When you are having your first child and you start to experience those all to obvious tell-tale signs that your baby is on their way, it can be almost impossible to know how long your baby will take to arrive. Whilst some first time Moms are lucky enough to have a short labor, for many, the first labor experience can be a long, drawn out and somewhat unpredictable experience, both for the Mom to be, and her birthing partner.
As someone who experienced an incredibly long first labor (36 hours) here are my hints and tips on how to cope with a long labor.
- Keep Hydrated – First and foremost and probably the most important, is to make sure you drink lots of water, or even energy boosting drinks if you are feeling really tired. When you are feeling drained and queasy it can be easy to forget to drink enough, so I would recommend bringing a refillable bottle with a easy sip straw and have your birthing partner offer this to you regularly in between contractions. If you are using gas and air to help manage the pain this in particular can make your throat feel really dry and hoarse. Keep those fluids up.
- Breathe – This goes without saying, but if you forget to breathe, your labor and contraction experiences will be much harder. At times when the pain is high it can be tempting to hold your breath, but instead try and focus on taking deep controlled breaths and panting out as your contractions takes hold. Getting lots of oxygen into your lungs is really important to help keep your energy levels up. If you have been to pregnancy or antental yoga, many of the relaxation breathing exercises you have learnt will come in good use here!
- Stay at home as long as possible – Although those early contractions may seem severe, until they are regular and consistent my personal view would be to stay at home as long as possible. Your familiar home comforts can make you feel far less anxious than a hospital setting, so run yourself a bath, and get your partner to time the gaps between contractions. The last thing you want to do is be sent home because you are not in active labor.
- Eat little and often – Whilst eating a full meal is probably going to be the last thing on your mind (and eating too much of a heavy meal could make you feel nauseous) it is important to try and eat something to ensure your energy levels stay at an appropriate level. Aim to have something small every hour or so, ideally slow release carbohydrates or thinks such as dry crackers, toast or cereal bars, even a bowl of dry cereal will keep your hunger at bay without lying to heavy on your delicate stomach!
- Don’t get it the birthing pool too early – As tempting as it may be to get into the birthing pool as soon as possible, doing so too early can actually slow down your contractions, and as such it is recommended to get in the birthing pool when you are more than 5cm dilated, and in the later stages of labor. The sensation of the water in the birthing pool can really help ease contraction pains and is a great option for those who may be wanting a drug free birth.
- Avoid watching the clock – This is easier said than done, but try not to focus on the time. There is nothing worse than looking up and seeing that yet another hour has ticked by without any real progress or without feeling any closer to meeting your baby. Avoid having the clock in your eyesight if possible, and distract yourself with music or relaxation aids instead.
- Rest as soon as possible – Again this goes without saying, but when you finally meet your baby; it can be hard to find a moment to rest despite being exhausted. You will be experiencing a whole host of new emotions, and want to sit and stare at the new tiny little human you have created, but your body does need to rest. Have a shower and sleep between feeds if you can- even an hour can make you feel a million dollars after being awake for a few days solid!
However long it takes to meet your baby; I promise they will be worth the wait!