Updated: October 2019
This post is about early labour and the mixed messages women are given about this important part of the birthing process.
Defining the indefinable
The concept of ‘early’ or ‘latent’ labour emerged as a result of the birth process being broken down into stage and phases – the diagnosis of which relies on clinical assessments of contraction pattern and cervical dilatation. The notion of being able to determine the future progress of labour from such clinical assessments is not supported by research, yet it underpins maternity care. What research does show is that concepts of stages and phases of labour does not align with women’s perception and assessment of their own birth process (Dixon et al. 2012; Reed et al. 2016)
In addition ‘early’ is only ‘early’ with hindsight. At one point in time (the clinical diagnosis of early labour) there is no way of knowing if labour will result in a baby in 30 minutes or 24 hours. If a labour is 2 hours long… when did early labour occur? An individual woman’s body is unique and so is her labour pattern.
Labour is basically the process by which a baby moves from the inside of a woman to the outside of a woman. Sounds simple, but it is incredibly complex and involves a complicated interplay of physiological, psychological and emotional factors. Women’s experience of labour often includes a sense of separation from the external world, focussing within, and becoming immersed in the act of giving birth. The hormones released during birth support this ‘altered state of consciousness’ (see the work of Sarah Buckley and this post). During early labour the woman is beginning to move into this birthing state. Many midwives use the changes in the woman’s behaviour to estimate how close birth is. Of course, just like clinical assessments, this is not entirely reliable as some women do not follow the usual scenario.
Despite the fact that concepts such as ‘early labour’ and ‘established labour’ are constructed, and not very helpful… I need to use these terms in this post because they are used consistently in the literature I am discussing (apologies).
Hospital perspective: early labourers are not welcome
Women admitted to hospital in early labour are more likely to end up experiencing complications and interventions, including caesarean section (Bailit et al. 2009; Klein et al. 2004; Rahnama et al. 2006; Rota et al. 2018). There are two explanations for this:
- That these women already have a dysfunctional, prolonged labour which is why they are coming to hospital in early labour.
- That exposure to the routine interventions involved with care in a hospital setting increase the chance of complications occurring (Bailit et al. 2009) ie. the longer the woman is in the system, the more opportunity there is to ‘do stuff’ to her and mess things up.
Women admitted to hospital in early labour also cost the institution more money because they are on the ward for longer which increases the demand on services and staffing. Therefore, great efforts are made to deter women from settling themselves into hospital during early labour. Antenatal classes warn women to stay away from the hospital for as long as possible to avoid intervention. When women ring hospital to enquire about coming in they are often advised to “take a paracetamol, have a bath then ring back in an hour”. Women are also told to only come to hospital when their contractions are coming every 5 minutes or less – which is concerning because the pattern of contractions is not necessarily an indicator of when the baby will be born. Entire services have been devised (phone support/home visits) to support women to stay at home during early labour (Janssen et al. 2009). When women arrive at hospital they are subjected to invasive clinical assessments to diagnose ‘established labour’ before they are ‘cleared’ for admission to labour ward (Cheyne et al. 2008).
If a woman does manage to get admitted whilst in early labour she is considered a burden by staff. She is likely to be put in a room and checked on occasionally and referred to as ‘not doing anything’, or ‘niggling’, or that ‘she should go home’, etc. The midwife who admits her will be questioned and ridiculed at handover. The midwife allocated to her will most likely also be caring for a woman in ‘real labour’, and that woman will take priority. This is not to bag hospital midwives… I’ve been there myself, and it is very frustrating dealing with a woman in early labour whilst also caring for 1 or more women in ‘advanced’ labour. Whilst not condoning the hospital perspective on early labour – I can understand it from a cost/staffing perspective.
I think this study by Shallow et al (2018) sums up the situation: “…current maternity services appear constrained by a reduced midwifery workforce that is expected to meet excessive organisational demands whilst coping with reduced bed capacity. These pressures can promote changes in midwives’ behaviour and thinking which disconnects them from mothers rather than focussing on their needs. Safety depends on a high degree of midwife to mother continuity. However, a business model approach, prioritising throughput and process promotes fragmented care and can potentially threaten the safety of mothers and babies.”
Women’s perspective: seeking reassurance and safety
Findings from qualitative studies suggest that staying away from hospital during early labour can be challenging for women. It seems that women want to be in hospital. And the experience of being assessed as ‘not in labour’ and sent home can be distressing and result in women feeling unsupported (Barnett et al. 2008; Baxter 2007; Scotland et al. 2011). A study of first time mothers found that women experienced embarrassment when they arrived at hospital too early to stay (Eri et al. 2010). They also felt vulnerable when negotiating with midwives to stay. The need to be in hospital is not necessarily about needing pain relief or support. Cheyne et al. (2007) found that women wanted to be in hospital during early labour despite feeling that they were coping well at home. Some participants reported feeling uncertainty about the safety of their baby whilst at home. Carlsson et al. (2009) also found that women were concerned for the wellbeing of themselves and their baby whilst labouring at home. They identified the theme ‘handing over responsibility’ as the core category emerging from their data. Women were keen to transfer to hospital in order to hand over the responsibility for safety to midwives.
Another concern associated with staying at home during early labour is uncertainty about identifying when established labour begins. Women in Cheyne et al.’s (2007) study expressed concern about not knowing how advanced their labour was while at home. Beebe et al. (2006) also found that first time mothers struggled to identify the onset of active labour themselves. Women worried about going to hospital too soon or too late, and were unsure of how to know if their labour was ‘the real thing’. Their main concern about staying at home was not being able to have their labour assessed by hospital staff. In Eri et al.’s (2010) study women perceived midwives as ‘gatekeepers’ with whom they had to negotiate their credibility with in order to gain access to the hospital. Gross et al. (2009) found that women’s own assessment of how and when their labour began was varied and did not match midwives’ clinical diagnosis of labour onset. A study of first time mothers by Low and Moffat (2006) found that women were perceived as abnormal by hospital staff if their experience of labour onset did not fit clinical definitions. Themes identified from the data included ‘this is not right’ and ‘don’t trust your body, trust us’. One of the outcomes associated with the confusing and contradictory messages given to women about early labour is women giving birth before getting to hospital (Shallow et al. 2018).
Physiology and contradictory messages
Let’s take a look at physiological explanations for early labour behaviour. Like all other mammals, labouring women seek a private and safe place where they can avoid distraction and immerse themselves in the act of birthing. During early labour women seek a place to settle and ‘nest’. This makes perfect sense because the neocortex is still engaged and can slow contractions (by reducing oxytocin) in response to thinking, talking, etc. – the woman can think clearly and do the practical things involved in a physical move. The release of adrenalin due to excitement and stress also helps to keep the woman alert. Once the woman is settled (and adrenaline reduces) and her neocortex is not being stimulated, increased oxytocin release re-establishes contractions. This explains why labour often slows down in response to the move to hospital. However, as labour progresses the limbic system takes over and it becomes more difficult – and dangerous from an evolutionary perspective – to move from place to place. The neocortex is suppressed and the woman is deeply in an altered state of consciousness. This is the women who arrives at hospital already ‘separated’ from the external world, nothing stops her contractions, and she is often unaware of those around her until after the birth. So, the need to settle into the birth place during early labour is a normal response to the physiology of the birth process. It is also common for women to call on the support of other women during labour – women they know and who they feel safe with – relatives, friends, midwives, doulas. Early labour is a woman’s signal to get settled somewhere safe and to gather her ‘women-folk’ around her.
What is considered a ‘safe place’ is influenced by the culture in which the birth is taking place. Women in Australia (and many other parts of the world) are urged to birth in hospital because the cultural concepts of ‘safe’ involve medicine and technology. The experts in birth are the people who know how to use the medicine and technology, and can carry out clinical assessments to determine wellness and progress. This message begins in pregnancy as women undergo routine clinical assessments with an emphasis on professional experts providing reassurance of wellbeing. Women are also bombarded with fear-based media about the dangers of birth, and the hospital-based Knights in Shining Armour who will gladly rescue any Damsel in Distress (and her baby). Therefore, it is not surprising that women head for the safety of the hospital when they are in early labour. Our culture has replaced ‘home + well known women-folk’ with ‘hospital + unknown medical staff.’
The emphasis on hospital as a place of safety whilst also encouraging women to stay away results in some very contradictory messages and ideas (please note these statements do not represent my own views):
- We are the experts in your labour progress, only our clinical assessments can determine what is happening… but we’d rather you do not come in to be assessed, and instead stay at home not knowing what is going on.
