1. The most tell tale sign of labour are regular and strong contractions. When you think you’re in labour, make sure you’ve noticed a pattern of contractions for AT LEAST an hour before heading to the hospital, or making a bold proclamation on Facebook about your labour status. Remember to look for 5-1-1. Contractions that are at least five minutes apart, contractions that are at least one minute long, and contractions that have been coming at that frequency and at that length for at least one hour. It's all or nothing on this one. It's you're having contractions that are 5 minutes apart but lasting only 20 seconds, then you are probably not in active labour.
2.The average first time mom doesn’t go into labour till she’s past 41 weeks. I know, none of us like those numbers…but it helps with some perspective.
3. The average woman’s first time labour will last over 18 hours. Some women labour longer, and some women labour shorter, hence “average.” However, this truly is an accurate picture of how long you can expect your labour to last. Unless your one of those lucky mythical birthing unicorns that only labours for 2 hours before sneezing out a baby, you should plan to block off a full day on your schedule. The good news is that the hardest part of labour usually only lasts a couple of hours or less.
4. The length of your labour doesn't really matter because women who feel supported and loved during labour actually look back on their birthing day with fond memories...I swear!
5. To answer the question that I hear almost every labouring mom ask: Yes, blood is totally normal! I know it can be alarming, but it's a sign that your cervix is changing. If you're not wearing a sexy diaper or pad by the time the bloody show appears, then get ready to strap one on, because the blood, discharge and fluids will continue for the rest of your labour...and up to 6 weeks postpartum! Remember all of those glorious periods that you missed while pregnant? Yeah, you didn't really miss them, they've just been in hiding.
6. Ignore it till you can’t ignore it anymore. If you’re not sure you’re in labour, then you’re probably not in active labour yet. For some, early labour can last for days!! That first 5cm or so can take a very long time, especially for first time moms. You're not considered to be in active labour until about 5cm. Try not to get discouraged by 'slow progress'. It is totally and completely normal early on. Try to alternate between distracting, relaxing and labour stimulating activities by going on a walk, taking a nap, baking, watching tv, playing games, napping again, etc.
7. Avoid getting in the tub too early in your labour because it may slow things down. However, if it’s the middle of the night and you've been in early labour for a long time, feel free to get in the tub. It may ease off your contractions just enough so you can get some sleep. But feel free to use a shower at any point in your labour…this doesn’t seem to stall out labour. and can be both relaxing AND distracting!
8. Losing your mucus plug really doesn’t give clear indications that labour is close. Don’t call your doctor, midwife, or doula at 2AM letting them know you’ve lost your mucus plug. However it doesn’t hurt to mention it at your next visit, or during regular business hours. It may be a sign that labour is hours or days away...but it may not be, too. Super simple and straightforward, right?
9. If your water breaks, or if you continually feel like you’re peeing on yourself, call your care provider immediately. Also go put on some Depends. You’ll thank me for it.
10. Drink, pee, and repeat. An empty bladder helps relieve some of the pain of the contraction and staying hydrated is vital for your body and your baby.
11. If you can still talk through or laugh in between your contractions, you’re probably still in early labour.
12. Once you’re bellowing like a wild buffalo, or breathing heavy like you’ve just finished a spinning class, you’re likely in active labour.
13. Remember there is more to progression of labour than just how dilated you are. The position of your cervix, how soft it is, how effaced it is, and the station of the baby all make a difference in your labour. So when your caregiver exclaims "you're still 4cm" be sure to ask about the other ways your cervix may have changed.
14. In my experience as a doula, I have noticed that once a woman is completely effaced, she’ll plow through labour like a mack truck. So hang in there. The first part of labour can be grueling and long, but once you are fully effaced things will speed up.
15. Writing a birth plan is a great exercise! It helps you and your partner explore your options...but in my experiences actually handing your nurse or doctor a physical plan on paper only elicits eye rolls and proclamations about how you've doomed yourself to a c-section by simply having an opinion. I'm not saying that it's right, but it's what happens far too often.
16. Okay, remember at the top when I said that contractions are the tell tale way to know when you are in labour? That was a lie! Crowning is most certainly the strongest sign of labour! By this point you'll know that you are in labour if you didn't already...trust me!
Kiss-ass doula, pretty okay-ish mom, spreadsheet enthusiast, punctuality freak, ice cream addict.