Management Tips for the First Stage of Labour
In this article, Rosie rounds up what to expect during the first stage of labour to provide a one stop shop of information you will need to know when you go into early labor. If you want expert tips from a 4- time mama who has had positive birth experiences, then read on.
Signs you’re in the first stage of labour
The first stage of labour is when you feel the signs of labor before you actually start to push. It’s the stage where you’re going through surges and contractions. The cervix softens and becomes quite thin. It can go on for hours, and even days. You might not feel much at all. When you do have some discomfort, these contractions or surges will come in irregular patterns.
A big sign that labour is imminent is the loss of the mucus plug. It is a blood-stained, ‘mucus-y’ discharge. You might also start to experience low back pain and period-like pain that comes and goes, but slowly builds up. Loose bowel motions can also be experienced.
Another sign of early labor could also be the urge to vomit. It’s quite common in the first stage, and unfortunately for some others, even well into the second stage. When you have a number of these happening at the same time, it is much more likely that early labour is beginning.
You often see this ‘water’s breaking’ in the media. Hollywood movies would show this huge amount of fluid or water, then the woman would be rushing and panicking to go to the hospital. But in reality, this only happens in the early stages of labour in 10% of women. Yet another reason to not buy into how birth is portrayed in the media. Waters will break eventually throughout the labouring, but a greater percentage of women will not have it in the early stages of labour.
To be more precise, water breaking is the breaking of the amniotic sac. This sac is what surrounds the baby and contains the amniotic fluid. When the sac is broken, the amniotic fluid is released.
If you do think you had your ‘waters breaking’ spontaneously, it is advised to state this to your health care provider. They will usually want antibiotics administered within the first 24 hours if you haven’t gone into full swing with your labour. You can also take the AmniSure test if you’re not sure if the leakage you’ve had was actually the amniotic fluid or something else like urine. It’s quick and gives the results after 5 minutes.
The amniotic fluid should be clear, pinkish and odorless. Otherwise, you’ll need to let your health care provider know.
What you can do to ease the early stages of labour
There’s a lot you can do to help manage the early stages of labour. Staying home for as long as you can is a really big one. Other things you can do include having regular snacks so that you’re keeping your energy reserves, keeping your fluids up and resting as much as possible.
If it’s night time, try to sleep. Just relax, and listen to your meditations. Anything that’s going to keep you in relaxation mode. Whatever that looks like for you. It could be watching a Netflix episode, taking a relaxing bath or shower, or even just creating a really nice and relaxing ambience. If it’s night time, it can be low light candles and essential oils to diffuse.
Practicing your deep relaxation regularly during your pregnancy is also really important. This means you can slip into this relaxation mode when the birthing day comes. When you can stay deeply relaxed and unbothered as the sensations in your body start to increase, this becomes the best thing you can do for you and your baby.
In early labor, you can definitely go to the toilet quite regularly to try and empty your bowels. Listening to your hypnobirthing tracks can also go a long way, just like Rosie’s recent birth with Pia where she was listening to Adele and dancing around.
It’s about creating this oxytocin-rich, deeply relaxing and joyful environment in which to labor.
Eventually at the end of the first stage of labour, you’ll feel a bit restless as things will start to be more intense. People like to think about labour and contractions as painful, but Rosie suggests thinking of them as waves or surges of intensity or sensation. They will eventually become more regular. A contraction generally lasts 45-75 seconds. It will go into a crescendo of intensity, then it will peak and trough afterwards. It’s like a little wave of rolling sensation that builds and then just rolls away.
Birth can be just a process that will happen, and it is encouraged to do your own homework on the mindset and psychological side of birth.
In early labor, you can try moving around. Walking, squatting, crawling around on all fours or just rocking back and forth on all fours are some recommendations. You can also be forward leaning for support on the back of your couch, table or your partner. These are all good positions for active labour.
In this stage, you want to open the pelvic inlet or top of the pelvis. You can try sitting on a bowl and tilt the pelvis forwards and backwards. Positions like the deep squat, the malasana or being in a kneeling child’s pose where you rock backwards and forwards over the great rises can help open the top of the pelvis where the baby will descend first.
Other things that can help stimulate the baby along is anything that assists with the production of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone of labour that helps things get going. Nipple stimulation where a really, really light touch is strongly suggested in human birthing. It can also be a light touch over your lower back to help promote your oxytocin. This is also a great way to relieve pain. Last but not the least, foreplay or sex can also help get the labour going. So when should you be going to the hospital? It’s best to go when your contractions are regularly 5 minutes apart.
Real Labour versus Braxton Hicks
Getting out a timer is a really good way to assess how regular and how long are the contractions occurring.
When they last 45-75 seconds, slowly building intensity and start to become more regular and closer apart, this usually translates to real labor. Especially if you’re experiencing a combination of the symptoms mentioned.
With Braxton Hicks, they don’t usually have the array of symptoms we mentioned. They’re irregular in appearance and intensity. They also might go away if you change your position or activity. In true labour, no varied position can take away the progression of the symptoms.
If your labor is not yet established, it is generally better to stay at home first. Research has shown that women labor much better if they stay home in the early stages. If you go before your labor is in full swing, it can slow your labor progress down. It’s because our bodies and minds subconsciously associate hospitals with being unwell or something being wrong. This is why it’s better if you don’t go into hospital too soon, unless you have a medical reason to do so.
Check out our free resource eBook 5 STEPS TO BIRTHING WITH CONFIDENCE. The key is in preparing our bodies as well as our minds, and being flexible in our approach, as you will learn in this easy to read guide.