- Trust us – we want you to have a good birth experience… but if you come in too early we are likely to create complications which will require intervention… so keep away from us as long as you can.
- We are the experts in your labour progress, our clinical assessments can predict your future labour progress… we will send you home if you are found to be in early labour… if you then birth your baby in the car park it is not our fault as birth is unpredictable.
- This is a safe place to labour…. but you can only access this safety when you reach a particular point in your labour… preferably close to the end of your labour i.e. you should do most of it on your own away from safety. This contradiction results in a very annoying double standard: A women who labours at home and comes into hospital ‘fully and pushing’ is praised – ‘she did a great job’. However, she laboured (perhaps for many hours) without the attendance of a professional and without any monitoring (eg. fetal heart rate auscultation, etc.)…. On the other hand, a woman who homebirths intentionally is considered to be doing something unsafe despite the constant attendance and monitoring of her midwife.
Rather than considering ‘how to prevent women in early labour being admitted to hospital’, instead it may be better to explore how women’s needs during early labour can be accommodated by the maternity system. I would be interested to know what your experiences and/or suggestions are. Here are some thoughts, as usual I’m ignoring constraints of the system and money in favour of idealism:
- Antenatal care should centre on building self trust and reinforcing the woman’s own expertise in birthing her baby. If she relies on herself to determine wellbeing and progress she may be less likely to head to hospital early for reassurance. A study by Carlsson et al. (2012) found that first time mothers who managed to remain at home during early labour expressed a sense of power. Maintaining power was the central focus for these women and involved a sense of authority over their own body.
- Give early labour respect. It is an important part of the birth process and women deserve recognition for it… ie. don’t use the term ‘latent’ or ‘not in established labour’. The woman has begun the birth process. She has her signal to seek a safe place – help her do this.
- Women’s access to their birth space should not rely on them meeting arbitrary criteria which involve invasive clinical assessments. They should be able to use early labour to get to their ‘safe place’ and settle for birth.
Of course if a woman is birthing at home with a known and trusted midwife it is a different kettle of fish. She doesn’t need to concern herself with ‘when to go to hospital’ – and her midwife can (should) attend based on when the woman needs her… not when she meets particular criteria. Then again, in the real world not all women want to birth at home, or can get the support to do so. Therefore, the systems in which they birth need to change. The essential problem is that maternity care has developed in response to the needs of institutions – not the needs of women. To turn this around is a huge undertaking, and change will undoubtedly meet resistance from those who benefit from the way things are.
Another brilliant piece. My only addition would be
3. Hospitals I have worked in do not have enough staff to provide one to one care for all those deep into their labour and this is another reason why women are discouraged from attending early in the process.
Bring on continuity of midwifery carer. Bring back knitting to the birth room. Sends a peaceful message that all is well and midwife is with you and not worried about anything.
Yes – I have edited a little to make this point stronger. Most hospitals are short staffed. And yes – the answer is continuity… and knitting (or crocheting) 🙂
Ha! I was crocheting a baby hat for my daughter while I was being induced and in the early stages of labor.
another nice thing would be to have a dedicated dom midwife to do home assessments of women in early labour…. remember money was no object??
Yes but the problem with home assessments is that they are inaccurate as hospital assessments. A midwife might turn up and examine you – determine your cervix is 2cm dilated and diagnose early labour. A hour after she leaves you could birth your baby. The assessment are a false reassurance. The research about home visits is that they keep women home for longer but don’t reduce the rate of complication or intervention one the woman goes to hospital.
First of all, thank you for a fantastic blog! You are an inspiration to me.
The subject in this post is so very relevant also in DK, where women need to travel a long way to get to their place of labour/birth. Unless off course they choose a birth at home. I have always felt a great resistance to the discourse on women being, or not being, in “real labour”. A discourse, which in my opinion is made by the system (hospital/midwifes/doctors), neglecting womens experience on same matter. Things need to be reconsidered and reconstructed in order to chance that. Therefore, we are some midwifes who are thinking about undertaking a small project on home visits where I work in Denmark.
I wonder if you would be so kind to write/post some references to the research you mention above about home visits?
If you click on the Janssen et al. ref in the blog post it will take you to a source 🙂
Many thanks for this post. It expresses superbly the problems described to us from many women on our helpline. A number have described to us practical difficulties about being sent home, including living a long distance away, with difficult journeys, lack of availability of drivers, and so on.
And then, of course, there are the cases when the assessment is wrong, resulting in BBAs, with added risk and psychological trauma. With best wishes,
Jean Robinson, President, Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services
Sounds like you will have to open a B&B&B bed and breakfast and baby ! A group of motel style challets where folk can spend their week long latent phase using as much Entonox as they like having a professional on hand to reassure and listen in occassionaly etc. You could have a team of masseurers and water papulers on site. Get investing in property close to the hospital now, it won’t be funded by the national health care providers! There’s a fotune waiting to be made out of this idea of yours.
Mel – I’ll be doing nothing of the sort. The women I work with birth at home and usually don’t need me until they are well into labour. They trust themselves and know I’ll come when needed. As for the hospital system… Due to running on empty the current situation will continue. There are no resources to provide care in long latent phases labours with women who are conditioned to need the system. However the private health system over here might follow your suggestions if there is money to be made… And massage + entonox may appeal to some.
Sarcasm doesn’t translate well through text, Mel. Nor is it a particularly good way to make a point.
I’m sure people would appreciate it if you made an attempt to meaningfully contribute to the conversation if you felt like it though 🙂
Relevant post! And yes the women deserve recognition for being in “early labour”. This is part of the natural birthing process even though there might be different perspectives on this “phase” depending on if you are the woman herself, the midwife or an obstetrician.
I laboured at home for 8 hours with my first before going into the hospital. The midwife said to come in and we could “check your progress” and if I was far enough along I could stay. We lived 45 minutes away. On arrival at hospital, ARM , and labour went from being manageable to intense, pethidine administered. I could stay. Baby born around 7 hours later. Second time I told the (different) hospital that I wouldn’t be coming in until pushing. Midwife remarked that if I could get that far on my own, I probably didn’t need them anyway. I had prodromal? labour for around 2 weeks. Contractions starting mid afternoon, and increasing in frequency but not intensity, fizzle out around 9pm. Day of birth, laboured at home for 2 hours, called hospital, they said come when you feel ready, I went straight in as I felt “ready, only to be ridiculed by midwife that it was way to early, even though my contractions were 2 minutes apart. One intense long one, followed by a short, gentle one. Baby born 1 hour 45 min after arriving. (all 10p 8oz of him)… I’m commenting to illustrate the difference between going in to hospital under hospital instruction or going in under your own steam. First experience involved unneccesary intervention, second, no intervention required. Next time I’ll stay home, as I did find the transition to hospital, very intense and stressful. With such a quick labour, I really needed to be focussing on that and not answering questions and fending off a rude midwife. Personally, I feel a system like that of NZ would be much better. If you are in early labour, your midwife could come to your home and see to you. If you are intending on a hospital birth with her, she can help you to determine what the course of action should be. Anyway sorry for the long-windedness!! Another great article Rachel.
Thank you for sharing your experience. ‘Prodomal’ labour is common and just another label used for women who don’t fit the prescribed labour pattern. I have found that women who labour this way ie. stopping and starting over days/weeks often birth very quickly once their contractions get going. I think a lot of work is done during the ‘prodomal’ phase. But we only measure one indicator of progress – what the cervix is doing.
What are the other indicators of progress?
Hi Abby – there are a number… you might want to check out this literature:
Bryne, D.L., Edmonds, D.K., 1990. Clinical method for evaluating progress in first stage of labour, The Lancet 335, 122.
Burvill, S., 2002. Midwifery diagnosis of labour onset. British Journal of Midwifery 10, 600-605.
Duff, M., 2005. A Study of Labour. Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of Technology, Sydney. – http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/research/handle/10453/20169
Cheyne, M., Dowdling, D., Hundley, V., Aucott, L., Styles, M., Mollison, J., Greer, I., Niven, C., 2008. The development and testing of an algorithm for diagnosis of active labour in primiparous women, Midwifery 24, 199-213.
Sheppard, A., Cheyne, H., Kennedy, S., McIntosh, C., Styles, M., Niven, C., 2010. The purple line as a measure of labour progress: a longitudinal study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 10, doi:10.1186/1471-2393-10-54.
