labor, and who need guidance. It’s part of their job. A doctor can tell a lot by the tone of your voice, so talking helps. She’ll want to know how close together your contractions are, whether you can talk through a contraction, and any other symptoms you may have. If she thinks you’re still in early labor, she is likely to encourage you to go home until you’re in stronger active labor. Her decision will depend on how you’re coping and whether you’ve got a birth partner to support you.
You should contact your doctor if: • Your waters break, or if you suspect you’re leaking amniotic fluid. • Your baby is moving less than usual. • You have vaginal bleeding (unless it’s just a small amount after a membrane sweep or the blood-tinged mucus of the show). • You have a fever, severe headaches, changes in your vision, along with abdominal pain.
What should I do early on in labor? This will depend on what time of day it is, what you like doing, and how you’re feeling. Keeping calm and relaxed will help your body to release the hormone oxytocin that you need for your labor to progress and will help you to cope with the contractions. Do whatever will help you to stay relaxed. This could mean watching your favorite film, going for a walk, puttering around at home, or asking a trusted friend or relative over to keep you company. You could alternate
between walking and resting, or try taking a warm bath or shower to ease any aches and pains. If you can, try to get some rest to prepare you for the work ahead. During early labor, you may feel hungry, so eat and drink if you feel like it. This will help to comfort you and may even help your labor to progress more smoothly.
Can I have contractions and not be in labor? Yes. You can have pre-labor contractions. These help your cervix to go through the changes it needs to before it starts to dilate. During dilation, your cervix moves from the back (posterior position) to the front (anterior position). It will also be shortening and thinning (softening and effacing). These changes may take place without you noticing over the last few weeks of your pregnancy. Or you may experience hours or days of cramps or contractions. These may be progressing the early changes in your cervix, even though they may not be dilating your cervix yet. A doctor can confirm whether cervical changes have started during an examination. If your baby has his head down but his back to your back, it can take longer for his head to engage and for labor to start. Your contractions may be erratic and low in intensity, and you may have backache. Your doctor will advise you about ways to cope at home until labor becomes stronger. Try a warm bath or massage to relieve the pain. If your baby is back-to-back, getting into an all-fours position, on your hands and knees, for half an hour or so now and again can help relieve backache.
Can I tell if labor is about to happen soon? Maybe. Signs of the approach of labor include: • Lightening, when your baby’s head begins to drop into position in your pelvis. You may be able to breathe more deeply and eat more, but you’ll also need to use the restroom more frequently, and walking may be more difficult. • Heavier and more mucus vaginal discharge. • More frequent and noticeably more intense Braxton Hicks contractions. • Mood swings and a surge of energy.
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