It’s the question every first time mom wonders…
What is labor like? It's so natural to want to skip over labor and just meet that baby already but it's not so simple! Our hope is that this helps ease your anxiety through learning the practical side to labor.
You may have heard of the “Stages of Labor” but we are here to tell you what that actually means! Let me break it down for you.
First Stage of Labor
The first stage of labor is your body getting ready to give birth and is typically the longest stage of labor. There are several early signs of labor that all lead up to the big show. This first stage focuses on opening up the cervix. The cervix sits right at the base of the uterus and remains closed during pregnancy to keep the baby in. There is so much more that happens though.
Most people focus on “dilation” of the cervix but it actually does several things to prep for your baby’s birth. It becomes soft and effaced or thins. Effacement is reported in percentage with 100% being ready for baby and 0% meaning you have a ways to go before giving birth. It moves forward to more accurately align with the vaginal opening. Think a straight line rather than an “L” shape.
That first stage of labor lasts until your cervix is 10 cm dilated and ready for a baby to pass through. This means that all of the other components of cervical preparation like effacement, moving position and softening have also happened. So early labor, active labor and transition are all included in this first stage of labor.
Second Stage of Labor
Once your cervix is fully prepared for your baby’s birth and you are ready to push, you move into the second stage of labor.
The second stage of labor includes the time spent pushing and the birth of your baby! This is fairly straight forward but can involve a bit of anxiety for many people when they think about birth. Pushing can last anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours. The length of this stage heavily relies on a few different factors including the position of the baby, if you have had a previous vaginal delivery, the shape of the pelvis and more.
Pushing and birth is often when we find parents incredibly grateful for doula support. We are able to step in and offer encouragement and physical aid as many parents are exhausted and running on their last bit of energy at that point.
Pushing is demanding on both the maternal body and the support team as there is a lot leading up to this point, one being a lack of sleep. We see empty water bottles and fill them, we find ways to help sustain physically demanding pushing positions to conserve that precious energy for both the woman and her partner.
We make sure that her support team is nourished and has time to use the bathroom. We take note of when birth is imminent and make sure everyone is present and has taken any needed breaks well before that time. We revisit your desires for your birth and make sure your birth team is all on the same page so you don’t look back with regret having missed those moments. Your doula sees the stress sitting above your brows and rub them away or talk you through relaxing between pushes. A doula supports you!
So you are enjoying those first moments of your newborn in your arms, maybe doing skin to skin with you or maybe just gazing into their brand new eyes. But you’re not done yet!
Third Stage of Labor
Did you know there is a third stage of labor even after your baby is born? There is! But it’s usually pretty short. The third stage of labor is the delivery of the placenta.
Most often, this happens within about 5-10 minutes of the baby’s birth and is fairly uneventful but other times it takes longer and a bit more effort to fully release. Some providers will push on your tummy to help the placenta release, they may slightly tug on the umbilical cord and other times it comes out all on its own. They may ask you to give a little push and after pushing a baby out, this feels like a cake walk!
Once you’ve delivered the placenta you’ve made it! All three stages of labor are complete and you get to soak in those newborn snuggles!
Prepare Well: Doula Support & Childbirth Classes
If you’ve decided that you’d like doula support for your birth, contact us and we will get you more information on our offerings and schedule a meet and greet with one of our incredible doula teams! They are eager to meet you and see how they can support your specific desires for your birth.
We also offer childbirth classes in Bellingham and Skagit Valley where we dive into more detail about these topics. All of our classes are taught by our doulas too! They’ve been there supporting families in the doula role many times and know what it is like so you can ask all of those burning questions about what labor feels like!
You’re 39 weeks pregnant and ready to be done. It’s been nine months of feeling those sweet and sometimes painful kicks, a bit of nausea, heartburn and lots of anticipation.
I’m pretty sure it is meant to be uncomfortable by the time we make it to the end of pregnancy. We are ready to do anything to get this baby out! And so we have the motivation, the determination and the will to go through anything necessary to meet this baby.
So much goes into this process of pregnancy, labor and birth!
You start to feel a little crampy on and off and don’t think much of it. It is the middle of the night after all. You roll over and once again, try to find that comfortable position to sleep in and realize you need to get up and pee.
That’s a lot of work. You pee a depressingly small amount, stand up and make your way to the bed. Another one hits. This time it’s undeniably a contraction. You feel crampy, it intensifies a bit then wears off.
So what now? Do you go back to bed? Do you wake up your partner in excitement? After all, you both have been waiting for labor to hit! When do you start timing contractions? How do you time contractions?
All of these questions and emotions begin to flood your mind.
There’s a lot to think about when you think labor may have started. We want to bring some clear cut steps and make it easy for you. So here are some answers to the big question…
I think I am in labor. Now what do I do?!
1) ALERT YOUR BIRTH TEAM! This could be your labor doula, your midwife or OB/Gyn or anyone else you would like to be involved in your labor and delivery. Then do everything in your power to GO BACK TO SLEEP! Labor can be a marathon and sleep is your best ally. The more energy you can conserve in those early hours of labor, the better off you’ll be at the end.
