You read the books. You heard your friend’s birth stories. You took the childbirth class. So WHY does it seem like you’ve been in early labor for DAYS? Sure, you know from class that early labor can take some time but now you’re on hour 20 and contractions are still 5-10 minutes apart, you are still having to breathe through them, and wondering what gives? Is something wrong? The answer is probably not (although it’s never a bad to contact your care provider for reassurance). Here are a few things to remember:
Your body and your baby have never done this before. It takes some time for change to happen. Remember that your cervix has to move from a posterior to an anterior postion,. the cervical neck has to shorten, then it has to efface or thin out, and then start dilating or opening. Even if you are only 1 cm dilated there is a lot of work that has happened before that point. Then remember those first 5 cm can take anywhere from a a few hours to a whole day (maybe even longer). While all this is happening your baby has to get in just the right spot and make several movements and rotations throughout labor.
Those early contractions you are feeling may be Braxton Hicks. Braxton Hicks contractions are mostly felt all in the abdomnial to lower abdominal region and can definitely sometimes take your breath away. The contractions are helping tone your uterus to prepare for the main event so don’t discount them as being unimportant. Many people experience an uptick in Braxton Hicks before the onset of labor. You’ll know your contractions are making cervical change when you feel those contractions low in the abdormen and they wrap around your body from front to back or back to front.
Take care of yourself. Stay hydrated. Eat good meals. Rest. Even if you can’t sleep try to rest your body. You’ll need that extra reserve of strength when active labor begins.
Exhaustion is not your friend anytime but definitely not when you are labor. If you have been in a labor for a long time and are struggling with being able to rest its ok to contact your care provider. Ask about therapeutic rest. Sometimes just getting a few hours of a good deep sleep is all the body needs to get into actice labor.
So, put that timing app away for awhile. Don’t get it out again unless you feel a change in your contractions. Try to do something to distract yourself. Above all else remember to breathe and take heart in the fact that you and your baby are doing something amazing together. We promise it’s worth the wait!