labor

The Marathon of Birth: Part 2, Active Labor

Welcome back to the Marathon of Birth, an overview of the stages of labor plus tips & tricks from your favorite Birth Doulas! If you haven't already done so, review Part 1: Early Labor to get a good understanding of how to manage that phase of labor. 

Remember that birth has 3 distinct stages: Labor, Pushing, & Birth of the Placenta. The first stage of labor is broken down into 3 parts: Early, Active, and Transition... I know, it's kind of confusing. Today, we'll share all about the Active Phase of labor to better prepare you for your own birth marathon. If you're interested in delving further into the stages of labor, we recommend registering for our Confident Birth series or Weekend Intensive, offered in group & private settings. 

If you recall, we compared Early Labor to the first few miles of the marathon where you're finding your stride and own unique rhythm. When active labor hits, you'll begin to tap into your instincts and all the mental and physical training you've accomplished in pregnancy. 

Surviving Prodromal Labor

Start. Stop. Start. Stop.

Contractions come consistently for 4 hours. Then nothing. You fall into a sleepy abyss of nothingness for a few hours before the contractions start up again. And again, they stop.

The next morning you have random and mild contractions. There's no pattern, no consistency, just annoying pain that lasts all day long. Sometime in the mid afternoon you nap and they go away.

Night time falls, the moon rises... they're back. Coming every 3 minutes. Your back and hips ache beyond belief. You're convinced this is it.

You call your doula. She comes to your home to support you but hours later, the contractions slow and eventually stop.

This is prodromal labor. And it is, (pardon my French), a total mind fuck. 

Some people call prodromal "false labor" but the reality is, there's nothing false about it. The contractions are real. What you're feeling is real. The mind games are real. Calling it false labor discounts what the laboring woman is feeling and can make her feel as if her body is broken or unable to dilate. This is simply not the case. 

The biggest challenge with prodromal labor is that while the contractions are real, they typically aren't strong enough or consistent enough to dilate your cervix, thus prolonging your labor and wearing you out in the process... physically, mentally and emotionally.

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So how do you avoid wearing yourself out?

Surviving prodromal labor requires a lot of support, so before you reach the end of your pregnancy, I recommend having a system in place in the event this is a part of your birth journey. 

Call Your Doula

This is why you hired her. She will provide emotional support to help you stay present and encouraged. Her expertise will help you determine if this is prodromal or early labor. She'll be able to give you tips on various positions or comfort measures that can help you stay relaxed. Don't be afraid to call her or ask for help. She is always there for you.

Re-Program Your Brain

So much of the labor game is mental. As you can imagine, days or weeks of start and stop contractions would discourage anyone. Build yourself up and get your mind right with affirmations. Print some out and put them all over your house, in every room. Repeat them out loud to reinforce their meaning and strength. 

Further, reframe your thoughts around prodromal labor by looking at it as a warm up or a rehearsal for the big day. Use this time to practice your breathing, relaxation and comfort measure techniques that you learned in childbirth class. Get your partner involved with some hands-on support to provide physical relief. 

Rest When You Can

Don't hate me. I know rest is what you crave and I know it can be hard to come by with prodromal labor. Find respite in the breaks and sleep when your body allows you to. If you can't sleep, keep the nighttime restful with gentle yoga, warm baths, meditation or something equally relaxing. Can't find a comfortable position? Check out Spinning Babies for supportive positions that encourage relaxation and more optimal positioning of your baby. 

Another option for rest is called "therapeutic rest." If your prodromal labor has prevented you from getting quality sleep for days or weeks, talk to your care provider about this option. Therapeutic rest involves medication such as Ambien or Nubain to relax your body and mind to get you to sleep. Often times therapeutic rest is the catalyst for kick starting your labor. 

Nourish Yourself

It's easy to be distracted by this annoying labor pattern, not to mention the discomfort or exhaustion may limit your appetite. But nutrition is just as important now as it is in active labor. Eat smaller, high protein meals to keep you fuller longer or try hydrating soups that will nourish your tired soul as well as your hard-working body. Stay hydrated with coconut water, fresh juice, electrolyte drinks or tea. 

