The Stages of Labour (& What To Do!)
1) EARLY LABOUR
𝗪𝐡𝐚𝐭’𝐬 𝐦𝐲 𝐜𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐱 𝐮𝐩 𝐭𝐨? In early labour, your cervix is dilating from 0-3cm. Did you know, it’s actually possible to dilate to 3cm without having any contractions at all?! It’s likely that your cervix is still quite long at this point but it will start to get shorter and shorter as labour progresses. (𝘛𝘩𝘪𝘴 “𝘦𝘧𝘧𝘢𝘤𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵” 𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘦𝘳𝘷𝘪𝘹 𝘪𝘴 𝘦𝘲𝘶𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘢𝘴 𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘪𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯!)
𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐓𝐢𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐠: For most people, you’ll feel a tightening or crampy feeling in your lower abdomen every 6-20 min. That feeling will linger for 15-30 seconds or so but not quite reach a minute long. Unfortunately, 𝐢𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐮𝐧𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐨𝐧 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐥𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐭 & 𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐩 𝐝𝐮𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐠𝐞. Look for patterns that stay consistent for 1-2 hours before getting too excited! 𝗪𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐝𝐨𝐞𝐬 early labour 𝐥𝐨𝐨𝐤 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞? In early labour, it is very likely you will be aware that your contractions are happening but also able to distract yourself through them. That’s right, you could (and should) carry on with your normal day-to-day activities during this stage. 𝐏𝐑𝐎 𝐓𝐈𝐏: the labouring person will be able to both walk & talk through these contractions. I always suggest finding a balance between 𝘙𝘌𝘚𝘛, 𝘔𝘖𝘝𝘌𝘔𝘌𝘕𝘛, 𝘈𝘕𝘋 𝘕𝘜𝘛𝘙𝘐𝘛𝘐𝘖𝘕.
𝐎𝐱𝐲𝐭𝐨𝐜𝐢𝐧: In order for labour to progress, we need oxytocin to flow naturally throughout our body. That means we need to feel good, safe, supported, happy & loved. Try spending time in your baby’s nursery or eat some delicious food with your partner. Oxytocin also flows when we move our bodies, have sex (nipple stimulation would also give the same affect) and feel relaxed! I always suggest finding a healthy balance between 𝐦𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 (head outside for a nice walk), 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐭 (take a nap or watch some Netflix) and 𝐧𝐮𝐭𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 (eat food that is packed full of energy!)
𝐌𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐥𝐲 𝐥𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐫: Two of my favourite movements for early labour are the pelvic tilt & curb walking. Both of these exercises will help baby move further into the birth canal and engage on the cervix! Don’t forget that 𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘭𝘺 𝘭𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘨𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘭𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘱 𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦𝘴 before progressing to 𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐥𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐫.
𝐀𝐂𝐓𝐈𝐕𝐄 𝐋𝐀𝐁𝐎𝐔𝐑: 𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵’𝘴 𝘮𝘺 𝘤𝘦𝘳𝘷𝘪𝘹 𝘶𝘱 𝘵𝘰? In active labour your cervix is dilating from 4-6 cm. It is likely that your cervix has started to “efface” at this point. For some people, when you are 100% effaced, dilation tends to speed up. Try not to focus so much on how far dilated you are, your body is doing AMAZING things that take time & patience. 𝘊𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨: Your contractions are somewhere between 2-5 mins apart. (Quite the jump right?) They are also quite a bit longer, reaching a full 60 seconds from start to finish. Some people experience contractions that seem to be right on top of each other but not lasting 1 min long. This is normal, but tells us that you’re not quite in active labour yet. Follow the 5-1-1 rule before you head to your birth place! ✨𝟓-𝟏-𝟏✨ = 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝟓 𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐬 𝐚𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭 - 𝟏 𝐦𝐢𝐧 𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐠 - 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐧 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐲𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐚𝐦𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐀𝐓 𝐋𝐄𝐀𝐒𝐓 𝟏 𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐫 (𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝟐!) 𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘥𝘰𝘦𝘴 active labour l𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦? As a support person, you’ll notice that these contractions 𝘭𝘰𝘰𝘬 different. Before, the labouring person could walk & talk through the contractions, but now they can’t. You may see them bracing themselves on an object or person as they work through the wave. You may also notice them intentionally breathing & swaying to help manage the intensity. Oddly enough, when the contraction ends, they may act like nothing was happening. Conversations continue & walking starts back up again! 𝐏𝐑𝐎 𝐓𝐈𝐏: 𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐜𝐡 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐦𝐨𝐨𝐝. Be focused and present during contractions & carry on conversations when they end.