Winter, C., Duff, M., 2009. The progress of labour: orderly chaos? In: McCourt, C (Ed.), Childbirth, Midwifery and Concepts of Time. Berghahn Books, Oxford, pp. 84-103.
Once again Rachel, you write with thoughtful imsightful care. Understanding the hospital culture as well as compassionate understanding of the mother meets the two worlds together. THIS is why I choose you to help me in my journey. I always knew, that should I need to transfer, you would stand in that gap for me and advocate independent of the system holding either of us to ransom. You are one of a kind, and I am so proud to have the very sweet bond I can claim with you. Much love Rach, you are such an inspiration to so many.
Thanks Bel 🙂 xx
I’m sure some people would argue that I have never been in labour, despite labouring hard for 36 and 20 hours respectively with my sons. Both labours were similar, no warm up, no prodromol labour, the first contractions with both signalled the start of “it”, from my perspective. Contractions came every 2-10 minutes throughout, never really settling into the “textbook” patterns but intense enough to make me stop and need to breathe through right from the start. Yet in neither labour did I dilate beyond 5cm. Both planned home births, the second certainly had no shortage of oxytocin, I was flooded with it and very much in an altered state of consciousness for parts of it. I strongly feel that the way women perceive their labours is very important. When I encounter the view that I was not in labour I feel undermined and I simply know they are wrong. I laboured, I worked HARD, both times and seeing as both births resulted in c-sections, I have to vehemently defend my experiences. Thank you for this insightful piece.
Holly, I have had very similar birth experiences to you so can completely understand. I believe I was in prodromol labour for a few days before the birth of my 2nd baby (born at 40 weeks + 15 days), however this was rejected by all midwives and consultants. Instead I felt like I was being difficult and a nuisance because my baby was ‘late’. I too laboured long and hard before the ’emergency’ c-sections and yet get told ‘oh, you have never actually laboured’, this is so demeaning. If there’s a next time I’ll be hiring an independent midwife, doula and having a home birth. I really enjoyed this compassionate and insightful piece. Thank you.
Hi Amy, for my second birth I had an IM and doula. It was the best money we have ever spent, even though I still had a caesarean. The support was amazing and I would never dream of having been without them for that birth. My IM came into theatre with us and both were there with me in recovery, my doula was vital in getting breastfeeding started. I don’t plan on any more children, but if I were to have another I would want my IM there. It deeply troubles me that in a year’s time she and all other IMs in Britain, will no longer be able to practice as they do now 🙁
Holly and Amy – see my reply to Shara re. prodomal labour. Maybe this could be a future post?
You both laboured as far as I am concerned… full stop!
I had the unpleasant experience of family and friends telling me I only had 4 hours of real labor despite the fact that I say I was in labor for 78 hours (after water breaking). The non-hospital birth center I used told every mother not to request to come in until contractions were 1 minute long, 4 minutes apart, for an hour.
So even though I spent 3 days with labor picking up and slowing down, I didn’t reach those magical numbers until 4 hours before baby was born. Because of that, people say I was only in “real labor” for 4 hours. Even my mother remarked about how my labor was SO EASY compared to her 9 hours (with c-section) and I was SO LUCKY it was that short.
Despite having supportive midwives who worked with me despite several risks factors that would have gotten me a c-section in a heartbeat at a hospital, I was still terrified of being the “dumb” woman who wanted to go in too early. Even after an hour of insanely, ridiculously intense, long, close together contractions, and considering I already had 3 days of lighter labor behind me, I still questioned if it was “the right time” and kept waiting.
Thanks for sharing your story and again highlighting the impact of enforcing ridiculous notions about what labour is onto women.
Thanks for another insightful post. I’m a student midwife and it scares me how quickly I have adopted the prevailing attitudes of those in the hospital that I work. I have uttered the words “she doesn’t need to be here” and told women antenatally to stay home as long as possible lest they come in and we “do stuff” to them. Your posts always remind me why I’m getting into midwifery in the first place, for women, not to become another burnt out hospital drone (though I have to say budget cuts and patient loads aren’t helping! ). Thanks again, looking forward to the next post.
It is so easy to assimilate… and sometimes you have have appear to do so to survive. Keep focused on being ‘with woman’, keep thinking critically and keep your integrity. Women need you 🙂
I loved reading this, thankyou. I am not a midwife at all but I am a mum of two children and in 9 weeks due to give birth to my 3rd. Being a first time mum is so hard as you have no idea what is really established labour and what isn’t, you fully trust the midwives to tell you what is going on. I also had no family around and I was the first of my friends to give birth so had no idea what was real labour or not. I knew from antenatal classes that I should only ring the hospital when I was having contractions five minutes apart. Trouble is since 3am in the morning I was and so at 5am I rang the hospital. Was told to come in, but when I got there I wasn’t dialated at all. They asked me if I wanted to go home or wait, and I remember saying, but if I’m not in labour now how will I know when I really am, without it being too late? I was so unsure of everything and decieded to stay. I was left in that room all day alone, with the midwives only checking on me a few times. At 11am I was only 1cm dialated but was still having 5 mintue contractions, and so they tried breaking my waters unsuccessfully. At 1pm I was 3cm dialated, still 5 minute contractions. Still being left alone and me getting increasingly scared and anxious. At 5pm after another lady had given birth they came back in and decieded to give me the drip, oxytocin, to strenghten my contractions. At almost 9pm I gave birth but had a reatained placenta and started bleeding, was rushed to surgery.
When my second baby came I had breathless contractions since 1pm in the afternoon, at 7pm I went into hospital as I had contractions that had brought tears. However when I got in there they didn’t even check me unitl 1pm – when I was making the right noises! I gave birth 3 hours later. Both births I had no pain relief and had a panic attack with my second in hospital remembering the first birth. What made these both bad experiences for me was being left alone! especially with the 2nd as I knew from my pain where my contractions were and could feel my cervix dialating, but they wouldn’t even check me because I wasn’t making enough noise. I am in a different town now and again the hospital is half an hour away.
I had no family or friends around me and relied on hospital staff to tell me how I was doing and make me feel supported. This I think is one of the biggest issues that needs to be addressed. Mothers shouldn’t be made to feel alone in birth, it isn’t natural and the old community structure that we would have had is no longer there to help support us, so this support needs to come from front line staff. I’m sorry that was very long winded, hope it helps. Louise.
I loved your article, altho I had a great eperience with the hospital, however I was induced the only 3 things I found really irratating was I suppose he was the head doctor at the tiime told the midwives not to allow me to drink or eat anything because I would need a c section anyway which i thought was just plan rude mind you I did it all without drugs and had my daughter in just 7hrs start to finish (I was lucky), the other thing was I had to have stiches and was told to use the gas which I did for a little but it made me feel sick so I stopped then I had the lady who was doing my stitches kept telling me to keep still cause she thinks shes hurting me well I hate to tell her this but yes it was hurting then she just left my legs in the air and everyone left the room for handover I guess, I was there for an 1hr by myself door wide open so anyone could see in I was so embarrased, but other then that it was a good eperience I thought anyway 🙂
Reblogged this on Life begins at 30! and commented:
I love this woman! Another fantastic article. I particularily liked this quote:
” The woman has begun the birth process. She has her signal to seek a safe place – help her do this.”
Sums it up really
Thank you for this piece – it really resonated with me, and clarified some of my feelings towards my labour experience with my daughter (my first child). I had what was termed ‘pre-labour’ for around 6 days prior to my daughter’s birth day – some of the others here have made mention of ‘prodromal’ contractions, and having read up a little, I think these are what I had (i.e. very strong but fairly irregular Braxton Hicks-type contractions, peaking in intensity then fading off). The day of the birth, there wasn’t much activity in the morning – I then had an afternoon sleep, and woke up 2 hours later with painful contractions coming less than 2 minutes apart and lasting well over a minute. Cue speedy trip to the hospital, where they sent me to the assessment unit (despite my having two contractions while at the front admissions desk) – and where the midwife then insisted that I have an internal exam to ‘see how far along I was’. I refused the exam; the midwife told me that, as I was on all fours, she would raise the head of the bed ‘to keep the baby’s head on the cervix’ – and my waters broke. (I had done active birth yoga for months up to this point, and knew that head-down-bum-up would slow a rapid labour – but couldn’t articulate that at the time.) The midwife insisted again that she be allowed to do an exam, and I felt I had no option at that stage. The midwife’s next comment: “Oh, and there’s the baby’s head”. Through to birth suite, where my daughter arrived 10 minutes later after 3 contractions. (And we went home 4.5 hours later…).
