Well friends, I'm here to tell you there is no secret. Yes, there are things you can do prenatally to try improving your labor (we're fans of chiropractic care and lots of squats) but ultimately there's little control over how your labor and birth will unfold.
But there is one thing you might be doing in early labor that's likely to make labor harder: not resting. Second and third time moms, can I get an amen?! For most women, early labor typically starts with contractions that are mild and erratic or spaced pretty far apart. You get that first sensation that "feels different" and after a few more, you probably start to get excited. Is this it? Is baby really on the way? Amidst the buzz of happy and nervous emotions it's hard to rest. Or it might even be tempting to start timing or get up and about to try to get things moving. But please, put down the breast pump and the timing app-- you can even take it easy on the power walking. Because active labor will make itself known and will progress on its own time.
Think of your labor as a marathon, not a sprint. It's not unusual for labor to take ten to twenty hours (or more) and you'll need all the strength you can get. Remember: even once you're completely dilated you still have to push out your baby which requires even more physical power. When you're exhausted everything in labor will seem harder and more painful. So in those early hours when things are pretty easy let yourself rest and relax while your body does the work. Ideally, try sleeping -- if your labor starts in the evening you can go to bed like it's any other night; if it's daytime really try to take a nap at some point.
We know the end of pregnancy is uncomfortable (everything seems to be swelling, aching, or leaking) so below are a few tips to help you get as cozy as possible and ready to maximize rest:
- Warm shower or bath: warm water will make your contractions less painful and also help you get super relaxed
- Hot tea or glass of wine: you may or may not be comfortable with the latter option (and you can always get the opinion of your doctor or midwife) but a cup of something warm will feel soothing.
- Tylenol PM: This is something to discuss with your care provider but if they give you the go ahead, this can help ease contraction pain while helping you sleep.
- Pillows: No doubt you have a collection of pillows to get you comfy in bed; try side-lying on your left side and putting a couple pillows between your knees, plus behind your back and wedged under your belly.
- Heating pad: Especially if you're experiencing back pain with labor, try a low-setting heating pad or hot water bottle. Even if you're not, sometimes the gently warmth is very comforting.
- Micro naps: Even in early labor, you may have a hard time sleeping when your contractions come on. That's okay! Try to take advantage of the break in-between with micro naps. Those 10 minute snoozes can really add up.
What helped you rest during early labor?