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Going into labour is never an easy thing and takes a lot of careful planning and understanding to get through the process. For this to happen, an expectant mother must know her facts right and ensure that she’s well equipped to deal with the situation when it eventually arises.
So, let’s answer some questions about going into labour:
When Does Labour Usually Start?
Some people mistake experiencing their first contraction or the breaking of their water as signals of the beginning of labour. However, scientifically the labour period begins only when your cervix has dilated 3 cm to 4 cm. This is called the “active” phase or the beginning phase of your labour.
It is important to note that you might experience painful contractions a day or night before this phase, which is completely normal and nothing to be alarmed about.
How Long Does Normal Labour Last?
There is no amount of time for labour that is set in stone, but the usual duration lasts up to eight hours or shorter, depending on numerous factors. The maximum that a first-time active labour can last for is roughly 18 hours. First-time moms usually have it harder, since it is an entirely new process for their bodies. On the other hand, mothers who have given birth previously might experience labour pains for 4-5 hours, lasting up to a maximum of 12 hours only.
The length of active labour doesn’t necessarily determine how smooth or rough the delivery is going to be. A very short active labour duration might be too taxing for the mother’s body while a slow and delayed labour period could only exhaust and tire the mother.
What is Slow Labour?
Over a 4-hour period, a normal labour would indicate dilation at the rate of 0.5 cm per hour. If it dilates at a lesser rate than this, it is considered as slow labour. Doctors usually give you a 4-hour window before determining whether your labour is slow. Anything more would require inducing labour or even a C-section delivery. This is because the process can be slightly slow for everyone in the first hour or two and then usually picks up the pace in the next 2 hours.
In some cases, dilation at the rate of 1 cm per hour is considered healthy and normal. However, one must consider that each woman’s labour process is unique to their body and therefore, the mother’s permission must be taken before any decision is made.
What Causes Slow Labour?
Labour becoming slow doesn’t necessarily need to have an underlying cause. Sometimes, labour slows down naturally and sometimes labour can be quick and painless. It all depends entirely on the mother and her body’s responses.
On the other hand, there are times when there are actual reasons for slow labour:
- The contractions are normalized and are not getting stronger with each occurrence
- Being too exhausted or not being hydrated enough (drinking enough water is very essential)
- Your baby might be settled into a back-to-back position. Why does this happen? The main cause is that your pelvis might be taller and narrower than usual, making the process a little more difficult.
- Sometimes your baby can move around in the sack, causing the position to change. An unfavourable position can also cause slow labour.
- Any type of anxiety or fear can cause the body’s muscles to tighten up, which in turn cause the labour process to slow down.
- Any restriction of movement or an epidural can also cause a slow-down.
How to Speed Up Labour?
Speeding up the process of labour is not a harmful or unnecessary option and can actually aide with having a smooth delivery. These are simple but effective ways that you can adopt to make your labour process faster and more effective.
What can help speed up labour
When your labour process is just beginning, sometimes you’re not sure if it’s going to be a normal or a slow labour. Breaking your water isn’t recommended and might just count as an unnecessary and hasty step. Once the active stage of labour has settled in and you know that your labour is going to be a slow one, breaking waters is a suitable option. This can help with speeding up active labour.
This process is done professionally by the doctor or nurses and should not be done without supervision. Although quite uncomfortable, the process isn’t painful and will surely contribute to a smoother delivery. The doctors will make sure to check that your baby hasn’t been disturbed by this process and it should be noted that after the waters breaks, the contractions become noticeably painful. You will need some form of medicinal relief at this point.
Sometimes breaking water, or active movement are not enough to tackle slow labour. The doctor would suggest a hormone drip containing syntocinon. This is nothing but an artificial but effective form of oxytocin.
A hormone drip actively elevates the hormone levels in your body. This leads to considerably painful contractions that need to be monitored and relieved as much as possible. Not just this, even your baby’s heartbeat and health need to be monitored to avoid any complications. For these reasons, doctors usually suggest taking an epidural before starting a hormone drip.
What is an epidural?
It is a system through which painkillers are induced into the body through a thin tube, that is attached to the spine. This painkiller preps the body and your lower abdomen to deal with any painful contractions.
8 Ways to Speed Up Labour
If you’re thinking “How can I speed up labour myself?”, or “Are there any natural ways to speed up labour?”, here’s how:
- Stay active and move around instead of lying in bed and staying still. This is one of the best ways to speed up dilation and lubricate the muscles. There are also exercises to speed up labour such as lunges and stair climbing.
- Stroking and caressing the nipples is also effective, and is one of the effective ways to speed up contractions due to increased hormones.
- A warm bath helps with relaxing the senses and reduces the pain of contractions. You might not even require an epidural in such a case.
- Regularly clear your bladder and do not hold back. Even if you use the bathroom frequently, it’s okay, because a full bladder could cause the labour process to slow down.
- If a scan shows that your baby may be lying in an unfavourable position, you could lie on your side to shift your baby back to an optimal position.
- Another effective method is making love to your husband/partner in order to release more oxytocin in the body and therefore, speed up the labour process.
- Squatting helps with speeding up labour, but this must be done with some help by your side. This is one of the effective labour positions to speed up the process.
- Acupressure on 3 main pressure points is another great way to help your contractions get stronger and make the process quicker. It is surely on the list of things to speed up labour.
How to Cope with Long Labour
Long labour can be unnerving and quite exhausting. So, here are a few tips to help you deal with it better:
- Get someone you trust to massage your back, feet, and neck to help relieve any nervous tension.
- Keep yourself amply hydrated with fruit juices and isotonic drinks.
- Make sure to change your position and get into a comfortable one that would also not put too much pressure on your body.
- Keep your mind distracted and think happy and positive thoughts. Any type of anxiety could cause your muscles to contract, so keep your mind at peace.
- There are different relaxation and breathing techniques that can help with keeping you calm and composed.
- Listen to your favourite soothing music to relax your senses as it helps with ignoring the pain.
- Move your hips backwards and move your body forward to help with slowly pushing your baby towards the cervix and increase dilation.
Whatever the situation may be, just make sure that you are well informed, fully prepared and have done your research. Either way, never hesitate to stay in touch with your doctor and take all the necessary precautions to welcome your little one the right way!
Also Read: Signs & Stages of Labour