Once labour starts the latent phase/early labour can go on for days, and birth can seem like a long way off. You may have been told that labour progresses at 1cm dilation per hour, but this information is very outdated and not necessarily true. Some people will birth in a much quicker time and others much longer.
If you are tired and uncomfortable and want to hurry things along, I’ve listed below some tips that might help, however babies come when they’re ready. If you’re in the hospital you may start feeling the pressure from your health care provider to start augmentation. Augmentation of labour is the process of stimulating the uterus to increase the frequency, duration and intensity of contractions after the onset of spontaneous labour. They may suggest a syntocinon drip, breaking your waters, something else or even a caesarean birth.
There are many reasons why labour may stall, the good news is that most of these reasons are not a cause for concern, other than feeling discouraging and exhausting. I’m not going to talk too much about the reasons for stalled labour, but one of the main problems with inductions can be ‘slow to start labour’. An induction is forcing your body into labour when it’s not really ready, so it’s more likely to stop start and possibly stop again. This can lead to further intervention and can often be a cause for an induced birth to end with a caesarean birth.
If you are healthy, your baby is healthy and there’s no cause for concern you may want to consider doing nothing and letting labour happen when your body is ready.
If you do want to move things along you could consider these tips below:
- Get in to an upright position and utilise gravity. I talk to all my clients in yoga classes, doula sessions and antenatal classes about UFO (no, not the flying saucer types!). UFO is upright, forward and open. It is important to rest, but gravity can really help if things have stalled. Maybe go for a walk, rock and roll about on your birth ball (you should have one of these if you follow me regularly, they are fab!). How about trying some gentle yoga moves that promote a good UFO position. If you need to sit down, sit on a hard chair with your knees parted, and tuck a rolled-up towel under the back of your bum. This tilts the pelvis into a great position. You may also like to sit backwards over a highbacked dining room chair. This position is very UFO! If you’re in a birth pool you may want to try leaning forward over the edge of the pool rather than sitting on the stool, or possibly get out for a while and return once things start progressing again.
- Think about some specific movements. I’ve just mentioned getting upright but there’s also specific moves that you can do. You could try walking with wide knees, bringing each knee up high out to the side with each step. You could try walking up and down the stairs sideways. You could try deep squats to open your pelvis wide and also try some side lunges. A child’s pose could work wonders if you’re tired. In child’s pose have wide knees to allow for your bump and rest whilst in this pose. Although you’re resting your pelvis will be open and tilted forward. You could also take a look at www.spinningbabies.com for some more tips on positioning.
- Something I always talk about is sitting on the loo when you’re in labour. The position of your pelvis is perfect for birthing. There’s been many times I’ve spent sitting on toilet floors with a birthing person, as this is where their contractions have been the most productive.
- On the subject of the toilet, it’s worth you trying to go to the loo. Having an empty bladder and bowel can really help make space for your baby to move down. Urinary retention can be a problem for some people during labour, if this is a problem for you a midwife can insert a catheter to remove the urine. I’ve seen this done many times and there can be immediate changes to the progress of labour.
- Try making some deep ‘throaty’ sounds. You could try inhaling through your nose and exhaling with a long slow deep breath through your mouth. Whilst you exhale try making an ahhh sound or other deep primal sounds. The cervix and throat are directly connected by the vagus nerve on a physical level. This fact used to be speculation, but emerging evidence says that it’s a fact. This is why opening the throat during labour can help to open the cervix.
- Whilst making the above sounds, it could help to close your eyes and visualise your baby moving down the birth canal. Imagine if you were a marathon runner, to keep you going during a long run you may have been taught to visualise the finish line. The same principle applies to birth. Visualise, or imagine your baby moving down the birth canal and it can really help your brain to make this happen.
- Along with the throaty breathing from point 5 you could try some positive affirmations. Telling yourself that you’re doing well and that your body is opening can help it happen. Here are a few to try ‘my body is opening and relaxed’, ‘on each exhale my baby is moving down’, ‘My body is opening like a flower in the sunshine’, ‘everything is ok and happening as it should’, ‘my baby knows how to be born’, ‘my body knows how to birth my baby.
- A shower could help. It’s relaxing and comforting and can really help with aches and pains. If you’re in the shower, you’ll be adopting an upright position. The water can feel like a warm hug!
- Think about your environment. If you’re at hospital maybe think about going home again (if this is safe to do), if the TV is on and annoying you turn it off, if your mother-in-law is round and you’d rather have some peace and quite then ask her to go home. If you’re in hospital close the curtains, pop on some headphones and shut out the outside world for a bit. Make your surroundings as lovely as you possibly can.
- Nipple stimulation can really help and get the hormones for labour and birth going in the right direction. You can do this yourself or ask your partner to help. It can sometimes take quite a lot of perseverance, but I know cases where it’s really helped.
- Sniff some clary sage essential oil. My favourite way to administer this is to put one drop of oil on to a cotton ball and place it in a small pot, to create a ‘sniffy pot’. You can inhale this as often as you like, and it could promote those eagerly awaited contractions.I always have clary sage in my doula bag to support my clients in these situations.
- Don’t count contractions! I’ve seen this so many times, you’re at home and the contractions start, immediately you get out an app on your phone and start timing your contractions. This can be useful once things start picking up and you’re considering whether to go to the hospital or not, but you may be counting for many hours if you do it from the start. This in itself can be tiring and really keep your mind focused. As you’ll see with my point in a minute you need to get out of your thinking brain, so having to think about a timer isn’t going to help.
- You need to turn off the neo-cortex part of your brain and get primal! As I mentioned above stop thinking about contraction timers, don’t fret about other kids, don’t worry about the traffic and getting to the hospital, don’t panic about the stalled contractions. You need your brain to relax! When you’re relaxed, you’ll produce the hormone oxytocin, which is crucial for labour and birth. Adrenaline and stress can inhibit this oxytocin production. By doing this you will naturally start to go within yourself and be in an optimal mental state for birth. You are more likely to listen to what your body needs and move in the ways your body is telling you e.g., you may feel an overwhelming urge to get on all fours or to squat. You may feel the need to shut the blinds and get under a duvet. Going with your body is key here. Your body knows how to birth your baby, so please do listen to what it’s telling you.
- I left this tip for last because it’s the most important and I want you to remember it above all else. Babies come when they’re ready, so it’s worth trying to sleep, eat, relax and try to distract yourself from what’s happening within your body. When you relax, when you’re with the people you love, when you’re in your own home and relaxed and comfortable you’re going to produce more oxytocin. If you’re trying to heighten oxytocin think about stroking your pet, cuddling the people you love, being warm, getting under a duvet, watching a happy film and eating the foods you love. It might take a long time for things to happen, but soon enough your baby will be here and labour and birth will be over. Relax, enjoy the last few days/hours that you have with your baby wriggling around inside of you and know it will be over soon.
If you’d like to read about the support I can provide through labour and birth please see Birth Doula – Breathe Birth Yoga or get in touch, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07920 212669