so taking it easy and sleeping or resting while you can is going to do you more good in the long run. Early labor can last a long time, and you don’t want to start active labor already exhausted. If you really need help relaxing so you can get some sleep, taking a nice bath can help you relax and can even slow your contractions down enough for some good rest. Check with your healthcare provider, though, if you’re water has already broken.

Woman taking a bath to relax

Don’t time every contraction

Time will seem to take forever if your eyes are fixed on the clock and timing every contraction. Early labor can take a long time, and staring at the clock can make it feel much much longer. You can time a few contractions every few hours or when your contraction pattern seems to change. You’ll want to especially take note when you can’t talk through your contractions anymore or they require your full attention to cope. Even better if you can put your partner in charge of timing things so you don’t have to focus on the numbers at all.

Don’t call everyone immediately

You may have friends, family, doula, midwife, or dog sitter you need to or want to notify when labor begins. But unless you specifically need to have someone come immediately (out of town family, history of fast labors, other complications) no need to get all hands on deck immediately. Having more people in your home watching you is more likely to stress you out and slow labor down than help things. You could also put yourself in the situation where your friends and family are constantly texting and calling you for updates when you should be sleeping or focusing on labor. You should, however, follow your healthcare provider’s protocols on when to call them and when to come in. Your doula should also provide information about when and how they would like to be contacted when you are in labor. 

Don’t start all your coping techniques

You may feel excited heading into early labor and eager to finally get to use the coping techniques you’ve been learning and practicing as you prepare for labor. But, immediately pulling everything out of your bag of tricks may desensitize you to the effectiveness of these coping techniques once active labor begins and you need them the most, making active labor more difficult and may lead to unwanted interventions.  Keeping calm and relaxed in early labor is your better alternative and only using the coping techniques you absolutely need to manage contractions.

Do: 

Ignore

Ignore what is happening for as long as you can. Go about your day as normally as possible for as long as possible. Go to the grocery store, complete those errands you were going to run, even go to work if you feel up to it. Remember, early labor can last for awhile, and it’s best to keep as close to your usual routine as possible. So, as long as you are able to ignore your contractions, ignore them.

Woman ignoring the world around her with headphones

Distract

If you’re finding it hard to just ignore your early labor, try distraction. Watching your favorite comedy show (I wouldn’t recommend a horror film), going for a walk, or some activity that requires your full attention can be especially helpful. Many people in labor make protein rich labor snacks or freezer meals for after the baby comes. Others work on craft projects they’ve been meaning to start. During the day, going for a nice walk can provide a nice distraction while simultaneously help baby move into a more favorable position, just don’t overdo it. 

Relax

Relaxation can help you rest as well as encourage the production of labor inducing hormones. Try whatever is relaxing to you (within reason). Taking a bath is a common suggestion, especially if you’re having a hard time getting to sleep. Other suggestions can be a massage, a relaxing meal, meditation, or listening to relaxing music. A truly relaxing environment will make you feel safe and calm, which can nudge your body into active labor.

Young pregnant woman having massage in spa salon

These tips may not guarantee an easy labor, but it they will help you enter active labor as calm as and rested as possible, which will help your energy and mood.

Want some more help or support for your labor? Set up a free consultation to see how doula could benefit you and your birth.

What is an E-Doula?

I had my first child almost five years ago while I was living and working in Japan.  I didn’t know anyone in my city that had given birth recently, so I took to the internet to find pregnancy and birth information in a language I clearly understood. I also wanted and found emotional support from fellow pregnant people in online forums and eventually in a small due-date group that is still an integral part of my parenting support team. 

It was through these groups that I really understood what a birth doula does, and I was so upset that I wouldn’t be able to have one.  Even if there was a practicing birth doula in my city, I had no idea how to find her, and it would be unlikely that she would speak English.  So I went without, and muddled through learning about pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period on my own while simultaneously trying to inform my husband on what he would need to know for the birth as well. It went OK, but after a much more informed and relaxing experience with the birth of my second child, I knew how different it could have been, and I know working with a doula could have made a huge difference as part of my preparation and plan for my first birth.

Me, as a proud but exhausted new mom.

When I began my doula training, I learned about so many different fields and services that different doulas offered.  One of the more unique ideas was providing E-Doula services, and I immediately knew it was a service I was going to offer. 

An E-Doula provides many of the same services as an in-person doula, but offers these services through video conferencing, text, and e-mail.  This service is perfect for someone who lives in a rural area, those living in a foreign country, or someone that may not be comfortable inviting someone to their birth space but is looking for more personal informational or emotional support than a childbirth education class would offer. Below are some details of what E-Doula Services look like.

Most doula services include several prenatal meetings.  During these meetings, doulas provide informational about your birth options and guidance and support for creating a birth preferences list to help you achieve your ideal birth.  A doula also educations and supports you and your labor partner’s understanding of what birth looks like and how to cope with changes your body goes through. An E-Doula can provide these same services over video conferencing.  She can support and train your labor partner to be your biggest supporter through your labor so you all enter into labor confident in your knowledge and skills.

Every pregnancy ends eventually

Late pregnancy is also a time of excitement as you make the final preparations for your new arrival. It’s also a time of uncertainty as you wonder if each twinge is a sign that baby is ready to come. A doula often works as your emotional support through the end of your pregnancy, giving you a sympathetic ear as you worry about being pregnant forever or when you need someone to remind you it’s OK to slow down and take care of yourself. A doula is also armed with up-to-date information to give tips and tricks to deal with any pregnancy concerns as they arise.  An e-doula is no different from a traditional doula, offering unlimted emotional and informational support through e-mail, text messaging, and phone calls. 

During labor is where E-Doula support really starts to look different. While an E-Doula can’t show up to support you physically through labor, she can be on call for anything you need or  questions you or your labor partners might have.   Video conferencing is also an option during labor to give you and your doula a good picture of what is happening and can give0 suggestions and help to you or your partner.  Your doula is a great option to have someone to call for a quick adjustment when things don’t quite feel right and can guide you and your partner through the stages and phases of labor.

Finally, and E-Doula can help support you through the first few weeks of your newborn’s life.  The transition to being a parent is a steep learning curve and can feel especially lonely and difficult if you live in an area without other parents of newborns to talk to.  An E-Doula can provide needed emotional and informational support for all your needs postpartum.  From something like umbilical stump care to a listening ear to process the birth experience, your E-Doula is just a text or phone call away.

Interested in learning more about what E-Doula services might look like for you?  Check out services and pricing or send me a message.