Birth is an adventure.
We don’t know exactly how it will unfold. We can’t guarantee how you’ll feel on the day or which path it will take.
Having an overview of key things to expect or ideas for each stage of labour can both help you feel ready and help make it more familiar.
A key part of confidence building is learning how to be flexible and open minded. This starts with a deeper understanding of the birth journey.
– The weeks leading up to birth:
- You might like staying closer to home and getting things ready.
- Baby descends low down in the pelvis.
- You might start to feel a bit fed up with being pregnant now.
- Some Braxton Hicks but not too noticeable and for some not noticeable at all
- A great time to be spontaneous with your partner if it’s your first!
- Lots of relaxation, oxytocin boosting and small daily things to feel well.
The day before or on the day
Light cramps starting or feeling like coming down with a cold or might experience diarrhea.
– (You might have mild contractions (similar to Braxton Hicks) for days which are not regular and there’s no dilating) These are not linear so they might start and stop
Early Labour (sometimes called the latent phase)
• Contractions started but irregular and can have big gaps. Let them happen in background. The focus is oxytocin and conserving energy or very gentle movements. (Move to improve – meaning only if relaxing you and feeling good)
• If it starts in the night, rest or sleep as much as possible. These are the best brain waves for birthing and your body can be getting on with things whilst you save your energy.
• Focusing too much on things starting can over excite the thinking brain and trigger hypervigilance which is the opposite to what we want.
• Timing contractions is thinking brain focus and especially early on, there’s no clockwork pattern. Feel into it instead. Your partner could time them subtly for you.
• It’s possible for contractions to be 20 mins apart for hours and then suddenly snowball into active labour.
• The key is to ignore them until you can’t. They are designed to have you deeply focused and all energy into birthing.
• It’s not going to sneak up on you like you might see in the movies. Waiting for a perfect pattern might distract you from feeling into what’s happening.
• Don’t tell everything that things have started. You’ll get too much attention or pressure to keep people posted.
• Oxytocin, Oxytocin, Oxytocin….safety, calm, support and relaxation
• Rotate to dilate and release tension or sway, rock, bounce on your ball. Changing positions helps baby descend and the head to connect to the cervix.
• Breathe and focus, use your self-hypnosis
• It’s the quality of each contraction and not the frequency. Stronger, longer and closer together.
• 5 – 1 – 1 as a guide to go to hospital – 5 minutes apart, lasting one minute or so, for at least one hour.
Transition to hospital
• Transition to hospital can slow things down. Take your time when you arrive to settle in as quite normal for the body to have been dilating well at home and then start to close as you get into the hospital.
• Can sometimes have a disappointing vaginal check when told ‘only 3 cms’ when you felt like things were really progressing. Take your time to relax again, go for a walk or have a nap.
• Too much focus on the cervix can cause stress. The fundus can be building up well and the cervix needs a bit of time to catch up.
• It’s not all linear. The cervix can quickly go from 3 to 6cms. A mum can be at 6 cms and then within just a more contracts she feels the urge to bear down.
***Many of my hypnobirthing mums have had the experience of being told they are far too relaxed and calm to be in active labour. Ignore this, stay relaxed and go with your intuition. If you feel things are really progressing trust yourself.
One mum I worked with was almost dismissed when she arrived at the hospital for being too relaxed. She confidently said no I’m staying and baby is coming. Her baby was born 15 minutes later!***
Getting in the zone
• If intense back pain or a real slowing down, it might be that baby is misaligned. Keep using gravity, forward leaning, and changing positions whilst relaxing.
• Think of it as gears of a car –
– 1st and 2nd getting things moving at home.
– 3rd is when you want to be going to hospital.
– Once it gets into 4th gear, then the body takes over and has it’s own momentum and unfolds its own way. Your job is to stay out of the way, focus inward, support with your breathing and mind-flow and stay connected.
• Some mums notice their temperature change, wanting to make sounds, keep moving or no longer wants clothes on without any inhibitions. This is a good sign as going into mammalian brain.
• Some doulas talk of mums falling asleep in between contractions when they are fully absorbed within the birthing. Like 30 second power naps.
• 7cm+ – Adrenalin starts to come in to help shift gears for expelling baby.
• There’s a shift in mood and an intensity for most. Some mums don’t notice the transition so it’s not a given!
• Like marathon runner hitting a wall
• It can be reassuring to get a vaginal check here to tell you how close you are.
• It can suddenly feel like the breathing and rhythm isn’t working like before. Remember, baby is descending and working – tuck your chin to encourage baby to tuck hers or his. Go deeper inside, keep breathing, sip water etc
• Typical sign is to have a wobble – ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’, ‘I can’t do this anymore…’ Know you are normal and fine if this happens.
• As a note, even the idea of a second stage is very modern and medical. Remember the body just moves through a process. We call it 2nd stage because the energy is different, and some adrenalin is needed.
• Baby’s head needs to have rotated / There’s often a protocol to move back the uterus lip if not fully dilated. It tends to be baby’s head not rotated so try moving positions to encourage rotation.
• Avoid being on your back unless you want to be there. You do not need permission for this. If monitored, then as that you can be monitored on all fours or other position.
• Think of it as a dance between the contraction/reflex, baby rotating, and the shape of the pelvis
• At 10 cms – avoid the traditional directed pushing script as much as possible.
• Push if you want to but don’t tense the face.
• Go into ‘labourland’ and let body do it with your support.
• Think of the breath as energy and nudge the breath down using the diaphragm. Think of the cafeteria and supporting the energy down.
• Use sounds to open the jaw and throat. Keep the face relaxed.
• You don’t need to be told when to push. The urge to bear down takes over. Go with it and use the energy of it. It’s a powerful reflex to work with but not force.
• The second stage is usually longer when directed or when includes medical intervention. It can be longer when mum is very tired, stressed or baby not aligned.
• It tends to be longer for 1st time mums but not as a rule.
• Have skin to skin as soon as you can, if possible
• You can decide then if you want an assisted 3rd stage or let it happen.
• Can take about 30 mins or more for placenta to come but some mums hardly notice when they’re hold their baby.
• Other mums are so tired and have run out of fuel to continue with contractions, so the injection makes it super quick and easy. It’s a personal choice.
The golden hour
• This is a time to do very little. Rest with your baby or have your partner hold your baby. Take some time to adjust and rest. Eat if you can.
• There’s a lot of pressure for this hour to be ‘golden’ and the most wonderful. It can be but it doesn’t have to be. As long as baby is being cared for and held, do what feels best without any pressure to have a perfect experience here.
*** Don’t put pressure on yourself – I couldn’t hold my first baby straight after birth for a few reasons. Once the doctors had checked him, my husband held him. I was so grief stricken afterwards that I didn’t have my ‘golden hour’. I realise now that I’d had a romantic version playing in my head and the reality didn’t match, which caused me a lot of stress. I had plenty of golden hours afterwards and in the weeks after. My son who is now over 6 ft didn’t lose anything from me not holding him for that very short initial time.