What do you do when you know you’re in early labor?
If you’ve had a couple of babies or more, you know that having some things to do to keep busy is a good idea.
Paying attention to labor too early is a bad idea.
If you’re giving birth in a hospital, you’ll leave too early (and the more time you’re in there, the more the birth team is going to want to rush things along and perform unnecessary interventions). If you’re giving birth at home, you’ll call the midwife too early and the whole thing will seem to take longer.
A lot of moms refer to this early labor behavior as “puttering”. That’s a good word for it. You don’t want to do anything too exhausting in early labor because you don’t want to wear yourself out, you just want to pass the time.
Another reason not to pay attention too soon?
Because you don’t know if it’s “real” labor (meaning, labor that produces a baby at the end) until after the fact. It can be disheartening to pay attention too soon, only to not have a baby at the end of several hours of cramping or light contractions.
In addition, light activity keeps things going so that if it is labor, you’ll probably progress faster than if you were to head to bed at the first sign of contractions. Getting excited about labor too soon can actually stop the contractions.
Because when you produce adrenalin, labor stops.
(I found several posters like this on Pinterest, I’m totally printing them out and putting them around my house.)
The bottom line: Ignore it as long as you can.
If you’ve been through it a few times, you know that real labor is generally unmistakable. Real labor, hot and heavy labor, the kind that makes babies come, requires your full attention. You can’t do other things during this kind of labor because it commands every bit of focus you can muster. If you start speaking a sentence and a contraction hits, you stop and “deal” with the contraction. If you are walking and a contraction hits, you stop and drop to the floor in a squat or lean over the nearest chair for support or grab onto the nearest body and hang on. You can’t ignore it.
So early labor is a great time to get some final stuff done and pass time until real labor begins to heat up (or not).
When my last baby was born, I began the morning knowing that a baby was going to happen that day. But instead of sitting around waiting, I went out for breakfast with my husband, did a little shopping, and did some cleaning and other stuff. I wish I had been wise enough to handle things this way with my first! His birth seemed to take forever, because I paid attention too soon.
If you’re birthing at home, your midwife may have a small checklist of things for you to do when you know you’re in labor. She may ask that you strip your bed and put a set of clean, sterilized sheets down, tape a plastic bed protector over that, then remake it with sheets that you’re ok potentially birthing on. Here are a few of the things I’ll be doing when I know I’m in early labor:
- Take a shower and shave
- Put on a little makeup – waterproof mascara is a must!
- Tidy things up. Noone wants to welcome a baby into a messy house
- Get your postpartum pads handy in the bathroom
- Take a walk
- Put the baby’s clothing and diapers in a handy spot
- Eat something.
- Drink regularly
- Make a batch of Labor Aid tea.
- Watch a funny movie (laughing is pain relief and the distraction will help take your mind off things)
- Get postpartum herbs and pain reliever handy
- Grab the birth kit and get it easily accessible for the midwife
- Do a little shopping. (In one of my births, I was at Home Depot just hours before baby’s arrival. In another, it was IKEA.)
- Make love. Midwives like to say that the activities that got the baby in also help get the baby out. Orgasm will simultaneously relax you, provide pain relief and heat up contractions. And semen contains prostaglandins which help soften and ripen the cervix.
What would you add to this list? What kinds of things do you do when you’re “puttering” around in early labor?