Going into Labor

How to Know If You Are Having Labor Contractions

Pay close attention to the timing of your contractions for one hour. Note the time between the beginning of one contraction to beginning of the next contraction, as well as the length of each contraction. True labor contractions will last at least 30 seconds and up to 70 seconds, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. If, over the course of one hour, your contractions get stronger, longer and closer together, this indicates true labor, states the Ask Dr. Sears website. If your contractions keep the same intensity without establishing a pattern, it's probably false labor. For example, false labor contractions might be seven minutes apart, 10 minutes apart, two minutes apart and then five minutes apart.

Monitor the intensity of your contractions over the one-hour period. If the contractions stay consistent at the same level of intensity, it’s likely they are not true contractions. You might experience some pressure feelings with false labor, but the pain isn't more than uncomfortable. As true labor progresses, the contractions will become so intense that they take your breath away. False labor will not progress to this point.

Assess the sensations of the contractions. False labor contractions feel like abdominal tightening across the front of your uterus, states the American Pregnancy Association. With true labor, contractions usually originate in the front and move around to your lower back.

Determine whether a change in activity level affects contractions. With true labor, moving around and walking usually intensifies contractions, according to Sutter Health. If changes in activity ease your contractions, then you are probably not in true labor. True labor progresses without interruption and the pains become stronger, harder and faster. With false labor, walking usually diminishes the contractions. If you lie down with false labor, it’s common for the contractions to dissipate completely. Lying down to rest when you think you might be in labor is often an effective way to determine whether you’re in true labor because with false labor, contractions will disappear and with true labor, they will continue or even intensify.

Note any other symptoms you might be having that often accompany true labor. You might experience bloody show, which is a blood-tinged vaginal discharge, states the University of Maryland Medical Center. Bloody show indicates that your cervix is beginning to dilate in preparation for labor and delivery. You might also experience diarrhea, nausea and a slow leak or a gush of fluid if your water breaks prior to or during labor.

Warning

Call your caregiver if you feel regular contractions, pelvic pressure or if you experience bleeding or heavy vaginal discharge. A cervix check will determine whether your cervix is dilating. Medical monitoring of your contractions will also determine whether they are true or false contractions.

How to Ease Afterpains After Giving Birth

Try to prevent afterpains. Urinating frequently can help prevent or lessen afterpains. As with contractions, a full bladder can make the afterpains hurt worse.

Increase pressure. You can use any type of support garment like an ace bandage or a belly wrap to snuggly wrap your abdomen. This will sometimes lessen the intensity of the afterpains.

Try using heat. Use a heating pad or a warm rice sock over your belly to reduce the afterpains. You can also try lying in a warm tub. For really intense afterpains you can lie on your belly with a heating pad or warm rice sock underneath you. The pressure and the heat can sometimes work together to relieve severe cramps.

Try relaxation methods. If you used breathing in labor and it worked you may want to incorporate it again. You can also use massage techniques or perhaps even take a mind journey to a beautiful place.

Try herbs or tinctures. There are certain herbs and tinctures that are specifically made to decrease afterbirth contractions. Of course, make sure that it is safe to take if you are breastfeeding.

Call your physician. If the afterpains are too intense you can call your physician to see what he recommends. He can advise you of what to take over the counter or prescribe pain medication.

Things You Will Need

  • Support garment
  • Heating pad or rice sock

Warning

Before taking anything over the counter, check with your physician to make sure it's safe. If you are breastfeeding, try all the natural remedies first before turning to medication.

Pros & Cons of Being Induced

Overdue

Labor often is induced when a woman is 10 days past her estimated due date and fails to begin labor naturally.

Health Issues

Some doctors induce labor when there is a health risk to the mother, such as preeclampsia or diabetes.

Quicken Labor

Sometimes a woman's water will break but contractions don't occur or are not strong enough. Inducing labor help make contractions stronger and speeds up the birthing process.

Infections

There is an increased chance of infection to mother and baby when labor has been induced.

Low Heart Rate

Oxytocin is a drug often used to induce labor and can cause too many contractions. Oxygen has a hard time reaching the baby, causing the heart rate to drop.

