These are the most common questions I get asked by first time parents. I hope you will find it helpful.
What if my water breaks before labor begins?
Many first time Moms ask me how I know when I am actually in labor. If your water breaks before contractions start you are one of the lucky ones! By your water breaking you are officially in labor. You may not feel contractions yet but you will sooner or later. Many woman experience Braxton- Hicks before their water breaks and think they are in labor but are not.
The uterine movements broke your bag of waters so sooner or later you will feel the contractions.
If you feel the contractions immediately after your water breaks then most likely you will go into active labor within five to seven hours.
How long will my labor last?
Do not pay attention to your friends and neighbors stories about their labor lasting for two days or thirty something hours. Do not let those stories scare you. Most first time laborers cannot tell the difference between early and active labor.
Studies have shown that on average the length of early and active labor can last from 11 to 16 hours.
As for myself I had a very slow labor pace with my daughter so my early labor was 19 hours and my active labor was 11 hours.
With my second child my early labor was only 5 hours and my active labor was 3 hours.
Some of my lucky friends had fast labors, sometimes start to finish in 4 hours!
What are signs of early labor?
Your contractions will usually start between three and ten minutes apart. You will feel discomfort, almost like a menstrual cramp and you might feel some back pain. The contractions will be regularly spaced and getting closer together for two hours.
Early labor might be quite painful. You will probably be able to maintain a conversation with another person. I remember when I was in early labor with my daughter. My husband and I thought that we had waited long enough so we called my doctor after a long painful and sleepless night. He asked my husband to put me on the phone. As soon as he heard my voice he said don’t come to the hospital and to call him back later when I felt that I couldn’t carry on a conversation anymore. At the time I felt so disappointed, but now when I look back I realized that he gave me very good advice.
As a first time mother I was so excited and I could not wait for the birth to begin. I paced around our apartment, I did the pelvic rock, I squatted and did all the moves that I had learned in my child birth class all night instead of resting and sleeping. The next day I was exhausted. As the day went on I now had not eaten anything for almost 24 hours. Unfortunately, I waited too long to eat so by the time I tried to eat some bread, my contractions were so intense that I could not keep any food or drink down. It was not a good way to prepare for a long labor!
What are signs of active labor and how should I handle it?
When you find yourself no longer able to focus on anything, you will start to get annoyed when your husband asks you if you want ice chips or if you are hot or cold! You will find yourself breathing longer and deeper. For some reason our bodies naturally cope very well when it comes to dealing with pain. At first your instinct will be to hold your breath when the contractions begin but you will realize when you hold our breath the pain seems worse.
Your contractions feel more painful than menstrual cramps and back pain. It is very helpful if your husband can give you a massage a technique called hip squeezing. You should also change your position even though it may feel so painful that you don’t want to move.
Walking will also help and I found that water is a good pain reliever. If there is no bath tub in your hospital, you can get in the shower and let it stream on your back or your abdomen.
Also try alternating a cold wash cloth on your face and heat or cold compress on your lower back.
Having a doula in addition to your partner’s support can positively affect your birth experience. It is very hard for your partner to see you in pain. Your doula can gently remind you to breathe deeply and evenly, and use techniques to help you manage your pain and support you mentally.
References from Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel.