It's 10pm and you just crawled into bed for the night. After a full day of work, the back and forth of what to eat for dinner, and a Netflix binge of This is Us, you've had a good cry and are ready for bed.
Bed. It's such a lovely thing. But by the time the end of the third trimester comes, sleep feels like somewhat of a novelty. You climb into bed and after an hour long battle of finding that comfortable position, you FINALLY fall asleep.
20 minutes later you wake up to a strong, rhythmic cramping sensation. This is what they all talk about! This may be labor!
When does labor start? How do I know when I am in labor? What is the difference between labor contractions and Braxton Hicks contractions?
These are the million dollar questions.
When I was pregnant with my first, I was SO READY to be done around week… cough* cough* 6 when I was uncontrollably throwing up all day every day. This lasted until around week 22 of my pregnancy. My hypermesis graviderum, also known as HG, finally let up (this is a diagnosed medical condition during pregnancy that is essentially morning sickness on steroids).
If you’ve known someone who has dealt with HG, they basically resemble a superhero. Going through that (and I didn’t have it nearly as bad as others) is quite possibly the worst thing ever.
Once I hit 22 weeks, the summer heat started to creep in. I spent the bulk of my third trimester pregnancy in the peak of summer’s heat. Yuck.
There is PLENTY of sweat that already happens while pregnant, but add a whopping dose of 90-100 degree weather, a touch of humidity and no air conditioning and it sends just about anyone over the edge!
Then we rounded the corner toward the home stretch and once I hit my due date I had real contractions!
If you’ve ever heard this term, I’m assuming you’re either a birth professional or you’ve personally experienced it. And if you’ve personally experienced it, you know how exhausting it is and what an emotional rollercoaster it creates.
Prodromal labor sucks. Here’s the big question that (nearly) every woman dealing with false labor asks…
How will I know when labor actually starts?
These prelabor or false labor contractions are believed to tone your uterus and prime it for labor. How cool and yet annoying is that! Am I right?!
During that time, I thought my water broke twice on top of thinking I may be in labor several times. So I went into the hospital twice only to get sent home feeling quite defeated and as if I’d be in labor forever!
I dealt with that false labor for 7 LONG days until the real thing started. I still recall my first real contraction. Oh boy it was intense!
Labor contractions take your breath away.
There was a distinct shift in intensity I experienced once my labor took shape. I was able to time my false labor contractions but they did not take my breath away.
With a majority of the women who I’ve worked with as their birth doula, this is also the case. They are able to delineate between labor contractions and braxton hicks/false labor contractions once they have experienced their labor contractions.
Over time, labor contractions will become longer in duration, stronger in intensity and closer together.
This means that over a couple hours, you should notice that the contraction pattern is changing. To time a contraction, start a timer once you feel it begin. Then stop your timer once the tightening has diminished.
The duration of the contraction is exactly as it sounds. It is characterized as the time elapsed from the start of the contraction to the time that it ends.
Intensity is characterized by how you experience the contraction relative to other contractions you have felt. Be careful not to over think this as we dont want you obsessing over what the contractions feel like. Some women feel overwhelmed in the earlier stages of labor and begin to doubt their ability to make it through labor. Keep in mind that your body will continue to progress in various ways, including providing you with endorphins (our bodies natural pain killer) as you experience more discomfort.
The time in between contractions is calculated as the amount of time that passes from the start of one contraction to the start of the next contraction.
We highly recommend doula support as we are trained to recognize the onset of labor and can assist you in knowing when to contact your care provider or when to go to your chosen birth location. North Cascade Doulas is excited to support any birth center birth or hospital birth. Contact us to schedule a free consultation today!
We go more in depth into this information around what the onset of labor looks and feels like in our childbirth education series. If you would like to join us, check out our current schedule of classes offered in Whatcom County and Skagit County.
How did you experience the onset of labor? Was it gradual? Was it obvious from the first contraction?
Birth doulas are expensive. Well, other than the doulas who are volunteering their time. So the question follows… How do I score a free doula in my area?!
Who doesn’t like free after all? I certainly do! Anywhere I can save a few dollars puts my family one step ahead.
→ Let me tell you why you don’t want a free doula ←
I am a birth doula. A professionally trained, certified doula who does this work as my chosen career and there is quite a bit of sacrifice involved.
Two words. ON CALL.
This limits me from working another job. When I commit to my clients I say “no” to other work. And that glass of wine. Dang. I hate that part.
Birth doulas almost always start off excited and passionate! Roaring to go! Then something in those first couple years shifts. They have to calculate the true cost of that ballet recital they missed.
That’s a tough pill to swallow.
I don’t know about you, but I want to know that my doula has a solid paycheck coming her to lessen the blow of missing special moments.
Quality doulas are committed to continuing education. If you didn’t know, a doula training is typically only a couple days long. A couple days of drinking from a fire hydrant that is! We prioritize continued education so that our doulas stay up to date on the current trends in birth culture and new strategies in supporting labor progression. We are only able to do these courses with financial support.
So how do doulas sustain this work? The short answer… They charge a living wage.
At North Cascade Doulas our slogan is “Always there. Always professional.” We mean this! And we understand that in order for us to grow our team with the highest quality doulas in the area we need to pay them.
Each hand selected doula on our team is passionate about supporting women through birth.
→ Our doulas are 100% committed to you ←
They have placed a high value on their services and are going to deliver a highly valued service to you in return.
If you are looking for a high quality doula, contact us today to meet your carefully selected doula team. We are excited and ready to support you with the commitment that you deserve!
Overwhelmed with all the books to read, appointments to go to, research to be done and so forth?
Pregnancy is an intense time as there is so much to do and learn. We have designed our childbirth education to get you the exact knowledge you need without having to commit several days to doing it!
