When to Call
We encourage you to call when you first think you are in labor. Early labor patterns can give clues about the baby’s position. If you do need to change the baby's position, it is much easier in early labor. We also can give specific recommendations or reminders to you based on your individual needs. (It also helps us organize our lives a bit and do things like take a nap or eat dinner.)
Generally we like to be with you during most of active labor. This is generally viewed as contractions 4-5 minutes apart lasting approximately 60 seconds. Depending on your previous birth patterns and how far away you live, this may or may not be a good rule about when to call. It is a good time to monitor the baby regularly, however.
2-3 days before labor. Your body is becoming more sensitive to the nightly oxytocin surges and most women notice some subtle and some not-so-subtle changes.
Commitment. Take 30-60 minutes (whatever you need to determine a pattern) and time contractions. How far apart? How long? How strong? Then forget about it for two hours. At the end of two hours if you are still having contractions, time them again. If they are longer, stronger or closer together, it is fairly likely that this is early labor. If they are not…let it go. (Of course, if you can’t determine a pattern because things are getting so much longer, stronger and closer together, CALL! That is your sign!)
Contractions. Especially at night, you can try the knee-chest position for 30 minutes, 1000mg of calcium and magnesium, a warm bath, chamomile or valerian tea, or 2 tylenol pm with or without an extra 25 mg of Benadryl. These can help decrease the excitability of the uterine muscles making them relax. It will NOT stop real labor so you can use these with confidence that you are not hindering labor.
Psychological. Do not make the mistake of thinking that a log warm-up period means that anything is wrong with your body. It also does not mean that active labor will be any longer than usual. Although this can be an uncomfortable and frustrating time, it really is evidence that your body is preparing and responding to the appropriate hormones. Rest as much as you can or need to, keep your mind busy with other things and if this is going on for a long time, make plans and get out of the house and do things. The worst that could happen is you could have to cancel your plans because you are having a baby!
Family members. We would generally recommend that you keep announcements of labor to close family members or friends who won’t worry for you or harass you if it fizzles out. The same goes for thinking your water broke. It is best to wait until active labor is well under way to notify people.
Early Labor does get longer, stronger and closer together, but it may not take your full attention at first. The best coping strategy here is denial! Although we will encourage you to make sure you are well fed and well rested, the next best thing is to distract yourself and do something else instead of focusing on contractions. All of the techniques and advice above can be used until labor can no longer be ignored.
Remember to call, especially if you are experiencing back pain, or close, sharp contractions or a lot of nausea, so we can discuss baby turning techniques with you before you are exhausted .
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