things i learned about childbirth: the importance of distractions during early labor

Today I’m beginning a mini series in which I will share some of the wisdom and knowledge I’ve learned while studying childbirth and labor throughout my pregnancy and in a wonderful childbirth class focused on natural childbirth and coping techniques. In this post I will focus on the importance of distractions during early labor.

Early labor, on average, may last about nine hours (keep in mind that’s an average — yours may or may not be near that number at all.)  During that time, most women will experience contractions of mild to moderate intensity, but it will not yet be time to venture to the hospital (if you’re going to one) or to focus on your contractions.  I will not be focusing much on the ins and outs of early labor here — so if you’re curious about how often contractions come during this period, or how much you are dilating then, please feel free to do some extra research.

One thing I learned and do want to share with you though is that if you focus on those early contractions for a long period of time you will almost begin to want them to feel intense because you’re hoping so much for progression…with all that focusing on each contraction you’ll begin to focus on the increasing pain rather than coping with it/breathing through it, which doesn’t help for those who want to labor all the way through unmedicated — because you’ll have a lot stronger contractions ahead of you!

Instead, our childbirth class instructor suggested coming up with a list of distractions for early labor — a list that you can pull out when the time comes and you are so excited that you want to focus on your labor but know that it will not be in your best interest to do so yet. I did ask our instructor about those who may already be dilated to a three or so — do they still go through this time of early labor? She said they may not, or may not notice it, or it may just be for a very short time.  If it’s a noticeable amount of time, my plan is for hubby to go straight down the list suggesting things for us to do, and for me to call out yay or nay for each item:

Our Early Labor Distraction List

  • Go to the grocery store
  • Go to Barnes & Noble
  • Cook/freeze something
  • Watch a movie at home
  • Take a walk
  • Look through wedding album
  • Go to the mall or movie theatre
  • Write a letter
  • Work on baby album
  • Play with the cats
  • Go out to eat
  • Do yoga or stretches
  • Write a blog post
  • Nap
  • Write a poem
  • Play drum and/or guitar (hubby plays the guitar, not me — but I could dance or sing!)
  • Have a glass of wine
  • Start a journal of labor

I learned that there will come a time when early labor approaches active labor that you will no longer be able to be distracted during a contraction. This is the time to pull out the next in your line of coping techniques and labor tools, which I will discuss next time. To each her own, and the two of us are excited about this loose plan for labor!

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2 thoughts on “things i learned about childbirth: the importance of distractions during early labor

  1. In the earliest part of my labor I was able to shower, snack, snuggle with my husband and watch some TV.
    BUT it’s worth noting that between two and five centimeters I had contractions with such intensity I couldn’t do any of my “activities.” I just had to work through my labor and rest between contractions. I had kept a very open mind about my labor, but this level of intensity during “early” labor really surprised my husband!
    Really loving your blog, Best wishes on your upcoming birth.

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