My experience taught me a few things – namely, my understanding of my own body and my interpretation of my labour experience wasn’t really trusted by the hospital system. And, secondly, I am committed to a home birth for any subsequent children, as the most confronting aspect of the labour and birth for me was the move to a place (the hospital) while I was in ‘transition’, and to interaction with people who were not in a position to really hear me when I said ‘I’m in labour and I am about to have a baby – get out of my way and stop interfering!’. Hindsight is always 20/20, I suppose! 😉 Sorry for the long – but cathartic! – post… 🙂
Don’t apologise. I want women to share their experiences – it is a valuable resource for others 🙂
I am not a midwife and I’ve not had kids yet but I think about birth a lot. I have vulvodynia and for that reason want to refuse internals. I am really concerned because it looks like docs and midwives only use cervix dilation to measure progress. No other marker seems to be observed or valued. I also think for that reason, I am likely to be bullied every few hours because they want to fill out their charts and talk about “progress”. Should I just adopt?
You don’t need to adopt. No one can do anything to you without your consent. If you do not consent you will not be examined. I suggest employing a care provider who can assess your labour progress without using invasive internal assessments. They do exist 🙂
Cool! I am planning on going to the UK (where I am from) to birth and getting a private midwife. I live in Denmark and they have no compunctions about bullying patients. I’ve had a gyn shout at me and use sarcasm because I queried her diagnosis which contradicted what I had been told by gyn before her!! If I absolutely have to birth in DK, I’m getting a doula because they REALLY wind up the Danish midwives…
There are several ways to assess labor without actually putting ones fingers in the mother. Observing the mom,s behavior, noting fundal height in relation to the xiphoid process, and if mom is on hands and knees, looking for the”purple line” where mom,s butt crack is…
Yes – there is. My phd findings support this. Midwives used all kinds of ways of assessing progress – none of them invasive. This is what I use in my practice… but I am aware that such assessments are totally disregarded in mainstream maternity. Which is a real shame.
I feel fortunate that I am a midwife in a caseload model of care. I agree with your thoughts on ‘early’ labour and giving the couple education and power to trust in themselves and the process and be comfortable with the knowledge that their midwife is only a phone call away.I do believe it is the key to avoiding unwanted intervention….Some women however have sometimes ‘had enough’ and want you to do something! Uneducated family can often be problematic also.
After sending a woman home in early labour, the later outcome of a stillbirth has resulted in a local hospital insisting that all woman presenting in latent phase are admitted and monitored. My concern is that this WILL lead to increased interventions for these women, some of which may not be necessary. They are also separated from their families during latent phase which is stressful and while I agree that sometimes a woman is better off in her ‘safe place’, it should not be mandated that a woman MUST be admitted and not allowed to return home, reassured that everything is well. When anxiety levels rise, labour is often prolonged.
You make some good points and it would be great if every woman had a doula with her.
I find the knee jerk reactions to stillbirth interesting. No one suggests banning all inductions when a baby dies due to syntocinon induced placental abruption. Yet when the situation can be used to generate fear around physiological labour it is grasped. If you read my post I suggest women should have ‘access’ to their birth space. Not that they should be made to stay there. I guess the only answer in this scenario is to provide women with full information. They are actually free to leave. There is no law in place making them stay.
Not only is the blog informative so are the the posts. I want to see “Antenatal classes’ where women explore their herstory of birthing and what it has done to mothering as well as sharing with other women who have had positive birth experiences to counter the fear mongering. Obstetric approaches to birth lack logic let alone an understanding of physiology as they as based on ‘studying’ women birthing in an allien often hositle (to the birth hormones and wome) environment.
This is food for thought in light of my own experience. I had an unplanned homebirth for two reasons. First, my labour was fast and relatively painless so I thought I had more time than I did. And second, I found my safe place early on and it turned out to be my big four poster bed. Getting in a cab and moving to a strange room was the absolute last thing I wanted to do, so every time my anxious-to-transfer husband asked if we could go yet I said “Just five more minutes” until that turned into “Um, I can feel his head.”
So the only assessment I had throughout the whole journey was my husband saying he could see the purple line (which we learned about in antenatal classes) and taking a pic with his phone so I could see too. It never even occurred to me to wonder how dilated I was until a friend asked me after how I coped without this info. Honestly, my body was just on autopilot – numbers wouldn’t have had any meaning and I can see how getting hung up on them could even slow things down.
I plan to have a homebirth again if I have another baby, but I promise one thing – it will definitely not be unassisted. I owe it to the baby being born to have a healthcare professional quietly knitting (or crocheting) in the next room.
Hello, thank you for this post it is very relevant to an experience that I was recently had. I am currently studying to become a midwife. Part of my education is to follow a midwife and a few women through their journeys of pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum period. The most recent labour I attended was that of a woman who had planned to birth at home. The midwife, the woman and I spoke many times during her antenatal care about “early labour” and possible expectations, although as you say it is hard to quantify each woman’s potential experience to a set of standards or time lines for early labour. I see it as very important to be there for women when they feel as though they need the support from their midwife, however in this case the woman began calling on midwifery support on a Thursday night (while in “early labour”) and did not birth until Tuesday early am (“active labour” began Monday morning). This exhausted my abilities to provide the support I would have liked to throughout the whole experience as well as her chosen midwife’s abilities to do so and it was necessary to call a back up midwife. I am wondering if you have any suggestions in regards to this type of situation. I of course do not want to undermine women and their abilities to know when they want or need support, but also want to be able to realistically balance my care in regards to being present too early or late, and ensuring women feel sufficiently supported. Thanks so much.
This is a really hard one to answer. Women’s expectations of birth are influenced by culture (and media). They do not spend days waiting for a baby to arrive as a girl amongst the ‘women-folk’ and learn that the birth process can be very long for some. The only images of birth they see/hear are quick, dramatic births… or long disastrous ones. I can’t give you a ‘this is how to solve it’ answer. I can tell you what I do with the women I work for. I try to assist the woman to build her own self trust – that she doesn’t need me. I also make it clear that I don’t generally ‘do stuff’ ie. I am present but not doing – so getting me there early will not = me doing stuff to progress the labour. We talk about the birth process and how individual it is; we talk about the ‘what if you have a long build up and spend days contracting’… that conversation involves practical strategies ie. who will support her, how, what happens if I need to rest, back up, not getting too ‘into it’ too early ie. jumping about on a birth ball and going for walks to get things going… early labour is a time to sleep, rest, eat, focus inward… the importance of ‘being alone’ and undisturbed to assist with progressing into labour… the fact that me being there too early may distract her… however I will come when she needs me (so she doesn’t stress about needing me). To be honest. I find most women I care for don’t need me during a long early labour. I stay in touch with them and may visit and leave again. One woman in particular laboured on and off for 4 days, during which I attended another birth and did a postnatal visit. She was fine – just needed me to call in once or twice a day. She had a lovely baby in the end. I think some women who do calmbirth or hypnobirth can find early labour particularly challenging because they believe ‘this is it’ a lot sooner and start using all their strategies… that work wonders because they are in early labour. It can be difficult for them to understand that things are going to crank up a fair bit before the baby is close… just a personal observation. So those women can call the midwife sooner because they believe they are full on labour.
I think we also need to look after ourselves as midwives, negotiate our boundaries with women so there are no surprises. I think you just have to take it one woman/birth at a time. 🙂
With my first birth, I went in on a Wednesday because I had noticed some spotting and as a first time mom it kind of freaked me out. When I got there they hooked me up to the EFM and told me I was having contractions. I was like, really? I couldn’t feel them at all. That birth was an induction two days later for pre-e, but according to their machines I was in early labor that whole time. Our second son, we decided to do an unassisted homebirth. I was very surprised the morning I woke up with my water breaking (4 weeks early) and when my husband checked me he couldn’t feel my cervix at all. We only realized afterwards that I was already fully dilated at that point, but except for the intense contractions I had felt a week and a half before when I lost my mucous plug (minimal dilation at that point), I hadn’t felt any other contractions. Some might say I’m lucky, but the 3 1/2 hours of labor after my water broke were most definitely the most excruciating pain of my life. Personally, I would have liked a more gradual buildup (I think…) but I hated with the first one that they had to tell me I was in “early labor”. I know I didn’t feel like I was in labor until they started the induction, and with the second one my labor didn’t start until my water broke, but how does a woman fully dilate without labor? It’s definitely all very subjective, as much as the hospitals would like us to all fall in line and stick to their charts and graphs of what labor and birth is supposed to look like.