Tips to Induce Labor at Home

Be Active

One of the best ways to induce labour naturally is to start doing more. During the last several weeks of pregnancy, many doctors recommend that mothers refrain from being too active. While still keeping this bit of advice, simple, slow-stress activities can stimulate the child and induce labour.

Start walking a little more than usual. This will not be too stressful on the child, and it can help move the child into the birthing position. Walking will naturally swing the hips from side to side, thus shifting the child in the womb. When he settles in the right position, he can then safely begin the birthing process.

If you're going to be active, why not have a little fun? Intercourse has also been known to stimulate the birthing process. During a female orgasm, hormones that aid in birthing are released. This can help stimulate childbirth. Also, semen contains a group of hormones called prostaglandins, which help soften and ripen the cervix. Therefore, a male's ejaculation will also help induce labour.

Herbs and Oils

Centuries before the advancement of medical science, people used various herbs to help induce labour. Note, however, that some herbs, such as aloe vera, bungleweed and pokerroot, can be dangerous to you or the child, so consult a doctor before self-medicating with herbs. Some herbs can result in premature contractions or birth defects. Other herbs, however, can be powerful in terms of inducing labour. Potent herbs include black and blue cohosh, red raspberry leaf and false unicorn root. These herbs release natural chemicals into the body that can stimulate the child and get him moving and positioned to begin the birthing process. These herbs can be can taken in capsules, teas or tinctures and should usually be consumed approximately 30 minutes before meals.

Primrose oil is used to induce labour. Similar to the effect that semen has on the cervix, primrose oil softens and ripens the cervix by releasing prostaglandins. Primrose oil is applied by placing the oil capsule into the vagina each evening. The vagina will absorb the oil and begin to prepare the cervix for the birthing process.

Castor oil is also used to induce labour. Take this each morning with a glass of orange or apple juice to disguise the unpleasant taste of the oil. The castor oil can cause small spasms in the intestines, and these spasms squeeze the uterus, which could induce labour. Never take more than 118ml. of the oil, though, because it could hurt the child. Any more and the mother might become ill, developing symptoms such as severe nausea, cramping, vomiting and diarrhoea. The stress on the mother's immune system will also begin to stress the child; this sort of stress can be quite damaging to the child, causing respiration problems at birth.

Other Methods

Acupressure is another proven method of inducing labour. A certified acupressure therapist can add pressure that will help dilate the cervix and prompt labour contractions.

Spicy foods have also been known to induce labour. Science has yet to back this one up, but some people claim that eating spicy food has helped induce labour. Be warned, though, that the spicy food can cause nausea.

How to tell at home if your cervix is dilating?

Wash your hands with hot water and soap or use hand sanitiser, then put on latex gloves. If you desire, apply a small amount of lubrication to your gloves. Gloves will help prevent the spread of bacteria from your hands to your vaginal canal and cervix.

Position yourself on a chair or on the corner of a bed. Lift up one leg to your side and keep your other leg down with your foot flat on the ground. This position allows you to reach deeper into the vaginal canal. When professionals check your cervix, they usually have you lay on your back, but for a self-check, this position works best.

Use one or two fingers, preferably your index and middle fingers, to reach into your vagina, toward your back to touch the cervix. You can tell it's your cervix because it feels like your pressing your fingers into closed, puckered lips, especially during the early stages of labour.

Press as many fingers as you can, gently, into the cervix. If you can only fit one, that means your cervix is only 1cm dilated. If you can fit two fingers, that means your cervix is 2cm dilated. The more fingers you can comfortably fit or the wider you can stretch the cervix, the more dilated you are.

Slowly remove your fingers. Remove the gloves and wash your hands or apply hand sanitiser.

Tip

When you poke the cervix, you may feel sacs of water, or membranes, surrounding your baby, or you may feel the baby's head if your water has already broke.

Warning

If you feel any discomfort, stop. Even if you wear gloves and wash your hands, you still may push bacteria into the cervix each time you check it. Consult with a nurse or doctor each time you want to check because too much bacteria may be harmful to your baby and your cervix.