Let's talk about the first stage of labor, shall we?
Here are just some random things I learned in class about First Stage Labor. Those that have experienced this, please feel free to add your wisdom. It is so important to remember that no two labors are alike, so take all of this with a grain of salt. This is just info to help you become familiar with the birth process and maybe make you less intimidated by it all.
- Anterior Presentation: this is when baby is facing the back of mom, and it's the most common and easiest to deliver (its what you want)
- Cervix: this is the neck of the uterus and at the lower end of it
- Dilation: the opening of the cervix, which they measure in cm
- Effacement: the thinning of the cervix, which they tell you in percentages
So first stage labor is when labor starts until you are ready to start pushing baby out. To prepare for labor, your body may have Braxton-Hicks contractions (practice contractions), softening of the cervix, loss of the mucous plug, etc. If you are unsure if this is real labor or pre-labor, then when you get contractions do these five things: eat, drink, walk, shower and nap. If the contractions continue on after these things then this is the real deal baby.
Once early labor begins, your uterus starts contracting. This could happen before or after your water breaks (for some women, their water never breaks on its own). When the uterus contracts, it tips forward. This is why laboring by laying on your back is supposed to be so painful, because gravity is pulling the uterus back down and causing a great deal of pain.
Today, we tend to focus on the vaginal exams to see how we are progressing during first stage. But watching the outward signs can be very helpful as well. A woman will go from being able to talk during contractions and being a very busy body, to a very inward focus where she doesn't seem to notice all that is going on around her. This is a sign that labor is progressing well. Also, the further labor gets the more modesty a woman loses. Another good outward indicator that things are moving along. Most women are hungry during the early labor and then not hungry later on.
Just before pushing, most women go through transition (but not all). Transition can suddenly change how the woman is feeling drastically. Suddenly she is defeated and saying she cant do this, talking irrationally and possibly very irritable. This is a good sign that pushing is very close! Transition is generally the hardest part of First Stage, but it usually does not last long. This is where she will need a coach who believes in her and can encourage her the most.
Things Bradley Classes commend you do to cope with First Stage:
- Change positions often! Try to get in positions that help gravity, so try not to lay on your back! Sit on a birth ball, sit leaning forward in the bed, get on hands and knees, squat, walk, lean over a chair, etc.
- Urinate often! This will alleviate discomfort and wont hinder baby from coming down the birth canal.
- Eat and Drink as needed. Not some big fatty meal, but small things that can give you some much needed energy.
- Dim the lights so you can concentrate.
- Abdominal breathing- not chest breathing. Deep breaths will calm you and short breaths will make you feel anxious.
- Shower. This helps with the pain.
- Try not to tense up! When a contraction comes on, try hard to relax all other muscles in your body. Tensing up makes the pain worse throughout. Having a coach that can look for tense muscles and gently remind you to relax will help.
- Do not get caught up on numbers. So much of birth is a mental thing. Dilation does not happen in a regularly scheduled pattern ( a 1cm an hour or something). Your body can go from 2 cm to 10 cm in 5 minutes if it wants to. So focus on these other things and believe your body knows what its doing.
- Have a birth plan. This will help you remain focused during this time. To see ours, click here. (If you have any questions about ours, just let me know). Your birth plan can be very simple or complex. But having it will enable you to focus on the task at hand and not have to make decisions on the fly. Just google birth plan and you will get all kinds of info on this.
So, current moms- what else should be know about First Stage Labor?
Ill be back soon to discuss Second Stage Labor, which includes pushing baby out and delivering the placenta (yes you have to do this too and no one tells you about it!).
- Mrs.Pate via my iPhone