· By Tiny Hearts
7 Things You Should Do When You Arrive in Labour
7 Things You Should Do When You Arrive in Labour
Written by Jade | Midwife, Mama of 3 & Tiny Hearts Educator
Research tells us that the environment in which a mama labours + births labour can impact their birth experience and influence their feelings about how it went. If you're labouring in a hospital or at a birth centre, these are 7 things you should consider doing when you arrive in labour.
Store your colostrum
Liquid gold is precious! If you've brought in fresh or frozen expressed breastmilk, make sure one of the very first things you do is give it to your Doctor or Midwife so they can store it appropriately. If you leave it in the cooler bag without storing it properly, it may perish and become unsuitable to feed to bub. Remember these guidelines from the ABA for storing expressed breastmilk + how long breastmilk lasts for under the following conditions:
Room temp: 6-8h
Deep Freezer: 6-12m
Prev frozen but thawed in the fridge: 24h
Prev frozen but thawed in warm water: 4h
Bub has fed from it: discard it immediately
Deep Freezer: 6-12m
Thawed at any point: see above but do not refreeze
communicate your labour + birth preferences
The hard work of making a birth plan will be done long before you go into labour. Communicating it to your birthing team when you arrive is vital in written or verbal form. That way, your Doctor + Midwife know what you want and don't want and what they can do to best support you to achieve your goal birthing experience. It also makes it a lot easier for them to let you labour without having to constantly ask your thoughts + preferences on everything.
If you haven't made a birth plan already, when you arrive, have a chat to your Doctor or Midwife about their recommendations or suggestions for things you can try to achieve the labour and birthing experience you want. It's also really important to remember that it's just that; a plan. Labour and birth are so unpredictable.
So, for example, you might plan to avoid an epidural UNLESS you're not coping with the pain, or you might intend to avoid intervention in labour UNLESS bub becomes distressed. Consider if you have non-negotiables, like no matter what, you don't want a cannula. Then consider these in light of emergencies, for example, you will only have a cannula if you have a postpartum haemorrhage. Also, consider what you're flexible with. You might want to labour in the bath, but you'd be happy to swap that for the shower if necessary.
Co-pilots out there, you are the advocate. Know what you and your loved one want, as well as your non-negotiables. Once the time comes, use that voice and SPEAK UP for yourself, your loved one and your little person. You are in control of your birthing room, and while things may not always go to plan, you can still be prepared. Knowledge = power
set the environment
When a mama is scared or experiencing pain, her body may release adrenaline which can slow down labour, which is why we recommend modifying the birthing space. The aim of modifying the environment is to create a safe, calming space that will encourage your love hormone, Oxytocin, to flow. Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for contractions. From experience, many mamas labour most effectively when their birthing environment feels warm, dark, quiet, safe and private. So consider things like:
For some mamas, music has the power to soothe them, keep them calm, help them relax, give them a rhythm to match their breathing to, give them energy, boost their motivation and provide a source of comfort and distraction. Music is really effective when used on its own or in addition to other pain management strategies such as self-hypnosis and breathing, water immersion, heat packs, dimming the lights, massage and visualisation.
dim the lights
Some sources argue that it's related to a dark environment because Melatonin [the hormone released when it's dark and time to sleep] is said to interact with Oxytocin and help bring on contractions. Interestingly, some sources also say that part of the reason a mama's labour may stop or slow down upon arriving at the hospital is that hospitals are typically full of bright lights, which impacts upon Melatonin release. More than that, dimming lights can give a mama a sense of privacy, which is one of those five vital components for a positive birth environment.
candles + fairy lights
Labouring in a pitch-black room might sound appealing to some mamas, but in most reality, it may not be possible or safe, such as when a mama is getting in and out of the bath. Having fairy lights or candles can create a happy medium in that the overall room feels dark whilst having a source of light. This mood lighting can also help create a relaxing and welcoming vibe in the room.