𝐁𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐦𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐥𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐫! The most effective positions in active labour will create 𝘥𝘪𝘢𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭, 𝘶𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘴𝘱𝘢𝘤𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘱𝘦𝘭𝘷𝘪𝘴. The movement that I generally recommend is an 𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞 𝐥𝐮𝐧𝐠𝐞. 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐩 𝟏: place a stool or chair beside your left leg (think 10 o’clock) 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐩 𝟐: place your left leg on the stool and slowly rock towards that foot 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐩 𝟑: when the contraction ends, lower your foot and rest. Stay on this side for 3 contractions or 10 mins 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐩 𝟒: repeat on the other side
This movement will help create space in the 𝘯𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘴𝘵 part of your pelvis, allowing your baby to move further into the birth canal and complete the dilation process. Be prepared for intense contractions by having a great support team around you!
TRANSITIONAL LABOUR: Transitional labour is the final & most intense stage of labour. During this stage you will require all of your support, pulling out all the stops to help you work through those contractions. It is also the shortest stage of labour with contractions coming every 2-3 mins and lasting at least 1 min long. 𝗪𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐦𝐲 𝐜𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐱 𝐮𝐩 𝐭𝐨? Is this stage, your cervix is dilating from 7-10cm. It’s very likely the effacement or thinning of the cervix is complete or well on its way. We know that for some people, once the cervix is 100% effaced, changes to cervical dilation can happen quickly. 𝗪𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐈 𝐛𝐞 𝐝𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐠? Although contractions are 2-3 mins apart, it may feel like that aren’t completely going away. For partners: you may need to take a more directive approach to your coaching and supporting. Things like, “take a long, slow breath for your baby,” would be helpful. As well as, “let that one go, drop your shoulders.” Eye contact, touching their hands and using a relaxing but firm voice will help in facilitating that. As the birthing person, it is likely that you have found a good rhythm, at this point. Most people will find themselves in a tub, shower or swaying back and forth to help work through these contractions. It isn’t uncommon for people to lay down however, just listen to your body! In an ideal world, staying upright in transitional labour will help bring baby further down into the birth canal and finish the dilation process. 𝗪𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐈 𝐛𝐞 𝐬𝐚𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠? You probably won’t be communicating verbally at this point. I encourage partners to be more intuitive during this stage and avoid asking too many questions. Little interruptions can really throw off a person’s focus and rhythm in transitional labour which we of course do not want to do. Your partner should expect: closed eyes, undirected movement such as swaying and low sounds or moans.
The 3rd & final stage of labour is “transitional labour.” (Be sure to check out my previous posts to learn more about it). 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘨𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘶𝘱𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵! Movements for transitional labour!
✨ 𝘴𝘭𝘰𝘸 𝘥𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘯𝘦𝘳: (imagine your middle school dance except your hands are on the bottom). This one is amazing for oxytocin flow 😉
✨ 𝘵𝘶𝘣 𝘰𝘳 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳: submerging your belly in warm water actually has the ability to block pain receptors! This is a great place to be for the last & most intense portion of your labour ✨ 𝘣𝘪𝘳𝘵𝘩 𝘣𝘢𝘭𝘭: It’s likely you might be feeling very tired at this point. Using a birth ball will allow you to remain upright while still resting between contractions. (Depending on how low your baby is, this position might feel uncomfortable for you and that’s okay, switch it up)!
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