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Thread: Your First Night of Labour - or, how not to sabotage a perfectly good birth

  1. #1

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    Default Your First Night of Labour - or, how not to sabotage a perfectly good birth

    This is from my website - something I share with all my clients:

    Your First Night of Labour



    If this is your first baby, it is not unlikely that your labour may begin in the late evening or the wee hours – because hormone levels rise after the sun goes down. Oxytocin likes darkness, peace and quiet, and privacy! It is realistic that your birth may unfold over a couple of days. So mentally prepare for the possibility of two nights of little or no sleep - it is better to be prepared and pleasantly surprised, than unprepared and taken aback by how long a first labour can take. Sleep deprivation can be an unexpected factor that can potentially de-rail a great birth plan. Some women are really psyched up to deal with the normal pain and exertion of birth – but the unexpected exhaustion of sleep deprivation is what pushes them over the threshold of ‘coping’ to ‘not coping’.

    So let’s get real.

    A first labour can involve hours, sometimes even days, of warm-up or pre-labour. Your body is doing important work to soften and thin your cervix and get everything soft, warm and stretchy for birth. It’s all good! But it can take some patience. Don’t pay too much attention to these early cramps and warm-up contractions. It’s not time to start your mental “labour-metre” or begin the floor show. Kind of ignore what is happening, don’t pay it too much attention. Wait till labour demands your full attention and focus. If it is night time, focus on relaxing and napping as much possible.

    Gloria Lemay, a Canadian midwife, has some sage advice about working with your natural bio-rhythms when labour starts in the wee hours. It is apt for any birth - especially first births and VBACs. Gloria writes:

    "Many births begin in the night…. the woman will get up to wee, feel her membranes release and then an hour later begin having sensations fifteen minutes apart. Because we think of birth as a family/couple experience, most women will wake up their husbands to tell them something’s starting and then, probably because we all hope we’ll be the 1 in 10,000 women who don’t experience much pain, we start getting the birth supplies organized, fill up the water tub, etc.

    "I have seen so many births that take days and days of prodromal (under 3 cms. dilation) sensations and they usually begin this way. The couple distract themselves in that early critical time when the pituitary gland is beginning to put out oxytocin to dilate the cervix. Turning on the light causes inhibition of the oxytocin release. Many couples don’t call their midwives until they’ve got sensations coming 5 minutes apart at 7:00 a.m. but they’ve been up since midnight timing every one of the early sensations. If they had called their midwife at midnight she would have said “Turn off the light and let your husband sleep as much as possible through the night. You, stay dark and quiet. Take a bath with a candle if it helps and call me back when you think I should come over.”

    "That first night can make all the difference and yet so many couples act like it’s a party and don’t realize they are sabotaging their births right at the beginning. Staying up all night in the early part does two things – it throws off the body clock that controls sleep and waking and confuses the brain AND it inhibits the release of the very hormone you need to dilate effectively. When you begin to have sensations, I urge you to ignore it as long as you possibly can. Don’t tell anyone. Have a “secret sensation time” with your unborn baby and get in as dark a space as you can. Minimize what is happening with your husband, family and the birth attendants.

    "What would you rather have–a big, long dramatic birth story to tell everyone - or a really smooth birth? You do have a say over your hormone activity. Help your pituitary gland secrete oxytocin to open your cervix by being in a dark, quiet room with your eyes closed."

    Remember: denial is not just a river in Egypt. It’s your friend in early labour!

  2. #2

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    fantastic advice Julie. wish I had of read that 4 years ago when I was having my first.

    Sent from my GT-S5570 using Tapatalk

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    Very interesting! I felt this start late on a Thursday night and managed to sleep through it. It was well and truly happening on the Friday night and I barely slept. DD1 was born 3.42 Monday morning. Oh God I was so tired.

    But well before the birth ever started I had this strange desire to enjoy labour quietly on my own for a few hours before calling in the troops, and I am very glad that I did.

    Because it wasn't too painful, and being alone meant being confident in my body.

    The birth didn't totally go as I planned but I loved that aspect.

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    Isn't that funny? I *totally* 100% agree with all of that, not just the Doula in me, but the woman, birthing mother etc. But! Reminding yourself continuously that you should be in for a long haul can have a different effect, it did for me. I was totally prepared for a 14 plus hour labour, to let myself rest and build up to the grand finale. I spoke to my birth class instructor (Di Diddle) at length about it, a big part of class was even dedicated to it - getting too excited about early labour - and people on BB even said the same to me when I posted that I was in labour. So 6 hours after the first niggle, when I was holding my baby, I was kind of shocked lol. I never really had that lovely build up of labour, once my waters broke it was hell for leather. I was in denial for a large part of it because I simply didn't think I would progress that quickly. One hour after my waters broke (2 hours since first niggle) I was 7cm. My mind had to play catch up with my body, and I think if I had been more prepared for a faster labour, it would have been more like 4 hours. I had a lovely birth experience, but boy was I surprised after setting myself up for a marathon, I got a sprint.

    Now, I'm in an odd place with regards to my outlook for my next labour. On one hand, I don't want to feel shocked at a faster labour and expect something slow and steady, but I also don't want to convince myself I'll be going into a 3 hour labour, only to find myself still going 10 hours later, if that makes sense.

    I do think out of the two, it's easier to be prepared for a longer labour and experience a shorter one. From my experience at least, the effects are less adverse than exhausting oneself at the very beginning.
    Last edited by PumpkinZulu; February 21st, 2012 at 11:48 PM.