2) If you have tried and tried to sleep and just can’t, EAT A NUTRITIOUS MEAL AND STAY HYDRATED. Think about something you’d eat before a big workout. Nothing too heavy, but something with enough density to it that it will get you through.
3) RELAX and DISTRACT: If that means taking a shower, then do it! If that means baking a birthday cake, do that! The goal is to keep your mind off of your contractions as much as possible until you are no longer able to distract yourself from them. This is also the time to take that last pregnant belly photo if you want one before you meet your baby! Better sneak that in there now!
4) Once you are no longer able to distract yourself during your contractions, this is when you can start timing them. We recommend using the “Full Term App” on your iphone or android. This app will automatically tell you how long your contractions are, how far apart they are and give you an option to track the intensity of each contraction.
5) TRACK THEM FOR ONE HOUR: Please don’t get hung up on tracking your contractions. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed and completely consumed by your contractions. That is not what we want. So we suggest tracking them for an hour and then putting it away until you notice a big change. Then you can track them again and contact your care provider when you are seeing the signs that they have directed you to look for.
Often, your OB/Gyn or Midwife will give you a metric like 5-1-1. This means to watch for when your contractions are 5 minutes apart, one minute long and holding this for at least one hour. These numbers vary based on a few factors, but this will be something that your app can tell you and will be a cue to go to your chosen birth location.
Timing a contraction using the “Full Term App” includes pressing “Start” when you feel the contraction starting and then pressing “Stop” once you feel it subside. We highly recommend this as labor tends to be consuming and this offers an easy solution.
If you would rather use a stopwatch and piece of paper, start your timer when the contraction starts. Mark down the time when you feel it subside. That first number is the duration of your contractions. Then mark down the time when your next contraction starts. The time that elapsed between the beginning of the first contraction to the beginning of the second contraction is characterized as the time between contractions.
If you are looking for a birth doula in Skagit Valley or in Whatcom County, we would love to chat further. We also offer birth classes in Skagit Valley and Whatcom County where we dive into greater detail around what to do when labor starts and how to time contractions.
If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know that people tend to tell you exactly what is on their mind without holding back.
People act as if a growing belly is a sign saying something like, “I want all of you thoughts, opinions and advice on anything and everything.”
Here's a list of some things people have said along with some suggestions for things to say instead. If you've said some of these things to a pregnant person before give yourself some grace, then sit back and take notes.
What people say vs what they should say
1. You’re huge! → You’re looking great!
2. Are you sure you’re not having twins? → You’re looking great!
3. You’re tiny! → You’re looking great!
4. You need an epidural! → There are so many ways to give birth. You’re going to do great!
5. You’re planning a natural birth right? → There are so many ways to give birth. You’re going to do great!
6. You need a (insert chosen gender)! → Congratulations!
7. You’re pregnant again?! → Congratulations!
8. Those kids are going to be too close in age! → How exciting!
9. When are you going to try for your next baby? → You’re growing a great family!
10. Make sure you have (insert chosen baby gear here). → Let me know if you’d like any tips or help picking out baby gear!
11. Get ready to feel like a cow from breastfeeding → Your baby is so lucky to have you as their parent. If you ever feel like you need more support at any capacity, let me know. I know of several great resources in our community.
12. You’re cloth diapering right? → Your baby is so lucky to have you as their parent. If you ever feel like you need more support at any capacity, let me know. I know of several great resources in our community.
13. Let me tell you about my birth… → Nope. Just keep your story to yourself for now. Comparison is never a good thing for a pregnant woman. If she wants to hear it, share it after she has her baby.
14. You’re naming them what?! → It sounds like a lot of thought went into that name.
15. You’re giving birth in Bellingham, WA? Don’t go with (insert provider’s name)! → There are so many great providers in Bellingham! You’re going to make a great choice!
16. You’re having your baby in Mount Vernon? You better go with (insert birth location)! → There are several great places to give birth in Mount Vernon. I am excited for you!
17. You are having a C-section?! WHY? → It sounds like you’re making the right choice for you and your baby.
18. You’re too young to be pregnant. → There is so much to look forward to with a new baby.
19. It's about time! → Congratulations!
20. You know formula is horrible for the baby right? → How are you doing? I am so happy for you!
Obviously we always want to remain genuine while talking to anyone. So if the positive spin on these statements don’t sit well, keep it to yourself.
There is plenty to think about while preparing for a new baby. Please don’t add to the stress. We understand most of these statements are well meaning but we never know someone’s internal battles.
What were some things that others said to you that caught you off guard? Have you said any of these statements? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
North Cascade Doulas is a group of doulas in Bellingham, WA who are focused on providing unbiased labor support, childbirth education and placenta services to our families. If you are looking for a doula in Skagit County or the surrounding areas, reach out today. You’re sure to only get the positive statements from us.
