Ways to Help Labor Progress
Ways to Help Labor Progress
Going into Labor
Toward the end of a woman's pregnancy, there is one question on her mind constantly:
"When am I going to go into labor?"
For most pregnant women, labor naturally will begin sometime after the 38th week of pregnancy. Others go into labor sooner, some even later. It all depends on several factors, many of which are out of the control of the woman and her partner.
Once a woman is in labor, though, it's important to help her as much as possible to progress smoothly through the first stage of labor, which is when she'll experience contractions and her body will prepare for the baby to come out.
Learn how to help a pregnant woman progress through labor by understanding the process of labor and by using these helpful tips.
Am I in Labor?
Signs of Going into Labor
First and foremost, it's important to know what to look for in terms of the symptoms of going into labor. If a pregnant woman is in her 37th week of pregnancy or even further along, here are some labor symptoms to be aware of:
- Loss of mucus plug
- Loss of fluid
- Bloody show
- Pelvic pain and/or pressure
- Contractions that are 5-10 minutes apart or closer
- Sudden feeling of unease
- Pelvic cramping, like that of a period
- Loose stools
- Lower back pain that is consistent
Any combination of these, especially with the consistent contractions, could mean labor. With my firstborn, I experienced the consistent contractions with the pelvic pain and pressure at 38 weeks. With my second born, I had contractions, but it was the sudden feeling of unease, pelvic cramping and lower back pain that made me realize I was in labor at just 37 weeks.
Every woman's experience is different, as it is different with every pregnancy. It is important to know the symptoms of labor beforehand so that everyone is prepared for the main event.
Signs of Preterm Labor
If a pregnant woman has not yet made it to her 37th week, she should make sure to contact her doctor immediately if she notices any of the signs of labor. She could be in preterm labor, which may not be good for her or the baby.
Fortunately, if she is in her 34th week or later, chances are great for a healthy baby. The baby may need just a few extra days of observation to make sure he or she is ready for breathing and eating.
What Do Real Contractions Feel Like?
When Will I Go into Labor?
A pregnant woman may ask this question many times, especially as she nears her due date. Unless she has a scheduled induction, she won't know when labor will begin until she starts to notice the signs of labor.
Labor will begin when:
- The baby is full term and ready to be delivered.
- The woman's body is ready to let the baby come out (i.e. dilation, effacement of cervix, and contractions).
Unfortunately, there's no way yet of knowing how or why labor begins in a woman's body other than assuming the two items above. Since labor occurs differently for every woman and every pregnancy, there's no true way to pinpoint how the whole process begins for everyone.
Would this information be particularly reassuring to a woman who is beyond ready to be done with her pregnancy? Probably not; in fact, she may get angry if you told her it would all happen in time.
Continue reading for tips and suggestions of how to help a pregnant woman's labor progress.
How to Induce Labor
These suggestions to induce labor are only for pregnant women who are 39-40 weeks along. I do not in any way suggest that a pregnant woman should try to induce labor earlier than that as the baby may not be ready to be born and can suffer serious consequences.
Here are some ways to start labor contractions:
- Walk around a lot, especially uphill.
- Have intercourse.
- Eat something spicy.
- Bounce lightly on an exercise ball.
- Try nipple stimulation.
If these don't immediately work, at least they're helping to prepare the pregnant woman's body for labor!
Some would suggest drinking castor oil or a few different teas and infusions, but I strongly suggest that a pregnant woman not try any of those until speaking with a doctor first. They can cause terrible side effects that a pregnant woman wouldn't necessarily want when going into labor, plus they may not be safe for the pregnant woman or the baby!
Stages of Labor
Ways to Start Labor
How to Progress Labor
Once a woman is in labor, it's full steam ahead! The baby is ready to make an appearance and the body is ready to help him or her out.
Labor, especially the early stage of labor, can take hours, days, or even as much as a week or two. Within the first stage, the cervix needs to thin out (called effacement) and open up (called dilation). For the baby to be able to come out, the cervix needs to be 100% effaced and about 10 centimeters. Consistent contractions of the uterus help the cervix to both efface and dilate.
To help this stage of labor progress, a pregnant woman should be encouraged to:
- Walk around as much as possible between contractions. Walking helps the baby to move down into position and push on the opening of the cervix.
- Stay hydrated. Being dehydrated can make things more difficult and make the contractions irregular.
- Rest whenever necessary. Labor can be a very difficult and long process, and it's important for the pregnant woman to get some rest to revive her system before going into active labor.
- Stay in an upright position. Gravity can actually help with the progression of labor. Lying down too much can work against the natural forces that help the baby move downward.
- Find sources of comfort. If a pregnant woman requires a quiet atmosphere to concentrate and labor in, make sure the area remains that way. If she desires, play some quiet music in the background. Try some relaxation techniques, like deep breathing or visualization. Have her take a warm shower or a warm bath (although skip the bath if her water has broken). Support her body with comfortable pillows.
- Remain positive and reduce stress. Stressing about going into labor or labor itself can work against the natural process of labor. Tensing up does not allow the muscles to relax and do their jobs. Help the pregnant woman stay positive and think happy thoughts as she progresses through labor.
Doing these few things may help labor along, even though they may not help labor progress quickly. A slow and steady progression of this stage of labor is best for both mom and baby.
Once a woman is in active labor with very strong contractions coming consistently in short intervals, she may need more encouragement and support. Quietly and gently speak words of encouragement to her, asking her if there's anything she may need you to do. Offer to massage her lower back when the contractions come or between contractions to help with the pain. Of course, if she prefers to be left alone, don't say anything or do anything. Just being there can be support enough for her.
Near the end of the first stage of labor, the pregnant woman's body is preparing to push the baby out. At this point, there's not much else to do to help the labor progress as it has reached the climax.
Welcoming a Newborn Baby
After the labor and delivery is complete, it's time to welcome the newborn baby. Both mother and baby may need rest after all the hard work, so keep that in mind before going crazy with pictures and calling in family or friends. Let the mother and baby have some bonding time, and congratulate the new mom for a job well done.
Enjoy your new little one!