As a new doula, I am searching for ways to help laboring couples identify stages of labor and when to head to the hospital. I am finding that everybody wants to head to the hospital as soon as contractions pick up intensity with a sense of urgency as if they feel like their baby will fall out at any minute. I remind them of their goal to labor at home, reassure the partner that there will be signs of impending delivery and most important, tell them to head to the hospital if there is any anxiety about the welfare of the motherbaby. Couples have been content with this advice and continue to labor at home in most cases…after all, our local hospital is only 5 minutes away.
I chalked it up to our culture of birth as an illness that needs medical intervention and that the hospital is where they will get “help”. This has befuddled me as these are couples that are devoted to their natural birth plans and many desire to arrive to the hospital just in time to push baby out.
This post has given me MUCH to think about! Thanks so much!
you made some very interesting points and midwives i think tend to forget that labouring and birthing is an instinctive, primal, not a new way of birthing our babies. As a midwife we have been taught to assess early labouring women and either admit or sent home perhaps not placing as much importance on reassurance to the woman and her family. I feel we do forget about giving women the reassurance they need and the need to think outside the square as far as instinctive patterns/nesting goes. indepth education on the labouring/ body feeling patterns while the woman has still got her neocortex intact is what is needed. Thanks so much for the reminder!!!
Reblogged this on Full Circle Doula.
As a recent caseload midwife who has had many years in the hospital labour wards, I believe that women are smart. It is our language and empathy that allow women to accept that home is generally the safest place to be. It is not often the women but there partner / Family who say they should stay. Often careful explanation and reassurance will allow the women to accept that this baby is taking its time and often doing nothing is the best course of action. Not everything can be fixed in utopia by unlimited cash, space and human resources, sometimes women need to be empowered with knowledge and information and the reassurance that they have ability to endure what is ahead.
I totally agree. It starts with women being empowered. Hence my statement about antenatal education should be about building self trust. I also think continuity of relationship can help. I always ask to have a meeting with anyone who plans to attend the birth (relatives, friends, etc.) – usually at the 36 week appointment. That provides a great opportunity for a discussion about expectations and roles.
I really appreciate what one of the Student Midwife types posted about what if the time that the mother’s time of needing a midwife is days and days, how does the midwife provide care–and she said that they called in another midwife. That’s what you do. I am also a student midwife, and I was assisting at a planned out of hospital (BC) birth a couple of weeks ago. The mom appeared to be in transition, but then when the midwife did a check, her dilation was “only” 4 cm. After a full 50 hours in labor, she chose to transfer to hospital, received epidural for rest, and had a vaginal birth 5 hours later. We can have whole discussions about why the mom isn’t dilating faster, and “no change” has occurred over 24 hours, etc. The reality is that for some first time moms, their “need support” time is like 3 hours, and for some, especially if the baby has engaged acynclitic or is posterior, and they can have 72 hours of painful, intense, close together contractions while the babe tries to find the best way to descend… As care providers, how do we help our mothers understand the reality of *that much* variability in their labor, and honor that she might really need midwifery care–or at least doula care–for two or three days before the baby actually comes…?
See my answer to Student Midwife 🙂
These women are few and far between… but should be planned for. I would argue that an assessment of the cervix does not tell you how much change has occurred or will occur. I tend to assess progress by… this is going to sound wishy washy… I expect the intensity of the birth process to step up a notch once it establishes, and to continue stepping up a notch every few hours. I would worry about a woman having strong, powerful, regular contractions for many hours without any external signs of change ie. fundus moving down/changing, her stance changing, external signs of descent etc. However, if the contractions are typical ‘early labour’ contractions they can go on for a long time until the body has made all the subtle changes need to start pulling the cervix up and pushing the baby down. In the case you share – the woman went from 4cm to a baby in 5 hours – that is quick. It is a shame she had become exhausted in the build up, and I wonder whether she may have made a different decision and felt stronger if her cervix was 7cm? The cervix is only one measure of ‘change’ and not a very accurate one. It can be really hard for midwives involved in long early labours – and easy to find solutions in hindsight. 🙂
The more I read the less I want to birth according to my insurance plans plan. I went to a late labor course at the birthing center I’ve been ‘assigned’ to. I really want minimal to zero monitoring as everything I’ve read said that it doesn’t really do anything except to worry and confuse first time mothers when the baby’s heart rate drops naturally with each contraction.
I also recognized all of your statements from the tour. Don’t come until your contractions are less than 5 minutes apart. Don’t do this, don’t do that or we’ll send you home. The birthing center is 20 minutes from my house and I found this taxing that they may try to ‘send me home’ that 20 minutes but in the 20 minutes I could very well progress quite a bit and then still have a 20 minute return drive time. I’ve wanted to have a midwife assisted home delivery since finding out I was pregnant but lack of saved funds to pay a midwife has really cinched the deal to go with my insurance provider.
I’m 28 weeks pregnant now and may still be changing my mind and calling a few midwives to see if they have payment plans we can work out because the moment they told me that I have to lay still for 15 minutes every hour so they can ‘monitor the baby’ I just thought that was crazy. What if I didn’t want to lay still? Well they had a hook they could attach to the baby’s skull that could allow ‘moving’ monitoring. No thank you. It all just seemed highly unnecessary.
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I spent 5 days in labour (from Saturday to Wednesday) with my second son who was a drug free VBAC after my first son was born by C/S without labour. I experienced birth trauma with his birth.
I found my early labour was pretty easy to cope with until Monday night where I started stressing about looking after my eldest son while trying to birth a baby. Tuesday was a calm day that I spent relaxing with my IM and doula enjoying the time before active labour began as we’d sent my elder son to his nanna’s. I didn’t begin active labour until we went to the hospital on Tuesday night because I couldn’t relax into active labour until I was in my birth space. Once at the hospital labour progressed as to be expected for a first labour.
My IM and I knew I would have a long labour so we had talked about what she would need to be able to support me. When labour started I let her know and she checked on me a couple of times until I needed her there. She also made sure she got sleep and as I had doulas as well she knew I was being supported even when she wasn’t there.
Yes I had a long labour but I wouldn’t change how it went as it progressed at the pace I could cope with. Knowing my body was working to gently bring my body into active labour meant I never stressed about rupture and I had time to get my head around the concept of actually birthing a baby considering how hard I had worked to overcome the previous trauma.
Early labour is an important time in the birth process and shouldn’t be rushed or discounted. It is a time to get to the birth space and into the right head space for birth, and this should be respected.
I spent 2 days experienced extreme birth trauma with my first birth it was awful pain they gave a injection but this didn’t help me. it wonderful to read other people stories but it reminders of the pain
Fantastic article. having had 3 different hospital birth experiences i could relate. the difference and the experience of arriving on the point of pushing, not knowing my attendants…and then going in early and being treated like a time waster…all your suggestions are fantastic.
THIS ARTICLE MADE ME CRY. Out of all articles I have searched, for in what I experienced with a preterm delivery that lead to my pre-mature baby boys death, this one I heard a “voice”. Thank You and will keep searching for justice.
I am sorry you lost your baby boy. I hope you find the answers and justice you are looking for x
My Heart breaks for you….. I don’t know what it is to lose a baby, but loving my babies as I do, I don’t want to ever have to experience my imaginings of what it might be like. I wonder what your story is. What part of early labour and mixed messages touched you? I hope that you find peace. If you need to tell your story to find peace, then I am willing to hear it, so please tell us. I know part of the healing I experienced from my first c/s was by telling my story to people who cared. I hope that either in person or online you are able to find that support. Bless you mamma. May you find peace xxxx
I felt really confused about my labor because it was off and on and i knew this baby was coming but labor would stop once I arrived and I found out I wasnt even dilated that far.. later on that night I had constant pain and I wanted to be there because I thought what if something goes wrong… I have no one here to tell me im okay and my DH was already tired of the hospital trips that week so I had my MIL and DH who were tired and it wasnt quite helpful. I ended up finally being a 3. I was being told what was going on, instead of asking my permission, I felt like I didnt have any rights to questions and I also felt ashamed for being on medicaid so maybe mentally I wasnt prepared. Doctor broke my water knowing baby was an OP position and didnt bother to help. 3 out of the 4 nurses was helpful that had the monitor so tight on my back it made labor worse. I didnt know I was given potocin or after i started swelling they put that internal monitor in and I knew but I did know if that makes sense its like your being told at instead of making sure you know and being asked if you understand in a tone that makes you feel like you shouldnt question. I did end up with all of the cascade of interventions maybe because I came in early but I did have an OP baby but i felt if he would have shifted I wouldve had a quick labor instead I got a c-section and Ive always been afraid of hospitals and this didnt help and DH is against homebirth but now i know better just get a doula and a hospital CNM or a good OB and im just am going to labor at home and trust my body because mentally even though it wasnt the idea tramatic experience it was for me and I hated the vaginal exams and somehow I felt scarred from that. Maybe mentally someone forcefully shoving their fingers in a place that is sacred to me. I hope this helps I was the typical 1 in 3 I suppose and the c-section was reccommended I never asked why or if it was an emergency I shouldve. Still trying to come to terms with that.
