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.
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