Hanging things on the walls is an option for many mamas. It could be things like:
- Ultrasounds photos of bub [to remind you of why you're doing this, and who you're about to meet]
- Birth affirmations or quotes [to distract yourself by reading them, keep a positive mindset and remind yourself that you can do this]
- Pictures of labouring mamas [some mamas find it comforting to be reminded that they are not alone on this journey; all over the world, others are labouring with them to bring their bubs into the world]
- Images of landscapes or visual representations of the cervix opening [to assist with things such as visualisation techniques]
Aromatherapy is when essential oils are diffused throughout the room using a diffuser. Some of the most common scents that are diffused during labour are clary sage, frankincense, lavender, mandarin and peppermint. Aromatherapy is similar to music in that it won't take away the pain from contractions, but it may help a mama to relax and keep calm and contribute to a positive and inviting, supportive birth environment. However, the evidence for using scents and aromatherapy is divided, with some suggesting certain scents are safe and others suggesting the research is too limited.
remove/ hide medial equipment
Like I said above, many mamas' labour slows down on arrival to the hospital. One strategy to attempt to combat that happening is this. Medical equipment has its place in hospitals and birth centres; there's no doubt about that. However, if it's not currently [or about to be] in use, and is not necessary to be in the room or birthing space at that time, it's ok to ask for it to be removed or hidden.
avoid unnecessary observers
Some mamas prefer having extra support people, while some mamas feel 'watched' when more people than necessary come into the room without a role or specific job. Having strangers in the room watching a mama labour can also slow down labour if a mama feels threatened, lacking privacy or unsafe.
When you arrive in labour, it's time to continue on in that mindset that you're getting ready for bub to be born. If you had some clothes picked out to labour in, it's time to get into them. But what do you wear during labour? Whatever makes you comfortable.
There are no rules as to what you have to wear during labour. Some mamas will wear:
- Undies + a bra
- Undies + a shirt
- A loose shirt
- A sports bra
- A maternity bra
- Swimmer top [which is useful for getting in and out of the shower or bath]
- Nothing; they feel more comfortable being naked
- Any combination of these
Generally, mamas work really hard during labour and won't require a jacket, jumper or long clothing. If you choose to wear undies during labour, I'd also recommend packing a few pairs as you may leak fluid and soak your pad and undies several times during labour.
do a wee
During labour, your Midwife or Doctor may recommend you try to empty your bladder very frequently, as often as every 2-4 hours, or even more frequently if you feel the need to. That's because the bladder sits in the pelvis and fills up [picture it like a balloon]. Because there's a balloon in the way, it can impact bub coming down in the pelvis during labour. If bub does come down with your bladder full, it might impact your immediate ability to pass urine after birth.
Having an empty bladder after birth is also something important to remember. Again, if your bladder is full, your uterus is unable to contract down as effectively to slow your bleeding after birth. When many mamas arrive at the hospital, they often can't remember the last time they did a wee. Because of the reasons above, it's a good idea to do it [or at least try] as soon as you get to the hospital to make more room for bub, but also so your healthcare team know when to next suggest your try to use the bathroom if you can't remember when you last tried.
sip some water + have a snack
Labour is a marathon. Much like any other marathon or strenuous activity, participants are encouraged to sip on water and consume snacks to keep up their energy. The uterus is a muscle. During labour, this muscle is contracting for around a minute at a time, every 2-3 minutes, for hours on end. Muscles need sugar [from snacks], fluid to keep the blood flowing to the muscles + oxygen.
If you've been in early labour at home and have been thinking about getting to the hospital, chances are you may not have had fluid or a snack in a little while, so once you've arrived and settled in, this is a good time to replenish by sipping on some water + eating something, even if it's only a handful of lollies.
breathe, then decide on coping mechanisms
Like we discussed above, if you're rushing to get to the hospital, you struggle to find a park, you or your partner is stressed, things haven't gone smoothly beforehand, or you're feeling a lot of pain, you might arrive feeling very flustered. If that's the case, the first thing you should do is breathe. That gives you a chance to reset, calm yourself + remind yourself that you + bub are safe. From there, you'll be able to use a level head to decide on what pain relief options you want to use. Some good things to try and start with are gas, the shower, the bath, massage, or deep breathing. But at the end of the day, if you know you want [and are ready for] an epidural, go for it!
Just remember, when you do arrive, your birthing team will want to check in on you + bub to make sure you're both healthy + coping ok with labour, so there will be things they offer/ recommend too, such as taking your blood pressure, temperature etc, a vaginal assessment to see how labour is progressing, listening to bub's heart rate, amongst many other things. Of course, anything that assesses yours or bub's health takes priority, so try and fit these 7 things around that.
If you're feeling fearful, it can actually slow down or stop your labour completely, which is why it's so important that you create a space where you feel at ease and develop a trusting relationship with your co-pilot, Doctor and Midwife. I hope this helps you settle in when you arrive in labour. Sending you lots of good birthing vibes. ✨
On the original post, I'd love to know; what are some of the first things you did when you arrived to the hospital or birth in labour?
Note: this advice is general in nature. Any specific medical advice should be sought from your chosen care provider
bump, birth and beyond
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