*Everything here is general information and not health advice. Always consult your healthcare provider to make sure this is right for you*
So early labour... latent labour... prodromal labour... even false labour (which is a BS term, those sensations aren't false!)... these are often used interchangeably, and sort of mean the same thing, but sort of not. Ugh, obstetrics, the land of grey areas!
So, let's get into this. Early labour, is essentially the first bits of labour, where your cervix ripens, meaning it starts out as a long, thick, closed, firm tunnel that is pointing
back towards your bum. Then, with all sorts of mechanisms, it becomes soft, shortens, begins to open and swing forward towards your vaginal opening. This happens sometimes over days, sometimes over hours, and sometimes over minutes! The length of time you are in early labour has lots to do with which labour this is for you. During your first labour, usually everything happens one after the other; your cervix gets soft, then starts to swing forward, then starts to shorten, then starts to open. When it's your second (or third, fourth, etc) labour, often your cervix can do all of those things simultaneously, making that process shorter. Early labour transitions to active labour when your cervix is more than 4cm open, very short or thin, and. you are having active, rhythmic contractions.
Early labour is not just about contractions, it's about so many more things. This is why often in those early labour days, your uterus contracts in sort of fits and starts.
That starting and stopping can be really frustrating. You just want things to move along! Let's get this show on the road! We get that so much, and while there is not a sure fire way to make that quick and smooth transition from early labour into the more rhythmic and slightly more predictable active labour that we are going for, there are a few things that we want you to try!
1. It's important to remember that labour is really a game of hormones made mostly in your brain. Some hormones you want to increase production, and some you want to decrease.
Increase prostaglandins by using upright, active & mobile positions to pull your baby down and put pressure on your cervix. This is what softens and opens your cervix from the inside out.
We want your oxytocin and melatonin flowing to make contractions and labour super effective. To do this make sure to minimise interruptions and stressors, use low lighting and get cozy to set the mood, minimise blue light from phones or screens, and have people around you that you know, love, and trust.
Try to stay calm to slow adrenaline and stop the tension - fear- pain cycle.
This means arming yourself with education so you know what to expect. Taking evidence based prenatal class (like ours) is so helpful in making sure you know what to expect and how to prepare.
Further to this, make sure you are breathing all through your labour, including early labour. Holing our breathe is common when we feel pain, but this heightens your awareness of painful sensations, and increases adrenaline. Instead, focus on long slow breaths to stop adrenaline in it's tracks.
2. Try stretching and warming up while in early labour. Just like when you are getting ready
for physical activity,
you should consider warming up for the big work of labour. Remember to do your stretches on both sides, this will help release and soften your pelvic floor, and then get baby into a great position down on your cervix.
3. Try the Miles Circuit. This is a specific set of moves that you can do to get your body and baby moving and grooving in early labour. You do each in order for 30 minutes, and it can help get things moving along!
4. Prepare well ahead of time. This maybe should be number one, but heck we have come this far! There are some things that you can do late into your 3rd trimester, with your healthcare providers approval, that will help prepare your body and uterus for labour.
Those are eating dates which has been shown to help ripen your cervix and get your uterus in prime contacting shape. Eating up to 6 dates a day in the last weeks of pregnancy seems to have the bet effects.
You can practice hand expression. This is a great skill to practice if you want to breastfeed baby, and can help get your body ready for labour. Do this after 37 weeks, for up to 5 minutes a day.
Lastly, why not have sex! If you are feeling up to it, getting intimate with your partner might help get your mind and body ready for labour. Semen is known to have prostaglandins in it which may help get the cervix ready for labour. We also know that an orgasm releases oxytocin, which is what stimulates your uterus to contract!
Now with all of these methods, there is only mild data showing they help out with labour starting or progressing, so don't ever feel like you have to do them, and don't feel like you failed if you do them all and your still hanging out with a baby inside your uterus rather than your arms. Your body and baby will work together when they are ready to, and sometimes no matter what we do, they don't want to work with our timeline!
Did you try any of these items to get early labour started or progressing? We want to hear about it!