Posts Tagged ‘labor’

So You’re In Early Labor. Now What?

Monday, April 24th, 2017

 

One night, you are awakened from slumber at the beck and call of your compressed bladder. No, wait. That’s not it. There’s a crampy tightness that feels familiar. Where have you felt that before?

Menstrual cramps! It feels crampy. Weird. You decide to get up and move to the bathroom. After a few minutes, you get back and bed and feel more cramps. Hm. Weird.

Could this be it? It could be! This is it! You’re finally in early labor!

You know this because the contractions are coming, no matter what you do. You’ve had a big glass of water. You’ve gotten up to pee. You’ve had a snack. You’re content to let the rest of your house rest while you anticipate the birth day to come.

So you’re in early labor. Now what?

You think back to what your midwife told you, and you remember that she gave you several things to do during this slow building time.

  1. Let Your Midwife Know. As soon as you know you’re definitely in labor, she’ll want to know. She or her assistant might swing by to check on you and baby, or just triage you over the phone, depending on what’s happening and your needs.
  2. Rest. This is not the time to try and “get things moving” by taking a long walk, doing nipple stim, or anything else that is supposed to speed things along. This is the time to conserve energy. If you can talk through your contractions, you can sleep through them.
  3. Eat & Drink. Whatever time your labor starts, eat normally. One good meal is often enough to sustain you through the work to come. No food is off-limits, though it’s wise to keep in mind that you may throw up, so avoiding choking hazards or harsh foods might be a good idea. Comfort foods are wholesome, nourishing, and encourage happy hormones. Also, keep drinking. Water, juices, herbal teas that you enjoy, smoothies, and broth are all great candidates. Whatever sounds good.
  4. Do Life. There is no reason to put off that quick trip to the store to get milk and bread, or going to the movies. There is no reason to go out if you didn’t plan to, but just going about your day, doing your best to ignore what’s happening. At this point, it’s really no big deal, and it helps your progress if you can be content, happy, and moving.
  5. Distract Yourself. Sometimes, especially when it’s your first baby, it’s so hard to keep your mind off your contractions. But the rule of thumb is that you must ignore them until they demand all of your attention, whether you like it or not. Conserving energy in early labor is paramount! Don’t use breathing or coping techniques from your classes yet either. They contribute to the sense of time, and can make you far more tired than you need to be. Instead, watch funny movies, go to the park, go out on a date with your partner, bake a birthday cake, start a slow cooker meal for after the birth, or call a friend to chat.

I like to tell people to “be in denial” about their labor until their labor gets all up in their face! Just take care of yourself, pretend like everything is normal, that nothing is going on, and let your body keep the secret just a little while longer. You will be shouting to the world in your own way soon enough, so save your breath. Smile. 

“To move into active labor, a woman must give up ideas of how she thought labor might be; in other words, she must surrender.” ~Elizabeth Davis in Heart & Hands

Open up to the path your labor has chosen, and surrender time.

Grace & Peace,
Tiff

Dilation Isn’t Everything: The many jobs of your cervix.

Monday, May 18th, 2015

BESTA mother waits patiently on the small triage bed while the nurse concentrates on what her fingers are telling her about the progress of this labor. After a minute, she pulls her fingers out, and chirps brightly, “You are 5 centimeters dilated!” She flips her gloves into the trash can and turns to the computer to chart.

It’s a universal experience going into a hospital in labor. The progress of labor is reduced to a number between one and ten, and nothing else. An hour later, after being admitted to her room, the mother is told she is “still only a 5.” Once again, she isn’t a mother, she is a number. She is left alone to contemplate that, and to deal with it as she may.

Most of us tell our birth stories in terms of this number. “I was stuck at 5 forever!”

What if I told you that this number means very little when it stands alone? What if I told you that your cervix does a whole lot more than just dilate? What if I told you that there are more ways to measure progress in labor than that ubiquitous range of centimeters?

Well, it’s true.

My preceptor and mentor, Desirre Andrews says:

“There is a mystery surrounding cervical dilation and changes prior to and during labor. I like to think of it as the jobs of the cervix. The cervix does so much more than simply opening.”

So, the next time you have a baby, and you are facing a vaginal exam, make sure you ask about what else your cervix is doing!

1. Effacement
Hold up your pointer finger. Touch the second knuckle. From there to the tip of your finger is about the length of your cervix. In order for the cervix to dilate completely, your cervix has to shorten, or “efface,” completely. This is measured in percentages. If your cervix only reaches from the tip of the finger to the first knuckle, you are about 50% effaced. This process must happen before dilation can even occur. In many women, it occurs at the same time or it overlaps dilation. In first time moms, we often see effacement first, then dilation quickly follows. What if our mother was told that, while she was “still 5,” she went from 50% effaced to 90% effaced? That’s progress, people!