Shouldve added this did happy at a baby-friendly hospital and the nurses were great and awesome but I dont think the term baby-friendly applies to doctors because they dont tend to use it.
You were in a vulnerable position and people took advantage of that and in my opinion assaulted you. I am sorry you experienced this abuse. You have every right to feel how you do. I hope you find some healing. If you haven’t already read it, my post on OP might help you understand that your body/baby were not ‘wrong’… you just needed support and time.
I have read all of the articles and the op one they were very helpful and I know it is likely ill have another op baby in the future I just hated those words that my mother in law said maybe he was too big for you to push out no I wasn’t given the time and that hurts the most hearing other ppl make excuses but I’m learning advice became a birth junkie lol but I will keep these articles in mind and get doula and a midwife for the future we an only learn more and with this birth movement happening rapidly due to technology and mothers banding together I believe the system will change quicker and put medical personal in their place about birth and change the system
I agree entirely with what you are saying. As a paramedic, I have seen it happen many times – from the woman who ends up birthing at home with the midwife unable to reach us in time (and sometimes we are unable to reach her in time), to the woman giving birth in her car. And all because they were sent home, encouraged to stay away or made to feel a burden when they came in. From my perspective, I have also rung labour wards as a paramedic and been asked to put the woman on the phone who, instead of being helped and encouraged in her labour, was “told off” for wasting resources. I am now just beginning to see it from the other side – as a pregnant first time mother I am unsure how labour will feel and when to ring.
I would like to stay at home for as long as possible as it is where I feel safe and comfortable. Oddly (in contradiction to some of your article) I am being told I MUST be in hospital as I am having an induction at 38 weeks. I have been told they will insert a pessary and leave me for 24 hours. I would love to go home, relax and let things progress in my own environment. I feel safe there: I am surrounded by my own things, I live 10 minutes from the hospital, my partner is an experienced A&E nurse, I am hoping to Hypnobirth etc. I am being told, however, that they want me in hospital from the time the pessary is inserted to the time of delivery! I’m looking at a very boring and uncomfortable day roaming the corridors I think….
Do you mind me asking why you have been advised to be induced? The language you use in your comment suggests that you have not been given a lot of information or opportunity to make informed choices for yourself. Induction may not be the best thing for you and your baby, but if it is you do still have rights and choices. I would strongly suggest you contact AIMS, they can help guide you to evidence-based information and help you to remain in control of your body and birth. You can email them: email@example.com
Your situation is a little different to the usual scenario. If you are being induced at 38 weeks there must be concerns that your baby is at greater risk staying inside than the risks involved with induction. Because the hospital is intervening to start your labour they need to ensure that they monitor their intervention well. They used to send women home after prostin pessary to wait for labour… but there were a few cases of stillbirth related to this so the practice stopped. There are potential side effects associated with prostin (http://www.drugs.com/sfx/prostin-e2-side-effects.html) and if you have medical concerns + undergoing the induction process it is probably wise to stay in hospital and be monitored. To be honest first baby and 38wks – it will mostly likely be a long and difficult process to get you into labour. Not sure if you’ve seen this: http://midwifethinking.com/2011/07/17/induction-a-step-by-step-guide/
Good luck and enjoy your baby!
This post changed my life. I was intrigued that there are no “stages” of labor. I had had four births with NO “urge to push” and I always wondered why I was missing a “stage” of labor. With this birth I gave myself permission to push when the nurse said I was only 5+ cm, I did so because my contractions were so intense that there was no break in-between. I gave one little test push just to check and it felt exactly right. My body was saying “yes, thank you!” This is biofeedback is so much more important than what a nurse says your dilation is. I pushed when I felt overly intense contractions and then they eased up. My baby was born after about 45 minutes of contractions where I pushed with no birth attendant, I never felt an urge to bear down, but pushing did feel right, the midwife only arrived in time for the last three contractions. With all my other births I have waited 2-10 hours after the intense contractions on top of each other phase before I pushed and it never, ever felt “right”. I did this because my midwives/nurses told me I wasn’t fully dilated or they wanted to do a shift change or there was a cervical lip, or I was still at home, or several of the above. The result was that pushing always took 2-4 hours, required a circus of coaching and usually caused tearing. This time pushing was easy and no tearing, the baby was my biggest yet.
I would appreciate your comments on women who come into hospital, and who are not in “established” labour (according to the midwives), but they are in extreme pain. In general, these women are denied effective analgesia. An occasional one may receive im pethidine, but anything more effective (iv fentanyl or remifentanil, or an epidural) is a big no-no! I would point out that I am a consultant anaesthetist with over 35 years obstetric anaesthetic practice under my belt. I have been involved (medico-legal opinion, or colleague support) in several cases where women were denied adequate pain relief when not “in established labour” and these women then went on to develop PTSD. This is an unacceptable state of affairs. Personally, I see no reason why such women should not have an epidural (the women I have been involved with have asked for that, but it was denied by the midwives). I know of two cases where the obstetrician was phoned in the middle of the night and “put on the spot” by the anaesthetist. In both cases the obstetrician eventually conceded that there was no logical reason to deny these women effective pain relief. An epidural is not committing anyone to deliver these women within a “fixed time.” In other aspects of anaesthetic practice we do “day case” epidurals for various reasons, or alternatively we leave epidurals in place for 3 – 5 days after major surgery. Thus, should a woman’s “non-labouring” painful contractions stop, and under “normal circumstances” she would have been sent home, Nothing is different with the epidural: the epidural catheter can be removed, and she is a “normal” woman again.
An interesting question/point. I agree with you. I don’t think it is up to anyone but the woman to determine her level of pain. And, if a woman is fully informed about the risks and benefits of an analgesia and wants it, she should have it regardless of what is going on with her cervix. As a community midwife I visited women postnatally who had had ‘normal’ vaginal births without analgesia and were traumatised because they had been denied analgesia despite asking. In hospital practice if a woman requests analgesia (more than once and between contractions) I get it for her… even though often I knew she will birth whilst I am drawing up the pethidine or on the phone to the anaesthetist. To be honest the biggest barrier I’ve experienced is that some anaethestists and hospital policies state that a woman’s cervix has to be 4cm dilated before an epidural can be sited – and some anaethestists refuse to attend if the woman’s cervix is 9cm + dilated. Considering the unreliable nature of assessing future progress via the cervix this is very frustrating.
In relation to induction – a lot of women want an epidural before syntocinon is commenced which is fair enough. So, why not in ‘non-labour’? Perhaps the cost implications – resources and staffing? Perhaps because extreme pain at this point in the birth process is not ‘normal’ and requires further investigation rather than medication? Perhaps because some women will have multiple admissions? Not sure. I’d be interested in other’s views here.
The mixed messages women receive and your examples are spot on. Where I work one women live in rural areas and yet this is often overlooked when they are advised over the phone it’s too early to come in.
The other mixed message I have issue with is this notion of women can’t do this and can’t eat this or that during pregnancy but in labour it has been normalized to take drugs which affect the baby. So on possibly the most important day of their lives when they have to breathe for themselves, keep themselves warm and suckle for their nutrients it’s been normalized and presented almost like a cocktail of what the woman would like, and it’s ok to have it in labour. While I agree there is a place for analgesia in labour at times I have an issue with it being the normalized norm.
