Now that football season is upon us, we’re sure you’ve heard of The Big Ten. Today, we’re here to talk about The Big Four: the 4 main things we recommend parents focus on when they experience their first labor contractions. It’s definitely possible that your baby will decide it’s time to make the journey Earth-Side before you’ve had the time to finish all of your preparations. Don’t panic! Do what you can, conserve your energy, and reach out to your support system if you need a little extra help putting together frozen meals, a hospital bag (if you’re having a hospital birth), or buying diapers. Raising a baby is a team effort (football pun intended), so once you’ve called your OB/midwife/doula/support system to let them know your baby is coming, here are The Big Four to focus on:
1. Stay calm
So your contractions have started! Congratulations!! For many parents, their first instinct is to switch into “Go Go Go” mode. All of the excitement, preparation, and anticipation has led up to this moment, and now your baby is finally on the way! Some parents may even feel stressed, anxious, blindsighted, or like they couldn’t possibly prepare enough! All of these reactions are TOTALLY normal. And even though it seems counter intuitive, the first thing we tell parents to do is to stay calm. Labor is exhausting, and even more so if you have a long birth. We’ve seen many parents use up a ton of energy and strength with that initial excitement/ adrenaline rush, which leaves them even more exhausted for the rest of the labor process. Save as much energy as you can for when you’re pushing your baby out! Although contractions will feel jarring and uncomfortable, please don’t forget that they are completely normal and they will not harm you. So whether it’s meditating, cooking, knitting, watching reruns of your favorite tv show, or going on a date with your partner. Do whatever you can during early labor to stay as calm and relaxed as possible to conserve your energy!
2. Eat a big meal
The next big thing we tell parents to focus on is eating a giant meal in whatever capacity works for you and your body. Whether you feast on the biggest burger you can find, or just eat a bowl of oatmeal with fruit and peanut butter. What’s important is filling your stomach and making sure your meal has lots of protein! Once contractions really get intense it’s common for parents to feel nauseous, exhausted, or to lose their appetite from everything that’s going on physically. This is all totally normal, but it also makes eating early on in labor SUPER important. Not only will it keep your energy and blood sugar up throughout labor, but a protein-packed meal will allow that meal to last you longer than a carb-filled meal. That way you don’t have to worry about eating as much if you do experience nausea. Plus, that extra boost can honestly make a HUGE difference when you start to tire out. Not only will you be giving nutrients and strength to your baby, but you’ll be less likely to experience complications related to calorie deficiency, you’ll have more energy, and as a result you’ll have more options for your birth experience. One of our rules of thumb for childbirth is: the more nutrients you put into your body before and throughout labor, the higher your confidence, strength, and endurance will be!
3. Take a nap
You read that right! When your contractions start, TAKE A NAP. This one also probably seems counter-intuitive, but it’s so true! If your contractions start in the middle of the night, roll back over and try to go back to sleep for as long as possible. And if your contractions start during the day, take a little snooze! Napping is along the same lines as our Stay Calm tip in the sense that you’re conserving energy for later in labor. Labor can be unpredictable. Some parents have births that last 2 hours, and some parents have births that last many days. Since you don’t know the next time you’ll sleep, resting as much as possible during the early parts of labor will help keep your energy up during the hard parts, and make sure you’re well-rested for as much of your baby’s birth as possible.
4. Take a shower or bath
If you’ve done the other 3 already, or if you’re just someone who feels more comfortable/calm when you’re clean and smelling like soap, try to take a bath or shower before active labor kicks in! Taking a nice warm shower can be exactly what some parents need to clear their heads, prepare for the journey ahead of them, and go into labor with positive mindset. Depending on where you give birth, you may have access to a shower or birthing tub, but it’s unlikely they’ll allow soaps if your water has already broken. Then after labor you’ll honestly be so exhausted and wrapped up in the beautiful little bundle you just gave life to. So lord knows the next time you’ll get to bathe! We honestly cannot sing enough praise for soaking in the tub or shower during early labor. Taking a warm bath/shower allows all of the muscles in your body to relax which makes it so much easier for your uterus to contract and your cervix to dilate. When your body is tense, your muscles hold your baby up further in your abdomen. So get in that tub, or step in that shower, and give yourself the relaxed, fresh start to labor you deserve!
Disclaimer: If you are in early labor and your water has already broken, do not take a bath unless your midwife or OB has said you’re in the clear!
All in all, these four things will help you start labor off strong so that you can get as close to your ideal birth as possible. So whether you’re a football fanatic, or someone who couldn’t care less about The Big Ten, just remember The Big Four! And above all else, if your contractions have started, remember to breathe. YOU CAN DO THIS.