2. Ripening
Touch the tip of your nose. (You didn’t know this would be so interactive, did you?) That’s about the texture of a closed, uneffaced cervix. That’s no good for dilation, and it has to soften, or “ripen” in order to do its other jobs. This primarily happens before labor, but can also happen throughout labor. The texture of your cervix must work its way to the softness of your relaxed lips, and then softer still to match the texture of the inside of your cheek. We call cervixes at this stage “soft like butter.” Yet another measure of progress. If our mother were still at 5, but her cervix was much softer and more difficult to feel, that’s progress!

3. Position
To protect your baby, your cervix points towards your tailbone (posterior) during pregnancy, and sometimes even early labor. In order to open and allow the baby to move through it, your cervix must shift its position until it is pointing directly into your vagina (anterior). If our mother were told that though she were “still 5,” but that her cervix was easier to reach, this job has been done, and she has made progress!

4. Dilation
Last, but not least we have dilation. Your cervix must open up from a tightly closed position, all the way up to “10 centimeters.” Really, it’s not 10, though. At this point, nothing can be felt except baby’s head. It’s often now simply called “complete dilation.” The thing to realize about dilation is that it cannot happen unless the cervix is doing all of its other jobs already. They often happen seemingly in tandem, but sometimes a mother will be “stuck at 5” while her cervix is effacing, softening, and moving forward. Once those jobs happen, dilation is a downhill race to the finish (though it may not seem like it).

So, the next time you consent to a vaginal exam in labor, make sure you get more than a number. Ask about effacement, softness, and the position of your cervix. Your cervix is amazing and has a lot more to do than just open. Make sure it gets all the credit it deserves!

Were you informed of the various ways the cervix works before and during labor? How might this change the way you approach your future pregnancy care?

-Tiffany

In Honor of International Doula Month

Monday, May 11th, 2015
May Is International Doula Month!
 Not only were we able to celebrate World Doula Week recently, I found out that there is an entire month to celebrate doulas! Now, I could re-state all the facts about professional labor support. I could share famous doula quotes. I could toot my own horn, as it were.
However, I don’t want to do this. I would really prefer to sing the praises of my excellent clients, and what a joy it has been to serve every one of them over the past seven-plus years. Doulas would not be doulas without the need for it, and that starts with birthing women reaching out for the help a doula can offer.
So, this goes out to my clients.

Thank you.

Thank you for choosing me to walk with you, whatever your journey.

Thank you for asking questions.

Thank you for learning and growing, and letting me be a part of that.

Thank you for sharing your strength, dignity, and unique experiences with me.

You are amazing. You are the reason I love this work.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

This is where your pregnancy comes in!

Monday, May 4th, 2015

childbirth classes
We at Preparing for Birth are always striving to be more and more relevant to our clients and students, and we cannot do that without input from you! We are starting up the ol’ blog again, but we would rather not write about anything that you are not interested in. Of course, we want to cover new ground as more and more new evidence and information come to light, but it’s always nice to revisit topics that are key to you, our readers.

So, would you be so kind as to share in the comments what topics you are most interested in reading more about? Here are some ideas to get you started:

 

  • Doulas: Labor, antepartum, postpartum, and more.
  • Informed consent and conscious agreement.
  • Pregnancy myths debunked.
  • Home birth and midwifery.
  • Client and student birth stories.
  • Photos and videos.
  • Podcasts.
  • Book and product reviews.
  • Birth art/poetry/music.
  • Childbirth education.
  • Tips, tricks, and hacks for pregnancy, labor, birth, postpartum, and newborns.
  • Babywearing.
  • Breastfeeding myths.
  • Pregnancy fitness.
  • Pregnancy & special food needs (vegan, paleo, etc).

What else would you add? This is where you come in! Leave a comment, and share what you would like to read about here!

NEW Class Schedule at Preparing For Birth!

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Click to go to registration page!

Click to go to registration page!

Have you registered yet? We are accepting registrations for our May/June and July/August classes! Register for July/August classes by June 1st, and receive an early-bird thank you gift!

Here’s what our Tuesday night line-up looks like:

    Essentials for Childbirth 4-week Series

  • May 5th-26th
  • July 7th-28th
  • Essentials for Postpartum 4-week Series

  • June 2nd-23rd
  • August 4th-25th

Wondering About Weekend Options?

    Early Pregnancy Workshop*

  • May 9th
  • July 11th
  • Essentials for Childbirth Condensed

  • May 16th
  • July 18th
  • Life With Baby

  • May 23rd
  • July 25th
  • Essentials for Postpartum Condensed

  • May 30th
  • August 1st
  • Basics of Breastfeeding

  • June 6th
  • August 8th

Specialty Workshops (COMING SOON!)

  • VBAC Intensive Workshop
  • Embrace Grace Childbirth Essentials
  • And more!

While we’re at it – I want to hear from YOU! Since we’re starting up the ol’ blog again, I want to know what topics YOU are most interested in! What would you like Team Preparing for Birth to write about?

I’d like to open with a Q & A series. Email any question you have regarding home birth, midwifery, doulas, childbirth education, pregnancy, labor & birth, breastfeeding, and/or pregnancy fitness to tiffany@prepforbirth.com, and we will answer all your questions in series over the next several weeks.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany