Before we talk about what to do in early labor, let's define it.
Early Labor :
The first phase of labor when contractions are under ten minutes but mild and manageable. Contractions usually follow a regular pattern that can be anywhere between 10-7 minutes apart. These contractions/waves/surges are often easily to breath and move through. This is the latent phase of labor in which your body is preparing for more work to come; active labor. Your cervix is making changes, thinning and dilating; however, labor is still manageable in early labor.
This is your warm up ...
SO, what should we be doing during this time?
The most challenging part of this early phase is the anticipation. Often times we feel like a ticking time bomb.
Anxiety can grow as we feel the need to try and speed things up; walking, bouncing on a ball, going up and the stairs, or simply talking and cleaning (nesting) as the hours tick away.
Our minds can get carried away as we contemplate the possibilities of what is about to unfold. We can become restless, frustrated, anxious and stressed! Wanting to move things forward, we may Google a myriad of exercises and positions to quicken the labor.
BUT, what are we really doing when we try to speed things up?
Walking, lunges, stairs, anxious thoughts, cleaning ...
All this extra work in the early phase of labor is only exhausting you. This is actually the time you need to be resting, sleeping if possible, eating and drinking.
The beautiful part of this early phase is the pause - pausing in what is to come. Laying about the house with your partner and day dreaming about the future.
Allow your labor to unfold as it should. Trust in this process.
When you start to experience contractions under 10 minutes that take your attention and cause you to pause. Do simply that - put on an enjoyable movie or TV series (nothing too stressful). Kick back and relax with a large glass of water, coconut water, etc. and nourish yourself. Eat a delicious meal (it maybe your last big one before this baby arrives) and rest.
Your job right now is to conserve your energy because you WILL need it later!
Take the early phase of labor, when things are manageable and you feel like you have control, to sleep if possible. Your body needs it!
Take an extra long bath, a long hot shower and nest in bed together as a family.
EAT / DRINK / REST / SLEEP / REPEAT
It WILL get harder and eventually your body will not be able to rest, your labor will propel you to stand, move and work as labor becomes more active. Remember, your job is positive self-care and to conserve your energy as best as possible.
Best of luck in your journey!!
For more childbirth education check out our Connected Childbirth Series.