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    So true! I was in total denial I was in labour. Even after my bowls released, I had a huge bloody show and contractions 3 mins apart in the car on the way to hospital. It wasn't until a midwife checked me and said I was 9cms dilated and could go into pushing mode any minute, I was made to quite literally bolt to the labour ward - no babies in the rooms! - my brain had to do a bit of a fast forward. Never thought I'd would ever go spontaneously.

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    I didn't realise I was in labour with DS1. It started just after midnight. I tried to sleep through it, then realised by 3am that the discomfort was coming 7 minutes apart. i just went back to bed and rocked on my side. When DH woke about 6am, i mentioned something was happening. Our midwife was there about 8am, we transferred about 9:30am and DS was born at 9:15pm. i didn't sleep after birthing started, but just resting helped later on, despite the exhaustion.

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    Great article thank you I really loved reading it!

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    thank you for posting, that's a great read! i wonder how it differs for subsequent births? i'm hoping to experience spontaneous labour this time round so maybe i'll get a chance to be in denial

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    I definatley got too excited when the pre labour pains started and continued for days. I was so tired. Next time I'd stay home and rest as much as possible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PumpkinZulu View Post
    boy was I surprised after setting myself up for a marathon, I got a sprint.

    Now, I'm in an odd place with regards to my outlook for my next labour. On one hand, I don't want to feel shocked at a faster labour and expect something slow and steady, but I also don't want to convince myself I'll be going into a 3 hour labour, only to find myself still going 10 hours later, if that makes sense.

    I do think out of the two, it's easier to be prepared for a longer labour and experience a shorter one. From my experience at least, the effects are less adverse than exhausting oneself at the very beginning.
    Oh yes! If you one of those rare women who have their first baby in 8 hours or less, this advice could have you feeling "what the heck just happened?" So most important of all: listen to your body and trust your gut. It's just that as doulas we see the scenario so many times when a mama thinks she is much further along than she really is because she's had her "labour-meter" ticking over since the first cramp. And labour unfolding over 2, 3, even 4 days and nights is not unusual for primips.

    PZ I'll eat my hat if you have a 10 hour labour next time! My money is on a "quick & easy" birth next time - especially if it occurs within 3 years of your first. I would lay on support and tools (like a birth pool) to help you have a lovely - though short - time.

    My second was born in a shopping mall, within 20 minutes of me finally being convinced I was in labour. All up, it was 3 hours from the very first niggle (not painful at all) to when she was in my arms. It was fast, but it was still a fantastic experience. Hope yours will be too!

  11. #11

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    Pumkinzulu my first was 6hrs, wouldve gone faster but my waters didnt break til 10cm, i also was 8cm after 2 hrs, next was 5hrs, now im down to 20odd minutes so i can keep getting faster, i didnt actually feel #3 labour at all was just twinges

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Julie Doula View Post
    PZ I'll eat my hat if you have a 10 hour labour next time! My money is on a "quick & easy" birth next time - especially if it occurs within 3 years of your first.
    Well don't go tempting me

    I'm definitely looking forward to a waterbirth next time...I had the pool all set up before we transferred, I think leaving it was the hardest part

  13. #13

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    My first labour did not go how I would have liked, was still a great experience but I could not help or change what happened. My 2nd labour was perfect I enjoyed every minute of it and how long and slowly it progressed. I can say I never actually was in any pain, just discomfort. I just wish the bath had of filled up before my bubba arrived. This is a great article that I will share with a couple of friends due soonish.

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    What a great article. As someone who got the long dramatic story, and the slice n dice special, I will be filing this for future reference. Although the inner pessimist in me says "Sometimes no amount of preparation or candlelit baths or whatever can save you from the scalpel". Sometimes things happen which are beyond our control, sadly.

    I hope next time is different for me.

  15. #15

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    This is true for my with my first labour. I went to bed on the saturday night at about 9pm and had tiny twinges that came and went, took note of them but didn't get too excited. Slept until 2am and when i woke they were slightly stronger and still coming and going. I was not timing anything. I went to the toilet and had a show. I then lay there for about an hour before i told DH. I think i made a phone call to the hospital and they told me to rest which i did do. I dozed on and off while i had tummy tightenings. I slept with my tummy to DH's back and he felt them too. Once morning came we got up and it was clear that things were happening but i refused to be taken to the hospital for fear of being sent home again. Eventaully at about 1pm i gave in as i'd started vomiting and was starting to be in a fair bit of pain. DS was still not born for another 12 hours. Off the top of my head i think it was 12:49am on the Monday morning.

    So yes it began during the night for me, and i did relax as best as i could and not wake DH because i knew he'd panic straight away and it turned out to be 23 hours of actual labour. I do also put this down to it being my first labour and i had no idea what i was doing. The very little knowledge i had was from the pre-natal classes. By the end of it i was losing hope that i could even do it, begging for it to be over saying i can't do this anymore. We got there eventually

    Can i email this article to a friend of mine who is about to have her first bub?

  16. #16

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    Sure, share freely. My first labour was around 24 hours too.

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    My labour with my first actually began around 8:30am! But it went for 19 hours so it took me well into the following night - that was mainly due to an epidural that slowed down what had been quite a progressive labour. I was glad that most of my labour (I did the first 11 or so hours at home with no pain relief) took place during the day because there was something about being in labour during the day that helped me to focus and not freak out.

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