Keeping Early Labor Moving Along

Once labor begins for real, you want to make steady progress toward your goal. While the pain will never be easy for your partner to endure, she will feel better if she sees that her contractions are producing results—that is, if her cervix is continuing to dilate and efface. It is frustrating for you both when labor stalls, and all the hard work she is doing appears to be achieving nothing.

This is where you, as labor coach, can play a valuable role. During early labor, when the two of you are at home, there are some things you can do to help keep things moving along, such as:

  • Take a gentle walk with her.

  • Encourage her to sit up. (Lying down will slow labor.)

  • Prepare a bath for her (if her water hasn't broken yet) or a shower.

  • Massage her shoulders or back.

  • Bring out the birthing ball and let her lean her body across it while she is having a contraction.

  • Find ways to help her relax and distract her mind by playing cards or a board game or watching a movie.

Rest and relaxation are essential for both of you. You probably have a long way to go before the baby is born, so pace yourselves. Though you both want to make progress, it is important that you remain a calming influence on your partner. Encourage her. Tell her what a great job she is doing. Putting pressure on her will only cause her to tense up, and this will delay progress.

One of your jobs will be to time your partner's contractions. Use a wristwatch or the stopwatch on your cell. The timing starts from the beginning of one contraction and extends to the beginning of the next, including the rest period in between. You will probably go to the hospital when you see that her contractions are occurring about five minutes apart or less.

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