Let us help you! Here are a few questions we get asked and some answers.
What do contractions feel like?
You would assume that one of the main things covered in a birthing class should be contractions and you are right! This is the golden question that everyone wants to know.
To sum it up, most contractions feel like rhythmic menstrual cramps or like rhythmic lower back pain. The stage of labor, your pain tolerance and physical factors, such as your baby’s position will greatly impact how you experience your contractions.
We walk you through an overview of the different stages of labor and what that means for you! We go over this throughout our classes.
What am I going to learn in a birth class?
In our hands on childbirth ed classes you will learn:
How do I fit childbirth ed into my busy schedule?
Find a childbirth ed that is taught in a flexible manner. Our birth classes are taught on Saturdays with a flexible structure. They are broken up into 3, 3 hour sessions and our clients are able to pick when they would like to do each session. Some clients choose to do all 3 in one day and other people chose to split them up and take their time. Check out our current schedule here.
I am doing a scheduled c-section. Do I need a birth class?
Yes! There is so much to know regarding cesarean birth. Make sure that your birth class covers c-sections too. It will be important to learn about your local hospital’s c-section protocol and your birth class should cover these options.
We believe that everyone should be familiar with an overview of c-section procedures as there is always a chance of delivering via c-section. Our doulas and childbirth educators are very familiar with local c-section protocol and have experience with clients in the operating room.
Contact us today if you are looking for a doula in Bellingham or Skagit County for your c-section. We offer free consultations!
What kind of childbirth education should I take?
There are so many options out there and so many different ways in which birthing classes are taught. Some are geared toward natural birth (we like to call it unmedicated as we believe that all birth is “natural”) while others are hospital birth classes and everything in-between.
North Cascade Doulas covers it all. Our clients walk away from our birthing class with a good handle for what to do during contractions and how to cope through a natural birth as well as a familiarity with common interventions that may come into play, as birth rarely goes as we have planned. We work hard to make sure our clients are prepared for their ideal birth as well as for the unexpected.
You'll walk out of our birth class with several handouts to help you remember all that we taught, a guide to comfort measures for your support team to reference when you're in the thick of contractions, and a head start on building a birth plan that your care provider will actually read!
I want an epidural. Do I still need a birth class?
YES times a million! Epidurals can be finicky. There is so much to know around labor and delivery even if you’re planning on an epidural. As I mentioned above, labor is unpredictable! We’ve seen fantastic epidurals and we’ve seen epidurals fail completely. People also tend to forget that they aren’t usually admitted to the hospital until they’ve done a fair amount of their labor at home. This means they can’t get the epidural until (typically) several hours into labor.
Your birth class with North Cascade Doulas will specifically cover what to expect if you should decide to get an epidural as well as how to cope with contractions during early labor or if your epidural isn’t working.
Centering pregnancy vs birth class
They are different. Centering pregnancy with PeaceHealth OB/Gyn is an awesome prenatal program out of their clinic in Bellingham, WA in which your prenatal appointments are done in a group setting (with privacy when doing medical exams) with other women expecting their baby around the same time. The focus of these meetings includes medical care, pregnancy, feeding, birth, family development and much more.
Our local birth classes are more focused specifically on the third trimester of pregnancy, labor and pain management, and the things no one tells you regarding giving birth and recovering from birth. If you can swing it and would like to use PeaceHealth OB/Gyn as your care provider, we highly recommend their Centering program alongside a birth class.
What method do you teach?
There are so many options out there when deciding on a birth class. From Hypnobirthing to Bradley to Lamaze, which one is the best and where do you even begin?! We listened to the community and we have delivered the most up to date, hands-on CBE class around and we don't settle. This is constantly changing as current research is revealed or local protocol changes.
We've taken our 10+ years of combined doula experience and put it into a high quality mesh of several different theories of teaching birth classes. You'll get the best from each method when you join us for childbirth education.
What birth class are there in Bellingham, WA?
We offer 3 condensed birth classes, each covering different material. We are pretty convinced that it is the best labor class you will find between Whatcom and Skagit County. You can register online for our childbirth education here. Our next class will be offered in Lynden, WA at The Nest on Saturday June 22nd, 2019. If this date or Lynden location don't work for you, keep checking back as we will be offering classes in Skagit County on a regular basis soon!
If you’re looking for a doula in Bellingham, Wa contact us today! All of our current childbirth teachers also take birth doula clients. Our areas we serve range from Lynden, WA all the way to Mt. Vernon, WA. We offer labor doula services for local Whatcom and Skagit County birth center births and hospital births at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Bellingham, Skagit Family Birth Center in Mount Vernon, and Island Hospital in Anacortes.
Author, Kristina McMurtrey, is a passionate doula who aims to see families supported regardless of their unique way of navigating pregnancy, birth and parenting.
North Cascade Doulas provides care for families looking for Labor Doulas, Placenta Encapsulation and Childbirth Education Classes. We support all parenting philosophies and birth plans.
We specialize in :
(natural) unmedicated birth / (surgical) cesarean birth / epidural birth / induction / planned induction / planned cesarean / VBAC / TOLAC / waterbirth / multiples / breastfeeding / bottle feeding / formula feeding / NICU / PPD / PPMD / bed rest / high risk / low risk / advanced maternal age / miscarriage / IVF / and more.
Areas we Serve:
We serve Whatcom and Skagit Counties and the neighborhoods of Alger / Anacortes / Bellingham / Big Lake / Birch Bay / Blaine / Bow / Burlington / Clear Lake / Custer / Everson / Ferndale / Glen Haven / La Conner / Laurel / Lynden / Mount Vernon / Sedro Woolley / Sudden Valley