How to get your body into active labour

I still have a couple of birth stories to share, with my input as a labour and delivery nurse. Even though I wasn’t present for the birth, I’m hoping to shed some light for the woman who had the experience, and also for anyone else interested in knowing the intricacies of having a baby. This one is neat because Helena had a pretty common issue, she was in prodromal labour for a while, but had a hard time getting into active labour.

So, Helena wrote her own story and my information is in the boxes below. Enjoy! Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Helena’s Birth Story

I will start at the very beginning.  This is the birth story of baby #3.

It’s well-known in the birthing world, that baby number 3 can be a little unpredictable! Usually the first birth takes the longest, then the second is usually faster. The third however is very often more of an issue! Make sure you notice that I use the word “usually”, because obviously every birth, woman and scenario is different.

LMP due date was Dec 25. My gut was telling me closer to Jan 3. At my 20 week ultrasound,  it showed Jan 3.

LMP stands for “last menstrual period”. The classic way of determining the due date is by using Naegele’s rule. It’s by adding roughly 280 days to the day your last period started. This can be inaccurate if you ovulated later than normal and don’t have the classic 28 day cycle. An ultrasound where they measure the size of the fetus in the first trimester is often more accurate. That being said, most babies aren’t born on their due date. They are considered full term from 37 weeks – 42 weeks, which gives them a full 5 week window for arrival!

Something is Starting

On Jan. 2, 2016 I woke up feeling bad. Felt like I had the flu. And I had to go #2 frequently.  I thought to myself, great nearly 40 weeks and I get sick. All day I felt really bad and achy. Took a soak in the evening and seemed to help. During the day, I also had lost a big piece of mucus. Wasn’t sure tho if it was part of the plug. (I did not realize that these were signs of pre-labour, only found out later )

Helena is right. Often times the body will cleanse the bowels on its own before going into labour! The mucus plug is also a tell-tale sign that labour is about to start! Losing your mucous plug doesn’t necessarily mean you are IN labour. It is just a sign that it might happen soon.

Jan 3, woke up and felt much better. We were invited to lunch at my cousin’s along with some friends. We go, around 2 pm I notice a Braxton hick contraction.

Those are the pre-labour practice contractions. It feels like your belly is getting hard. They might come and go and can start as early as the second trimester. They are milder than actual contractions and don’t change your cervix.

Hadn’t had those for eight weeks. So I time it. 20 mins later another. So I get excited.  20 min later, nothing. Well, nevermind I think. I lose more mucus, so I’m really thinking, could be the plug.  Didn’t lose it with other 2.

She would have had a mucous plug with all pregnancies, but, might not have noticed when she lost it with the other two. Sometimes the mucous plug will come out during active labour.

Next, Braxton came 2 hours after previous. Had a few more, than nothing. Well, I think, guess it’s not time yet. Disappointed.

Latent phase labour can be so disappointing and tiring! It’s important to stay hydrated and rested during this phase.

Crazy Dreams and Labour Starts

During the night, I dream I’m getting contractions. Thinking not funny to dream it! My 2-year-old cries out and I wake up. Go to her and get her quieted and notice a contraction. Got to bathroom and back to bed. Another one. So I time them.

Vivid dreams in pregnancy are quite common. But it looks like this was more than just a dream for Helena!

They are coming every 10 mins. I get excited.  Call my midwife since I was GBS positive. She says to start getting ready and be there about 5:30 am. We live 1.5 hrs from the birth centre. So I call mom to stay with kids. We get ready and go.

If you are GBS positive your doctor or midwife will want to get some antibiotics in your system before delivery. And since this is her third baby, there is no way of knowing how quickly it’ll happen. The most common antibiotic used for GBS is penicillin and typically they want it to be in your system for 4 hours before the baby is born. Practices may be different at your facility, so find out what they are if you are GBS positive. Once you have enough antibiotics in your system, your baby is at less of a risk to contract GBS disease, which is quite rare, but very serious!

Getting To The Birthing Centre

In the car ride, they are 8 mins apart. Once we get there, she checks me 3.5 cm and labour stalls. They do antibiotics and we go to eat breakfast. No contractions at all.

It’s common for labour to stall once you are in hospital or the birthing centre. I believe this is because we are animals and are not meant to birth in front of lots of people! Ina May Gaskin (one of the more known midwives in the universe) calls this the “Sphincter Law”. It’s very fascinating and you should read about it in her amazing book “Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth“. So, sometimes women have to get use to their surroundings again before getting into proper labour.

Back-story: I had been very nauseous in pregnancy so had not kept up with liquids. Was partly dehydrated. Reason labour stalled.

I have actually never heard about this reason! So important to stay super hydrated in pregnancy. You have so much more fluid and blood in your system, that you should be drinking MORE than usual. It is hard if you are nauseous all the time! And it makes sense that your contractions won’t be as efficient if you’re not hydrated. Time for a WATER BREAK!

How To Get Into Active Labour

We come back after a couple of hours and do another round of antibiotics.  I start walking, contractions start coming about every 6 to 7 mins. I stop walking, they space out again. At noon we try breaking water to see if it helps. Some. As long as I walk. At 3:30 they recommend pumping to get things moving.

Nipple stimulation! See one of my posts on inducing labour at home: How to Naturally Induce Labour Yourself; Four Incredible Tricks.  Nipple stimulation will cause oxytocin release in your body, which is the same hormone often given artificially through an IV to increase contractions. Isn’t the body amazing!

I never heard of that.  We do. They thought maybe an hr. But with the pumping things got moving and painful. They showed husband how to apply counter pressure which helped a lot.

What she is talking about here is firm pressure on the lower back/hip area. Many women really love this in labour, especially if she has a lot of back labour.

I want to labour in the tub once I reached 7cm or so. After 40 mins I said I was having the urge to push. The wanted to check me 1st. One was getting water ready. I said I have to push, I was 7cm, I thought, oh no, I have to wait till 10.

Lots of women love being in water during labour. It can be a great way to relieve pain, but also, get this, it can speed up the process! As long as you have an established labour pattern already, that is.

They said, no, to go ahead. Within 10 mins, my baby boy was born.

She’s right, usually, we have to wait for the cervix to be dilated to 10 cm. What probably happened here is the midwife was able to stretch her cervix enough to get the baby’s head through, this is not always possible though! Her cervix was probably super stretchy since this was her third delivery after all! Another possibility is that she had one contraction during the vaginal exam and went from 7 – 10 cm, very possible!

After birth, they were so good to me. Loved birth centre experience compared to the hospital.

Birth centres often have a more natural approach to birth than the hospital. A great resource to learn about different birthing practices in North America is the documentary, “The Business of Being Born“. It details how birthing is somewhat of an industry in North America, and how women are often put in second place.

I hope you enjoyed this birth story, more coming soon from Babytalk. Thank you so much, Helena, for sharing your story with us! Also, if you are enjoying the birth stories with input from a labour and delivery nurse, check out the other ones I’ve published in the Birth Stories section of the blog.

Getting into active labour

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About the Author

Hanna is passionate nurse and mama of four babies. Parenthood can be hard, but you don't have to do it alone. Hanna is here for you from pregnancy, to birth and beyond!

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