Reblogged this on Yuma Doula and commented:
I was discouraged from coming into hospital by the triage midwife on the ‘phone when my contractions were about 6 minutes apart and I hadn’t felt the baby move for a while. I was made to feel like I was making a fuss and it was implied that I would probably be sent home so I decided to soldier on at home for another 4 hours.
When I finally arrived at the maternity unit I was fully dilated, had been resisting the urge to push for several hours and my child was dead.
After a struggle (she was never going to come out without help) my daughter was delivered with forceps. The post mortem returned no known cause. This was a healthy baby, stressed, weakened and crushed to death because a midwife at the other end of the ‘phone thought she knew better than me what was happening to my body.
If increased medical intervention reduces pain, fear and risk for mothers and infants then why are we viewing it as a bad thing?
Linda I am so sorry that you lost your baby. It is important for care providers to listen to women when they report their baby is moving less. This is a sign that all is not well and needs to be investigated. I don’t view medical intervention as a bad thing when it is used appropriately to save lives or improve women’s experience of birth. Unfortunately many interventions increase risk and can result in a traumatic birth experience for women. I am sorry that you were not listened to and respected.
Thankyou. I was determined to have a “natural” birth and got a medieval outcome. I respect your beliefs about intervention but I also feel that current natural birth propaganda can result in such a strong aversion to medical assistance that a situation can become dangerous, especially during unmonitored early labour..
I think it is the duty of midwives everywhere to present a balanced view of all the mothers options. This is especially important in the UK at the moment and any other country where government cuts to services will increase the temptation to nudge women down a non-interventionist route to save money.
I am having an elective caesarian next week to deliver my second child. I will be focusing on the outcome of a healthy baby rather than the method of achieving this.
Hi Linda, I am sorry to hear you had a bad birth experience 🙁
I would be interested to hear what you mean by natural birth propaganda. What I love about this blog is it is supportive of women determining for themselves what interventions if any is best for them and their babies, and encourages critical thinking of current practices and how they can be improved.
It is definitely a dilemma that current practice discourages women with no “risk” factors from presenting to hospital early in labour and encourages them to stay at home. Whilst this works for some women it doesn’t for all, and unless the woman has a homebirth midwife or “risk” factors and therefore encouraged to come to hospital in early labour, early labour is frequently unmonitored.
I hope you have a better birth experience this pregnancy.
Linda I am so sorry I have just read your previous post. My initial reply was to your most recent post that I received via email. Losing a baby is devastating and my thoughts are with you and thankyou for sharing your story I hope it helps you and helps others reading this blog the importance of listening to the woman. Whether it would have changed the outcome we will never know but we would at least know all that could have been done was.
Linda – I am sorry that you feel my information is propaganda. My aim is to share evidence-based information about the physiology of birth and birth interventions. More importantly, I want women to trust themselves and their own ability to know what is best for them. I actually agree with you that the paradigm of ‘all natural birth is good and all intervention is bad’ is harmful for women. In my practise, I aim to share information and support choices – not judge. Some women choose intervention because it is best for them. I care for women during homebirths, hospital inductions and elective c-sections – it is their birth not mine, and I have no investment in how their baby is born… only that they are informed and supported.
I hope you find some healing when you hold your baby in your arms. I would be happy to hear more of your thoughts when you are ready to share.
Thankyou Robyn. When my brain is delivered back with this baby I would love to expand properly on what I mean by “natural birth propaganda” which I recognise is a rather emotive phrase. I use the phrase to describe an unhealthy and self-indulgent focus on maintaining the “purity” of the process instead of concentrating on a successful outcome for the child where, if they didn’t labour in a bath tub assisted only by yoga and aromatherapy, mothers are made to feel like they haven’t earned the right to enjoy their baby.
To give some examples of where “natural birth propaganda” can have a dangerous influence on mothers like me… When my daughter became overdue I refused induction twice because I had read so many internet horror stories about its potential effects. Looking at my birth plan from my first pregnancy I’m reminded that I insisted “I would prefer not to have heart rate monitoring because I will find it intrusive and I feel it would interfere with an active labour” (get over yourself girl!). When I had the choice between listening to my body and going to the hospital or carrying on at home I chose to carry on at home where I felt safe from unnecessary medical intervention and wouldn’t have to fight with the triage midwife to be admitted.
The idea of labouring at home is riven with paradoxes and contradictions for me. On the one hand shouldn’t the mother be at home where she feels comfortable and no one is going to interfere with her natural progression through labour? On the other hand, shouldn’t the mother be in a hospital or birthing centre where she has access to far more sophisticated pain relief and is monitored for unexpected complications? I simply don’t have an answer. I think one of the keys is to educate medical staff better about when to hang back from intervention and shaping hospital and birthing centre policy accordingly.
Thank you for your best wishes.
I am not implying any criticism of your blog which I feel is pretty well balanced. I don’t think my definition of “natural birth propaganda”, above, could be applied to the information you provide. Perhaps I shouldn’t have used such emotive terminology.
Linda – it is understandable that you are emotive following your experience.
Hi. I found this while researching a new career as a midwife. Brought back some happy (and painful!) memories of giving birth to wonderful children. Thank you!
This post really made me think & mull over my 3 births in a new way – thank you. i think each of my experiences shows how labour can progress in totally ‘non-rational/non-linear ways’.
My first labour lasted 40 hours, the first 24 I did at home with a community midwife. It was a planned homebirth, but I transfered in to the hospital after 24 hours of strong labour as I’d not moved from 8cm for most of the night – by the time I reached the hospital, I was only 5cm dilated! Had no idea that could happen!!
This was my most painful, traumatic birth – 4 epidural attempts that just causes more pain and stopped me moving around to get comfy 🙁 By the time I started pushing, I was totally exhausted and actually asked my husband to knock me out because the pain was unbearable – the hopsital midwife was very disapproving of all my ‘fuss’ and noise as I was screaming with each contraction – simply through sheer exhaustion plus augmentation making my muscles give up.
But just before a c-section was organised, I managed to fight onto all fours and push my son out, in only 20 mins. Unfortunately, the exhaustion, lack of pain control, and the fact that they took my son away before I could see him even though he was fine all lead to PND 🙁
My second was again a long labour, 36 hours. I spent the first day at home again, then went it by choice before I got too exhausted – I needed some pain relief and was terrified of getting so tired and worn down as my last labour. But because I chose to go in, I was put on the midwife led unit, so it was a totally different, relaxed experience. They gave me a pethidine shot so I could sleep, I felt my oxytocin levels shoot up as I relaxed, got a loved up feel 🙂 and then woke up out of my doze a few hours later and birthed my son on the floor, kneeling on a mat. A very serene experience – again, got halft way dilated, stopped for while, the shot up to fully dilated within a couple of hours once I rested.
And my last labour was the funniest – 6 hours at home after a 3 week on and off prodromal labour, then my waters broke and were absolutely full of fresh meconium – the midwife recommended we go in to the hospital and i agreed – it just felt right.
Once the waters broke, labour became very intense, but when examined I was only at 5cm dilated, again! Thought I was in for another long labour. Got to the hospital, I was planning to get some pethidine, but by the time we got to the room, only 30 mins after my last CE, my daughter was born in my knickers with one long contraction 🙂 Should have known I was in transition when the words ‘I can’t do this’ came out of my mouth 🙂
So glad I followed my instinct and went into the hospital too – she had very tight nuchal cords x 6 around her neck and needed some resus, and her cord was also very, very thin & long. Luckily the midwives here are great, and even with the x6 nuchal chord, my midwife managed to somersault her out without cutting the chord, and she got a few minutes to cuddle with me still attached before they had to resus.
So, I don’t listen to cervical exams as indications of how labour’s going. They can jump multiple cm in the space of half an hour, sit still for hours and even go backwards even with strong contractions! I’m 10 weeks pregnant with my fourth right now, and even with the trauma of my first birth I wouldn’t change any of it – I’m a much more confident, empowered woman and mother because of my births 🙂
Thanks for a great site, I hope my stories help someone out there,
I am sure your experiences will help other women. It is important that we hear about how variable and unique individual women’s labours are.
