I think I'm in early labour - How can I speed things up naturally?

Well, congratulations my dear, this is super exciting! It's what you've been waiting for, for 9 months.

Very often, early labour can be challenging to identify, particularly if you have been experiencing Braxton-Hicks like tightenings for a few weeks. One of the easiest ways of distinguishing true labour from this early stop-start labour, is when you get into a warm bath, the surges won't really get any more intense or increase in length. Any surge, tightening or contraction will all be helping your body to get ready to birth your baby, so think on it as a very positive and exciting event!

So if you think you are in this early stage of labour, here are some things to do:

  • Stay fairly close to home, and try to go about your day as normally as possible, understanding that the thinning of the cervix and the 1st few centimetres of dilation can be very tough work for some 1st-time mothers. Some women will fly through this stage of early labour, but for others, they'll feel every contraction working!
  • Relax, as much as you can, but balance it with some exercise. Movement is the body's friend. Remember to keep the love hormone, Oxytocin, flowing - that is what is going to dilate you.
  • Practice your yoga poses, and in particular, some hip opening poses like deep lunges and squats and poses on your hands & knees. These will all help to open up the pelvis and help baby to descend, but also will help baby get into a good position, which can sometimes be the reason why labour is slow to progress.
  • When seated, use a birthing/exercise ball (just make sure it is fully blown up), and do gently hip circles. Ensure that your hips are above your knees so that encourage baby into a good position. 
  • Keep distracted – if you can’t sleep, watch your favourite movies
  • Take warm bath/shower
  • Drink – about 120mls an hour, ideally drinks that replace sugar/electrolytes e.g. water, hydro-active drinks, coconut water, tea&honey, miso soup
  • Eat – every 2-3 hours in early labour, things which are tasty and easily digestible, for example, some fruit, toast, yoghurt, cereal, cookie
  • When resting, lie on your left side, but not flat. Always try to maintain downward pressure on the cervix, so keep yourself propped up with a stack of pillows or cushions.
  • Note – baby should be moving all the time during labour.

If this stage of labour is dragging by, you can involve your partner to make things more fun and more productive! Here are a few things that can help:

  • As you'll most likely be at home at this early stage, take advantage of the privacy and create a beautiful 'Love Nest' as I like to call it. You need to get Oxytocin flowing - this is the hormone of love which is present after orgasm and sexual intimacy. So try to create that warm, safe and love-centred space!  Kiss, cuddle & get smoochy!
  • Tweak/suck nipples - yep! These first two points will help to keep Oxytocin flowing, and therefore, help to dilate you.
  • Visualize the cervix thinning & opening, and use any other techniques that you have been practicing during your pregnancy.
  • Use any relaxation or hypnobirthing tracks that you have been doing throughout pregnancy.
  • Get up and walk around a bit, finding some stairs to go up and down. Then alternate with rest, remembering to rest on your left-hand side ideally, with some downward pressure onto the cervix.
  • Yoga - keep going for your deep lunges and squats. Let gravity work!

It's often at this stage when the woman can understandably get super frustrated. You just want it to happen already! But try to flip your mindset and understand your body is doing everything perfectly, is doing everything it should be right now. Breathe, enjoy it and try to remember that you will be meeting your little arrival very soon!

If you want to learn how to have a kick-ass pregnancy and birth, why not take a look at my 'Own Your Birth' online program.

 

Helen Plass is a Pre & Postnatal Fitness Specialist, and Yoga Instructor, working with women and their birthing partners to achieve a comfortable, healthy & happy journey into Pregnancy, birth, and Motherhood. She is known for her very practical & non-judgmental approach to pregnancy and the crazy times of motherhood. Check out all her communication at NurtureMamas.com, and if you are in Ireland, her local business MumandBaby.ie