Melbourne Doula

Welcome to 'Melbourne Doula', the place where I share what birth work is teaching is me, and what I am learning from the wonderful families who have invited me to share this most special season of their lives. Here you will find information about me and the doula services I provide, birth stories from remarkable women and their loved ones, as well as all kinds of resources to enrich your own journey of discovery. And welcome also to BLISSFUL HERBS, the home of beautiful herbal teas and bath herbs to support wellness through every season of life.

Your First Night of Labour - denial is not just a river in Egypt!

If this is your first baby, it is not unlikely that your labour may begin in the late evening or the wee hours – because hormone levels rise after the sun goes down. Oxytocin likes darkness, peace and quiet, and privacy! And it works synergistically with Melatonin.

It is realistic that your birth may unfold over a couple of days. So mentally prepare for the possibility of two nights of little or no sleep; it is better to be prepared and pleasantly surprised, that unprepared and taken aback by how long a first labour can take. Sleep deprivation can be an unexpected factor that can potentially de-rail a great birth plan. Some women are really psyched up to deal with the normal pain and exertion of birth – but the unexpected exhaustion of sleep deprivation is what pushes them over the threshold of ‘coping’ to ‘not coping’.

So let’s get real.

A first labour can involve hours, sometimes even days, of warm-up or pre-labour. Your body is doing important work to soften and thin your cervix and get everything soft, warm and stretchy for birth. It’s all good! But it can take some patience.

Don’t pay too much attention to these early cramps and warm-up contractions. It’s not time to start your mental “labour-metre” or begin the floor show. Kind of ignore what is happening, don’t pay it too much attention. Wait till labour demands your full attention and focus. If it is night time, focus on relaxing and napping as much possible.

Gloria Lemay, a Canadian midwife, has some sage advice about working with your natural bio-rhythms when labour starts in the wee hours. It is apt for any birth - especially first births and VBACs. Gloria writes:

"Many births begin in the night…. the woman will get up to wee, feel her membranes release and then an hour later begin having sensations fifteen minutes apart. Because we think of birth as a family/couple experience, most women will wake up their husbands to tell them something’s starting and then, probably because we all hope we’ll be the 1 in 10,000 women who don’t experience much pain, we start getting the birth supplies organized, fill up the birth pool, etc.

I have seen so many births that take days and days of prodromal (under 3 cms. dilation) sensations and they usually begin this way. The couple distract themselves in that early critical time when the pituitary gland is beginning to put out oxytocin to dilate the cervix. Turning on the light causes inhibition of the oxytocin release. Many couples don’t call their midwives until they’ve got sensations coming 5 minutes apart at 7:00 a.m. but they’ve been up since midnight timing every one of the early sensations. If they had called their midwife at midnight she would have said “Turn off the light and let your husband sleep as much as possible through the night. You, stay dark and quiet. Take a bath with a candle if it helps and call me back when you think I should come over.”

That first night can make all the difference and yet so many couples act like it’s a party and don’t realize they are sabotaging their births right at the beginning. Staying up all night in the early part does two things–it throws off the body clock that controls sleep and waking and confuses the brain AND it inhibits the release of the very hormone you need to dilate effectively.

When you begin to have sensations, I urge you to ignore it as long as you possibly can. Don’t tell anyone. Have a “secret sensation time” with your unborn baby and get in as dark a space as you can. Minimize what is happening with your husband, family and the birth attendants.

What would you rather have–a big, long dramatic birth story to tell everyone - or a really smooth birth? You do have a say over your hormone activity. Help your pituitary gland secrete oxytocin to open your cervix by being in a dark, quiet room with your eyes closed."

Remember: denial is not just a river in Egypt. It’s your friend in early labour!

Here is the complete article by Gloria Lemay.


Alex said...

I completely agree with your article. In most labours this would be the exact right frame of mind to be in. HOWEVER, both my labours were a little different. My first started at 4am. I called my midwife at 8am and told her. I had been up since 6 - too excited to sleep. She told me to ignore it. I went for a walk, then tried to sleep - woke up to the need to vomit at 2pm. My contractions were never regular. We still went to the birth centre and DD was born 2 hours after getting there.
With my son, 2 years later, labour started at 2am. I tried to ignore it and sleep which I did until about 5:30am. Because I was sleeping in between contraction, I hadn't noticed how they had sped up. I got up to walk through contractions, had a shower and got myself ready - still thinking I had hours up my sleeve. Was ready to get into the car at 6:45. My son had other plans. He was born on the lounge room floor into his grandmother's hands at 7am with only my 2 year old daughter watching... so yes, ignore early labour, but try to still listen to your instincts ;-)

Anonymous said...

I agree 100%! Thank you for your wisdom.