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The If/Then Guide to Labor

Katlyn Joy |10, June 2012


You wrote your birth plan, you dreamed and imagined this day. You knew exactly how everything would go, and didn't go exactly like that. Or possibly anything like you imagined. That's a fine introduction to parenting actually. All you can do is prepare and plan and then roll with the reality.

However, there are some variations of labor that you may plan for...just in case.

If labor slows...This is especially common for first-time labor. There are some ways to deal if labor is slow to progress. First of all, don't rush prematurely to the hospital. Know for certain when your health care provider wants you to head to the hospital. Is it when contractions are three minutes apart? Then don't speed off when they are irregular and more like four minutes apart. You will be more comfortable spending your early labor at home.

Then...Take a walk. See a movie. Go for a light meal if things are really early on. Do not sit around staring at your uterus. A watched pot never boils, as they say. Walking and moving around can get things heading in the right direction.
If you are at the hospital when labor stalls, try a birthing pool or a shower if permissible. Your doctor may want to try a low tech method for jumpstarting labor like stripping your membranes.

This is done by inserting a crochet needle looking hooked tool into the vagina and through the cervix and creating a small hole in the amniotic sac to allow your water to leak out. This small move may be just the ticket to getting things going. If these methods don't work your doctor may want to try something more traditional and medical like...

If your doctor decides to induce or augment labor... If your labor is moving at a leisurely pace or perhaps your doctor thinks it's best for you or baby to have labor underway sooner rather than later, augmenting may happen. Your doctor may apply a gel to your cervix to help ripen it. If that doesn't do the trick, you might get some pitocen in an IV drip to get contractions started.

Then...expect contractions to be unnaturally hard. You won't likely handle them with relaxation and breathing alone. Chances are you will need medication to handle the stronger contractions and often an epidural is recommended. Don't despair if this isn't your dream labor scenario. Focus on your task at hand and remember the whole purpose is that in the end you will have a healthy happy baby and you are one step closer now to that goal. Ask your doctor if you can move around. Sometimes you have a short leash, if you will, and other times you may feel rather tethered to the bed. If you are to stay in bed, rely on your birth partner to aid you in feeling comfortable and ready to birth.

If you have to labor in bed...this can happen for a number of reasons. Maybe baby needs closer monitoring and that means internal monitor and staying in bed, and mostly still. Maybe you have another health issue occurring.

Then...find out exactly what you are and are not allowed to do, and the reasons behind it. It's more than OK to ask, it's important to do so. After all it's your body, your baby and your birth. It's OK that you want answers and want to understand what is happening. If you feel overwhelmed, lean on your partner to take care of the fact-finding mission for you. If you can get up to go to the bathroom then make sure you know how to manage the IV pole as you walk there. Make sure your partner has some diversions for you if it's still pretty early in labor. Have a pack of cards, or a DVD to watch together for instance. See how much you can move around in the hospital bed. Maybe you can't get out of the bed, but you can rock on your hands and knees or prop on your side with your leg over the siderail.

If you need a c-section...this is the big Kahuna of birth plans going awry. There are a number of reasons your doctor may consider a cesarean. Failure to get labor established, a weak or irregular heartbeat in baby. A breech baby. Placenta problems. Make sure you know the why's of the situation. Ask anything you want to know.

Then...ask to have your birth partner with you for every moment permissible. Having someone you love at your side can be a powerful strengthener for you. Plus your child's birth is something you both want to experience together if at all possible. If he can't be with you for every moment, make sure he's there for as much of it as allowed. Understand that while this may not be how you envisioned giving birth, it's the way so many come into the world and the truly important thing is that your baby will be here with you very soon.

Related Articles

Guide to Cesarean Sections

A Guide to Giving Birth Naturally

Preterm Labor & How To Avoid Preterm Labor

Hypnobirthing, A New Way To Labor

Signs of Labor


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