Dig deeper into self-care and go get a relaxing massage or a pedicure. Not only do these promote relaxation, but certain acupressure points might move labor along. 

Be Gentle With Yourself

Ignore your contractions for a long as you can. Alternate rest and activity. Do normal things for as long as you feel comfortable and when your energy is tapped out, give yourself space to rest. Remember, your body is warming up and working hard, so give yourself grace and compassion. Know that you will not be pregnant forever and that in time this prodromal labor pattern will shift and your baby will come. 

Prodromal labor can be incredibly challenging and disheartening. But with the right frame of mind and the right support, you will get through it. Did you experience prodromal labor? Share about your experience below and tips on what worked!

Why a Judgment-Free Doula Matters

You'll here us talk about non-judgmental support A LOT in our work as doulas. This is the pillar on which our agency stands. But we're often asked, what does non-judmental support really mean? 

I remember the exact moment when I realized how important being a judgment-free doula was. I was at a baby shower chatting it up with some friends, including the guest of honor, the mama-to-be. Someone in the group asked if she had a birth plan. I saw her face fall as she looked directly at me, then looked quickly away. Her demeanor changed as she told us that she had already scheduled a repeat cesarean. 

Earlier in her pregnancy she had come to me asking about VBACs (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). I remember gushing about how amazing VBACs were and how empowering they can be. I remember telling her that she should go for it! I recall side-stepping her fears about uterine rupture, explaining that they are a rarity and I recall dismissing her fears about going past her estimated due date and needing to be induced. I cringe now thinking about the assumptions I made and how I projected my personal beliefs onto her. 

It was there at that baby shower that she held a mirror up to my face. After sharing that she was choosing to have a cesarean, she shared that she was nervous to tell me. She was scared that I wasn't going to be supportive or that I would try to talk her into having a VBAC. 

My spirit was crushed.

I was mortified that my passion for supporting natural birth had come across as judgmental and that my words and actions had caused shame and fear. As a doula, I often touted myself as non-judgmental and while I intentionally never made anyone feel bad about their birth experience, it was at this baby shower that I began to wonder just how non-judgmental my support really was. 

Talk about a wake up call!

In that moment I made a decision that changed my approach as a doula. As I apologized to my friend for my judgments and for making her experience seem less than, I made a commitment to myself to do better and be better. I became a doula to make a positive impact on birth and the best way I know how to do that is to be open and unconditionally supportive of all choices. And it is that attitude that we look for in all the doulas we bring onto our team. 

Our support involves no judgment.

None. Nada.

zip. zilch.

completely, 100% Judgment free.

Your birth is yours and yours alone. Yes, there will be family, friends, care providers, and your doulas surrounding you with support and love. But it is your body and your baby, therefore the choices you make are yours. We vow not to project any certain agenda or philosophy onto your unique experience.

Our doulas offer a safe space to share your beliefs about birth and parenting, your fears, and your desires.  Together, you and your doula will create a birth and postpartum plan that encompasses all your needs. And while she is there to answer your questions and offer guidance, she trusts in your capacity to make the informed decisions that are right for you. Even if your plans change down the line, the non-judgmental support will continue. 

It is our belief that with the support of your judgment-free doula positivity will surround your pregnancy, birth, and parenting journey. It is our belief that in providing space to learn and make your own decisions you will find confidence. It is our believe that in being there 100%, no questions asked, you will find comfort and peace of mind. 

The birth of your baby will forever change you. This is your experience, and we will be by your side, no matter what. Your choices are yours, not ours. Your birth is yours, not ours. Your body is yours, not ours. Your baby is yours, not ours. What is ours is our desire and passion for spending this time with you, your partner and your family, offering unconditional support and care. And we offer it happily.

The Marathon of Birth: Part 1, Early Labor

The beginning of the labor process can bring a range of emotions. Relief, fear, anxiety, excitement, nervousness... all while wondering if you've done everything you can to prepare. Maybe you're the type of person to double check your hospital bag to make sure you have all you need. Or perhaps you get so overwhelmed with the excitement that you exhaust yourself and need a nap. Rest easy, knowing that all of these responses are normal and to be expected.