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Episode 16: Stages & Phases of Labor - Early Labor

birth prep labor Sep 16, 2021

Oh the excitement of early labor! Contractions are consistent - after an entire pregnancy of anticipation it's really happening! Time to cancel all your plans, track every contraction, and do all those labor positions you learned, right? WRONG.

It's difficult advice but good advice - when labor starts, rest and / or do normal life until you can't anymore. Keep your plans for the day. (If they're enjoyable and won't wear you out). Run some easy and enjoyable errands, finalize those maternity leave protocols for work, have that lunch with a friend, take a nap, put on reruns of your favorite TV show and enjoy and doze if you're able, eat your favorite foods, bake your baby a birthday cake...

Say what?!

It's true! The best thing to do in early labor is do life, eat nourishing food, and rest as much as possible. The worst thing you can do is to sit around fixating on your contractions. 

Next week we'll be discussing active labor. That's when sh*t gets real.

Full Video Transcript

Hello, and welcome to episode 16 of the free weekly Brave Journey, birth preparation videos. So today we're continuing our discussion on the stages and phases of labor with the discussion on actively. Early labor. Last week, we talked about prodromal labor this week we're talking about early labor.

So I originally recorded these videos for a different purpose. I was going to use them as part of the full, Brave Journey Birth Preparation Program. However, I have since decided to completely rework and reorganize how I'm introducing concepts um, in my full program, in the paid program. So these videos are no longer useful there and I've decided to offer them for free here in the weekly video series.

So without further ado, let's talk about early labor.

Early labor is, if we're going to use cervical dilation, is between one centimeter and six centimeters dilation. And what early labor looks like as a doula is when people call me and it's the birthing person calling me.

And they're like, "oh my gosh. Oh my gosh, I'm in labor." And they're so excited. And they'll say, "hold on, hold on. Here comes a contraction".

And they'll breathe through a contraction and then the contraction will go away and they'll say, "oh my gosh, isn't this so exciting? My labor is starting. I have to make sure my birth bag is ready. Should we, when should we go to the hospital? What do you think we should do? Is everything ready?" So this is what early labor often looks like from at least the doula's perspective.

And it's really exciting. The birthing person is often very, very chatty.

Contractions are usually less than a minute long. They're spread out like every five to 10 minutes. So what that would look like is every five to 10 minutes, there would be a contraction that lasts like 30 to 45 seconds. So this was a very common early labor pattern. They can be also as much as 15 minutes apart in the beginning.

At this time also in early labor, you might often see something called the bloody show, a mucus plug emerging. And that is because when I mentioned that the cervix is firm and long through through pregnancy. It's firm and long. And then it's also plugged with a bunch of mucus, which is protective. This is protecting the baby. So as the cervix softens and begins to dilate that mucus plug will go out and with a little bit of blood. And so just a little bit of bloody mucus is not a problem.

Always check in with your medical care provider, if there's more than just a little bit of blood.

So it's difficult advice, but the best thing to do in early labor is to actually rest. And it's important to preserve your energy before the real work of labor starts. Now, this is difficult because early labor is so exciting and birthing people are often way too excited to fall asleep and rest. And yet the best thing to do is preserve energy for the marathon of labor that is to come.

Another thing to do during early labor is if, if early labor didn't start overnight and it hasn't interfered with your sleep, a good thing to do, my mentor Therese Hak-Kun , the late and great Therese Hak Kuhn, she used to always say to "Do Life" in early labor. To "do life". So whatever you would normally be doing on that day, do it. If you were going to run errands, run errands, maybe take someone along with you, lean against to breathe through a contraction here and there. If you were going to go get lunch with a friend, go get lunch with a friend, go get a booth in the back corner of the restaurant so you can stand up if you want to sway your hips during contractions every 5, 10, 15 minutes. This is actually something that I did in my labor with my first, went out to lunch and had to stand next to the booth. Mexican food. Favorite food in the world. But, um, if you were planning to run some errands or go to lunch with a friend or putz around the house, get things done. If you're still working, this might be a good day to finish up all your tasks and pass them off for your maternity leave. Some people love to bake their baby's birthday cake. And so that kind of a project can be a great early labor project where you spend some time in the kitchen doing something fairly straightforward and slightly creative, but doesn't take a whole lot of thought and you can just stay active and sway, but you're not really wearing yourself out.

The worst thing to do is to just sit there and fixate on your contractions. Or to start doing all the active labor positions to try to make your contractions stronger.

If this labor is real, it will not go away. So just doing life is the best thing you can do because labor, I mentioned, it is such a mind game. If you just are fixating on these contractions, you're going to wear yourself out mentally and emotionally and physically. When the best thing you can do is preserve your energy and just go about your life. As long as possible. Until you can't anymore.

Okay, that concludes our discussion on early labor. And next week, we will talk about active labor as we continue our discussion on stages and phases of labor. Thank you so much. I appreciate you so much. Please reach out to me. My email address is [email protected]. I would love to hear from you. I love talking to pregnant and expectant families.

Um, also if you'd like to receive these videos in your inbox, In your email. Um, my, you can sign up for my email list at and I do not spam. I promise I just send one weekly video or one weekly email, uh, one video, one, one email a week with a link to the video. And, um, sometimes a few updates about what's going on with me or with, uh, with Brave Journey as I work to develop this full program and course curriculum. But other than that, it's just the weekly video. Anyways. Thank you so much. I appreciate you. See you next week.

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