Waiting for Baby

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doula tucsonThose final weeks of pregnancy are often so hard.  It’s such an exciting and often uncomfortable time!  During this time it’s normal to experience Braxton-Hicks contractions. Or pre-labor or early labor like bouts of contractions that can lead to frustration and confusion.

You will likely find yourself wondering, “Why isn’t my body working?!”

I get a lot of calls from clients in those final weeks.  Over the years I’ve given a lot of suggestions but there are two reoccurring themes.


#1 Your body IS working. Those contractions that you are having might not result in active labor, but there are making progress towards that goal.  

When clients are discouraged we talk through the 6 ways to measure progress below.
  1. Dilation of the cervix – this seems to be the BIG one.  It’s certainly the one that the most weight and focus is placed on.  The cervix opens (dilates) from 0 (closed) to 10 (fully dilated) centimeters.
  2. Effacement (or thinning) of the cervix – this one gets far less attention vs. dilation but is still an important part of the bigger picture.  Before the cervix can completely open (dilate) it must first completely thin out (efface).  Effacement is measured in percentages.  Zero percent effaced means the cervix hasn’t yet thinned. While 100% effaced means that the cervix has thinned out to roughly the thickness of a single piece of paper.
  3. Position of the cervix – this is one measurement that most providers don’t usually say much about during prenatal vaginal exams. But I find it’s a telling one.  During pregnancy, the cervix points toward our tailbone.  As your body prepares for labor, the cervix moves from posterior (pointing toward the back) to anterior (pointing towards the front).
  4. Ripening or softening of the cervix – during pregnancy, the cervix is firm in consistency, much like the tip of your nose.  As labor approaches, it begins to soften and starts to feel more like your ear lobe.  Some providers use words like firm, smooshy, really soft to describe the feel of the cervix.
  5. Rotation of the baby – the baby’s journey requires a series of turns or rotations.  These movements are called the Cardinal Movements.  Those early bouts of contractions help rotate the baby, align them with the pelvis and find the position that is best for them.
  6. Station of the baby’s head – this measurement tells us how high or low the baby’s head is within your pelvis.  Measured in both –  and +, zero station is what providers call engaged. With -1, -2. -3 etc being above 0 station and +1. +2, +3 etc. being further engaged beyond 0 station with +5 being considered as crowning.
Remind yourself that any change, no matter how small in any of the 6 ways listed above IS progress.  Your body is working.

#2 is my “recipe” for making it through those final days or weeks of pregnancy.

Rest, Relax and DistractTucson Doulas
      • Rest – I receive a lot of “this might be labor” calls as the sun begins to set.  My suggestions are to have a good meal, hydrate, and take a long bath before bedtime while drinking a nice glass of water, and then go to bed.
        If this is what I like to call “We’re having a baby today” labor. The bath might slow the contractions down for a while, but they will almost always kick back up and keep going from there.
        If it’s what I like to call “getting ready for baby” labor the hydration and bath will likely result in the uterus settling down. Which means you and your partner can have a good night’s sleep.
        If it’s morning or mid-day, my suggestion is the same.  Eat well and NAP!  If we can buy you and your partner a few hours of sleep before you can no longer sleep through contractions that’s a good thing!
      • Relax – It’s normal to be excited that this might be the big day!  The temptation is to notify family and friends and at times to head right off to the hospital.  But first, take a deep breath.  This might be “We’re having a baby today” labor or it could be “Getting ready for baby” labor.  Either way, your body IS working (see above) and changing.
        With the rise of smartphones and tablets has come the “Contraction Timer” applications.  While a marvelous invention that takes the guesswork out of figuring out the duration and frequency of contractions these applications can cause a lot of frustration and anxiety.
        It’s ok to time contractions, it’s a good idea to get a picture of where things are at and where they might be heading.
        My recommendation is to time contractions for an hour.  If at the end of that hour you aren’t seeing an increase in frequency and duration, put it away and move on to other activities.  When the contractions feel as if the pattern has changed, begin timing them again for a half-hour.
        Should you notice the contractions are slowing, stop timing consider the time of day. When it’s close to dinner time, see above.  If it’s early or mid-day see below.
        As you notice contractions are increasing in frequency and duration, let your Tucson Doula know, review and experiment with your positions and comfort measures for labor.  Stop timing contractions as you focus on comfort and positioning and resume when you think the pattern has changed.  Repeat as necessary.
      • Distract – I admit, many find this part difficult.  It’s a HUGE deal to have a baby and excitement is normal.  On the flip side, there is no point in focusing on every sensation and worrying about why contractions aren’t increasing in frequency and duration.  It’s not a race, but it’s hard to get our minds to accept that.  Distraction can be a welcome relief from the stress and discomfort of those final weeks of pregnancy and even in early labor!  My favorite suggestions are:
        • Go to the movies!  Get out of the house and enjoy a little escapism.  Go see a funny or romantic movie.  Laughter and tears are great emotional releases.  If contractions stop, that’s ok they weren’t going to bring you the baby anyway.   If contractions pick up and you need to leave, that’s ok too it still makes for a great story later!
          I went to see the third Harry Potter movie when I was having what turned out to be practice labor with my 3rd baby.  I promised my older daughter that if we had to leave that her father would take her back after the baby came to finish the movie.  Alas, contractions petered out right about the time the dementors showed up and I was able to finish the movie.
        • Go out for a romantic dinner!  When you are well-fed you will have energy reserves to pull from during the later parts of labor.  So enjoy a nice meal before the baby comes.
          There are some restaurants that claim to have special dishes that can bring on labor. I’ve had a decent number of clients have great success with one particular restaurant in my community and their “Joe’s Special.”
          When clients ask what I’d suggest I send them there.  If it works, great!  If it doesn’t, then they had a great meal out that night and have leftovers for breakfast or lunch the next day.
        • Get creative!  Maybe you need to finish up a few errands before the baby comes, now is the perfect time.  There may be some loose ends at work you need to tie up, there’s no time like the present.  When you feel like you need to get out of the house before the walls close in on you then explore your local attractions that are family-friendly.
          If this is your first baby you’ll have scoped out some great places to take your little one when they are older.  If this is an addition to your family then you’ll have a great time out with your children at one of your favorite places or possibly find a new place to enjoy!

Enjoy these final moments with your baby tucked sweetly under your heart. 

They will be here before you know it. Then you’ll likely miss that squirming bump under your hand. Or those flutters and kicks in the middle of the night as you jockey each other for a comfortable sleeping position.  They really do grow up so fast.





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