What's a girl to do? In the movies your water always breaks at a restaurant and then contractions come FULL force and you rush and scream your way to your birth place! Well that's just not the way birth usually works out...
Only 10% of moms experience their water breaking before the onset of contractions. Hollywood lied! GASP!
Most of the time, things start much,much slower. You have mild contractions, for a few hours, that don't take up much of your energy....some moms have theses for days (sorry...)
With my first son, these "easy" contractions went on for about 9 hours. I didn't need my husband to rush home, or my doula to massage my back. I just knew that something was happening. Luckily I was planning a home birth with a midwife, so I didn't need to worry about when to leave my house to get to the birth center or hospital...BUT what if I did?
Most moms will be leaving their house to have their baby someplace. You don't want to go too soon and then just sit there on a hospital's time clock, putting yourself at risk for unnecessary interventions. You don't want to hop in the car too early, just to have contractions fizzle out with your rise in adrenaline.
So what do you do, if you **think** you are in labor, but things haven't moved into the "We gotta go NOW!" phase.
Dr. Bradley, author of Husband Coached Childbirth, and founder of The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth, set out a few guidelines for moms who think that things are starting to happen.
Here's what he said...
1. Have a snack.
Your body will work BETTER if it has something to work with. Labor is long and exhausting (hence the name "labor"). If you think labor is starting, give your body a boost by choosing a healthy snack. Fifteen hours in, your body will thank you! This is especially if true if your provider intends on limiting or prohibiting food in labor (NOTE: This practice isn't evidence based...but that's for another day.)
2. Drink Something.
Keep a glass of water or juice by your side and sip often. Sure you'll have to make 262 trips to the bathroom, but again, your body will thank you. Moms can get very easily dehydrated in labor. Dehydration can cause your labor to slow/stop, raise your pulse, raise your blood pressure, and reduce your energy by 30%.
3. Go for a walk.
Walking is one of the best ways to get baby into a good position. Good positioning=less work for mom! As your hips move back and forth your baby is able to wiggle into the best spot in your pelvis. Walking can also help speed your labor. (WAIT, WHAT? That't right...do this now.)
If you've done the above three things and your contractions keep coming, you're probably not having just braxton-hicks contractions. They would have stopped by now. It's most likely the real deal. YAY! Now keep reading...
4. Take a shower or bath.
Warm water is one of the most relaxing tools you can use in labor. Relaxation helps your body get its work done more efficiently. If your water has broken, check with your provider about getting into a bath. Opinions vary. Once you are out of the shower, you are going to feel refreshed and ready to tackle this next stage, not to mention you'll be squeaky clean! I spent 45 minutes in the shower with my first labor and it really helped me move into more intense and active stage (READ: I'm really in labor!)
5.Take a nap.
If you can sleep, by all means get a little snooze in. It might be just what you need to get you through the next 24 hours. I know you're excited, but put on some relaxing music and close your eyes. Your body has quite an adventure ahead, and the more energy you have, the better!
Now if you've done all these things, things have progressed, and you have moved into the stage where you are SURE these contractions are the real deal, awesome! You made the most of your last few hours and helped prepare yourself for a better labor/birth.
BUT, If you wake up from your nap refreshed, but still unsure if you're "in labor"...simply go back through the list. You'll need to stay nourished and hydrated until labor sets in anyway (don't even tell me you're not ready for another snack...) Walking will still help baby move down. A shower or bath later on will be just as relaxing, and what pregnant mama doesn't need a second nap?
Somewhere in the midst of these things you can call your OB or midwife, just to give them a head's up that things might be happening. It's probably not time to head in, yet, but everyone likes a little fair warning. It will give them a chance to get a little snack, take a shower, and maybe get a nap in before the big arrival.
You got this! Labor on!
Gabrielle Teryek, AAHCC, CIES
Bradley Method Childbirth Educator
Certified Independent Placenta Encapsulation Specialist
Serving St. Augustine, Palm Coast, and surrounding areas