Have you ever wondered if you're the only one experiencing a certain pregnancy symptom?
In this video, Kristina and Savannah go back and forth to see who can recall the most pregnancy symptoms. If you think of any that we missed, let us know in the comments!
Pregnancy is hard!
If you're looking for a doula in Bellingham or the surrounding areas, we are here to help! We serve all of our birth doula clients with strategies to combat these symptoms and more.
You don't have to do this alone!
First off, yesterday was National Ice Cream Day. I hope you knew that. I didn't until today and you can absolutely bet that our family will be celebrating a day late!
It makes sense that this is a holiday in July.
It's stinkin' hot!!! Who doesn't want a big scoop on a hot summer day?! Especially if you're growing another human! If that's you, hang in there and get a double scoop. One for the baby and one for you right?!
Summer pregnancies It can make for a pretty miserable season depending on where you’re located.
In Bellingham, Lynden, Ferndale, Mount Vernon and Burlington, we tend to get a few weeks of fairly intense heat.
Here are some ways to beat the heat while pregnant.
Good luck! If all else fails, those portable A/C units or window units can make a world of difference!
If you’ve shared your pregnancy news, most likely you’ve been told congratulations more than you can count quickly followed by either some pregnancy and birth horror stories or advice.
People love giving advice and we all learn this oh so quickly during pregnancy, birth and parenting.
I’d love to say it will soon stop but this is only the beginning. The hope is that you’ll get used to it or learn some slightly snarky responses ;)
We don’t want to add to the mounds and mounds of advice so we thought we would share some more helpful information…
15 pregnancy symptoms that no one told you:
If you’re pregnant and have not experienced some or all of these things, you’ve been warned now!
In our birth class we cover these pregnancy symptoms and ways to ease the discomfort associated with them.
Skagit Valley! We have been listening and are now teaching our birth class in Mount Vernon! Check out our services page for our upcoming class schedule.
The hope is that you don’t deal with all of these issues, but if you do and have a way that you have worked around it, let us know your trick in the comments! We’re always looking for new ways to help our clients deal with the struggles and discomforts of pregnancy.
So you're expecting a baby! Congratulations!
Have you started planning your babymoon getaway?A quick, or not so quick, getaway before you add another little person to your family.
Sometimes it can be frustrating when trying to come up with fun things to do while pregnant. Especially those last weeks when the aches and pains of pregnancy can really throw you off. How about planning a trip to distract you?! Take some time to soak in these last weeks of your family as you now know it!
I’d venture to guess you won’t regret it!
Traveling with a baby in tow changes things quite a bit! Take advantage of this time you have before your baby arrives.
If you’re pregnant in Skagit or Whatcom County and need a (mostly) local breath of fresh air, consider some of these options!
1. TreeHouse Point; Issaquah, WA
Schedule an appointment to tour the tree houses or stay in one of them! They are open year-round! TreeHouse Point is only a 2 hour drive south of Bellingham in Issaquah, WA.
Indulge your senses during the Boehm’s Candies & Chocolates factory tour located nearby. If you want to explore the beautiful Pacific Northwest further, bring your hiking boots and venture out on one of the several hikes nearby.
2. Post Hotel; Leavenworth, WA:
Whether you venture out for a Snowshoe or bicycle adventure, or take the time to experience the german culture Leavenworth embodies, you can be certain that you will be able to let the stress of life melt away at their tranquil spa.
If you’d rather spend your babymoon out of the country, but have been advised against traveling that far, consider Leavenworth! Although it’s only located 175 miles out of Lynden, many would say that it feels like you’re a world away.
3. Semiahmoo; Blaine, WA
This treasure is conveniently located within Whatcom County. You can hop on a Whale watching cruise, running from September through April, go out for a walk, cozy up in your beautiful room or indulge in their heavenly spa.
4. Seaside, OR
If you’re looking for something a bit further away, check out one of the many options available in Seaside, Oregon from hotels to a nice AirBnB.
You can check out Haystack Rock on Cannon beach, hike up Saddle Mountain Trail, laugh while posing for Instagram worthy photos at the Seaside Inverted Experience, or shop the many boutiques in the Broadway Core.
5. Harrison Hot Springs Resort; Harrison, BC, Canada
Hop the border and relax at Harrison Hot Springs! You have an abundance of lodging options, catering to a variety of budgets. With the hot springs nearby, you’re bound to have a relaxing and peaceful babymoon.
Did you take advantage of a babymoon? Where did you go? If you visited one of these babymoon destinations, let me know! I’d love to hear how your experience was!
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 provide care for families looking for Labor Doulas, Postpartum Doulas, Placenta Encapsulation and Childbirth Education Classes. We support all parenting philosophies and birth plans.
Our doulas have experience in a variety of areas, such as:
(natural) unmedicated birth / (surgical) cesarean birth / epidural birth / induction / planned induction / planned cesarean / VBAC / TOLAC / waterbirth / hypnobirthing / 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 / Maple Falls / Everson / Stanwood