What Your Friends Might Not Tell you About the Beginning of Labor
As this classic scene from Friends demonstrates, this is exactly what happens when you go into labor: You feel a twinge of what may be a contraction and that means labor has begun. It’s time to panic! Your baby is coming. NOW! There will probably not be any time to get out the door to a hospital or birth center, and that means anyone near you must become an instant expert on delivering babies. Oh, and, let’s not even mention the mess! You can always trust your Friends, right?
Well… maybe not in this instance.
Let’s talk about what the beginning stages of labor really look like.
In many cases, it may not be so easy to decipher when labor has officially started. Especially if you’re a first time mom that has never experienced a contraction, it can be difficult to know when your Braxton Hicks contractions, which can become more frequent near the end of pregnancy, stop and when real contractions begin. You may also experience Prodromal labor for several days before active labor starts.
Prodormal Labor, which is also called false labor, produces contractions that feel like stronger Braxton Hicks. However, unlike true labor, these contractions are irregular. They may show up at the same time each day, and last only for a few hours disappearing as quickly as they arrived. The length of each contraction will also vary. When true labor begins, your contractions will not go away. You will know the difference between false labor and true labor when your contractions become stronger, longer, and closertogether.
If you experience false labor, it can be confusing and emotionally draining. But, take heart! The work of Prodromal labor is not in vain. It can help to begin the process of dilating and softening the cervix, which may cause you to lose part of your mucous plug – this is a good sign that true labor is coming! There’scertainly nothing false about the bloody show.
So, what can you do if you’re experiencing false labor? Take a hint from your body: it’s practicing for the rigors of labor, which can be a cue for you to take some time to practice your coping mechanisms,relaxation techniques, and breathing. This is also be a good time to double check that you have everythingpacked and ready to go, or to simply to take some time to relax and enjoy some time to yourself before you begin your transition into motherhood.
When true labor begins it’s also not usually an emergency situation, which is how it’s often depicted on TV or in the movies. During the early stages of labor, you will likely have time to labor at home, take a shower, or even get some time to rest before heading out the door to the hospital or birth center. It’s true that there can be a lot of variability, but an average length of labor for first time moms is between 10 to 20 hours. Additionally, it generally progresses more quickly if you have already given birth vaginally. So, there’s no need to start cutting sheets and boiling water at the first sign of a contraction. If you are at all confused about whether or not you are in labor, you can always give your doctor or midwife a call; they will be able to answer any questions you have and help you assess if it’s time to come pay them a visit.
And of course, one thing you can always be sure of when it comes to your labor, just like your Friends,your doula will be there for you.