My dr has considered me in uunprogressive early labour for five days now and refuses to further induce me despite my begging and pleading. She keeps telling me theres not enough space at the hospital. I have a broken spine, early labour, and depression combined with a lack of sleep. She told me shes against inducing labour early if the baby is ok but she doesnt seem to care about my pain and sanity. Im at 37 weeks three days. I feel like shes doing this because im young and she wants to teach me a lesson. I started feeling horrible when i was sitting in the birthing triage and i could hear the nurses laughing at me because of my age saying i was over reacting and lying about my pain and that i know nothing about labour meanwhile im watching the monitor with my babies heartbeat jumping from 100 to170 bpm. I was wondering if there was a point where early labour goes on for too long and becomes dangerous for my baby and could my baby be safe if induced at this point
I hope you either you have your baby in your arms or things have settled down for you. I am sure you are not lying about the pain! I hope you have someone with you who can support you in this situation (family? friend?). Are you being checked over for other causes of contractions/pain eg. urinary tract infection, bleeding in the uterus?
I can understand the reluctance from your dr to induce your labour. Induction is risky for the baby, especially at 37 weeks and I am guessing they are trying to avoid you ending up with a c-section and your baby in ICU with breathing difficulties (which can happen at 37wks). Unless there are clinical signs that your baby is in distress they will try and keep him/her in the safest place ie. your belly. Here are some posts on induction: http://midwifethinking.com/2010/09/16/induction-of-labour-balancing-risks/, http://midwifethinking.com/2011/07/17/induction-a-step-by-step-guide/
I hope someone starts giving you the attention and support you need.
Thanks so much for a post that describes exactly how I felt when i was turned away with my last baby, my sixth. I had taken my cross stitch baby sampler to work on, and because of that and the fact my cervix (at a four cm, mind you) didn’t change in the one measly hour they alloted me, I wasn’t in “real” labor. I just rolled my eyes, and thought fine, I’ve always wanted to labor at home anyway and they’d be eating crow when I came back in later that day. About 10 hours later, I came back, not able to stand up straight.
The nurses at the station kind of snickered at me when I said my name (last, first) so that they could more easily pull my file. What is the reason for your vist? BABY! One nurse took me back while another said that wasn’t protocol. She said she was going with her gut on this one. As I was jumping into the bed, she said, let’s see if they make fun of me for checking you. This was my first time at this hospital and I wondered what kind of crazy place is this?? I was at 6 cm and 30 minutes later I was at 8cm. The baby was born an hour later. The nurse that checked me that morning came to help change the bed and yep, she could not look me in the face.
So this was my first intervention free birth, I had my waters broke with the rest and half a dose of narcotic at transition. But it was also my most traumatic just becasue I felt truly jerked around, oh and they charged me for that initial morning visit.
My husband, who was pretty upset at the whole thing, has contacted the hospital asking them to review their early labor/active labor policies. They seem truly bewildered anyone would complain without wanting money.
So thank you for articulating what I felt when I was turned away for the crime of laboring while mammal.
A wonderful discussion….that I would enjoy raising on the labour ward!! For me it is all about the language and approach to women admitted in ?labour. I always err on the side of the woman and give praise/reassurances that her body is doing all the right things and give her time to settle into this new space……and NOT do a VE. I will say to the woman that depending where she is in her labour things will either progress or ease off to give her more chance for rest, but that this will become apparent over the next couple of hours. By this point either it is obvious that she is labouring from her behaviour, or she feels relaxed and confident enough in her own body to be able to go home and get some rest.
thank you for normalising my experience, I feel validated and justified
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Hi I am 37 week and 5 days pregnant. I been having contraction for two days. Yesterday my bottom and legs lower abdo pain. Shooting pain in v.g. I am booked in for a section on Wednesday as I have had two previous emergency sections. I have gestational diebities in this pregnancy. Any way I was put on
C T G machine for 4 hours I went to the loo once in between. Because I was having lost of regular contraction I was give parocetmol. Which I took on front of mid wife then after two hours still pain was unbearable so she said can’t take you of as docotrs have to see you. By the way it is Sunday and they are very bissy with emergency. Three hours latter this is nine o’clock hand over time she comes back and suggests codeine then she said take it wright now in front of me. Guess what my contractions came to a stop after five hours. I stated to feel telly fun and dizzy and sick. The room is still spinning. They said just lay down. Know reading about codeine I feel really cheated. Plus it 3.00am now no doctor has bothered to turn up. 🙁
Hi Shab – I hope things have settled for you and you are feeling better. It can be difficult to get the care and attention you need in a busy hospital.
I had two easy labours 🙂 I think state of mind really helped: did not think about the labour as a painful experience, only look forward to your reward – your baby! With first one started naturally, massage on the lower back did the magic, however towards the end I had an injection of pethidine, it made me sleepy in between the contractions and made the pain bearable. I was fully on and the baby wasn’t sleepy (as many says). With my second child thought I knew exactly what I want. Couldn’t be more wrong! First : massage didn’t help, in fact I screamed at my partner the moment he touched me! Could not stand it! All I could do is a lot of walking and leaning forward swinging my hips. Later I did the same – asked for an injection. All went well as the first time. Now I am 24 weeks pregnant and trying to find out what’s new in this field (las labour was 10 years ago! ) definitely not going for the pool – previously I had to run to the toilet almost at every contraction – for #1 and # 2. Once in the pool, what’s gonna happen!?… Not a pretty sight. Maybe hot shower now and then? And definitelly lots of walking! i have a good pain tolerance , so maybe that’s why my labour was almost fun? Good luck to you all 🙂
Thank you for putting into words my exact feelings right now on a way that explains the medical profession’s approach to pre labour. But also my feelings as someone 5 days into this stage. My contractions are every bit like the real thing, starting in my back, lasting up to two minutes, etc. Not like the pre-labour signs you generally read about. Right now i feel alone , tired, unsupported despite the best intentions of my partner, worried, frustrated… i have already been turned away from hospital twice. Your article has helped me understand my feelings and why they are happening which is really helpful.
I hope you have your baby in your arms now Kirsteen.
As an update to my post and your reply, yes i do now have my baby in my arms. After going into hospital and being told again i was still not ready to give birth and to come back when contractions were two to three minutes apart, i actually gave birth at home with my partner being talked through the delivery by emergency services on the phone! I never reached contractions two to three minutes apart. But baby and i are both well so all’s well that ends well. If i have another child, i will be opting for a home birth!
Congratulations! I am sorry that your birth experience involved you not being listened to or acknowledged. I hope the hospital give you an apology and rethink their standardised approach to an individualised process (birth). Enjoy your new baby 🙂
Very insightful post, And very good writing. I’ve been spending the day between contractions, or right on through them reading on the internet since my body doesn’t seem to be doing what the childbirth classes and books and posts say it should.
Here is a post I wrote elsewhere.
“Long post but jump to the last paragraph if you want to skip to the question without all the back story.
I’m 40 and pregnant with my first baby, it’s a Boy and all tests seem to be good. Today is March 11 and the Estimated Due Date is March 14.
It has been a very easy pregnancy for the most part and has only become really uncomfortable the past week and a half of so. I’m very active and this probably all could have been handled by a midwife but I’ve been going to an OB since so many people freaked out that I was “of advanced Maternal Age”
Last Thursday I woke up having a Braxton Hicks Contraction (like normal) I seem to have them regularly through the night (every one or two hours) and they seem to be triggered when I have to pee so it makes it really tricky to get out of bed without wetting it. So I got out of bed around 5 am and not only had to pee but had a bit of diarrhea (not normal for me) and then proceded to feel like the BH never really stopped (got got a bit mild) but had Sharp intermittent period cramp type contractions on top of it, and those were like every 3 minutes for much of the morning. It seemed really strange to me, didn’t “feel” like labor and then they sometimes got a bit less frequent so I finally called the OB and they of course sent me to the hospital to get checked. Peed in a cup for them of course (I’m definitely not dehydrated, I drink lots of water and the nurses made note about how well hydrated I was) and got hooked up to monitors and they did a cervical check and checked other vitals. I was indeed having contractions like every 3 minutes and most of them seemed to be lasting like 90-120 seconds. I was not dilated at all though and the baby was not in distress. Dr wanted me to be re-checked in two hours but I wasn’t about to sit around in the hospital so I wound up going into the Dr’s office later that afternoon. I was still having what felt like a hard belly to me and still having the period pelvic pain like contractions every 3-8 minutes. But no dilation. Dr said to either go to the hospital if it became JUST PAIN or if comfort measures wouldn’t allow me to sleep or if any of the normal things happened (like breaking water) and otherwise I was to call the next day to check in and we scheduled an appointment for Monday.
Got home after the afternoon appointment and took a bath which seemed to calm things down and I was able to take a nap and I slept as well as normal through the night. So I came to the conclusion that whatever irritated my bowels also irritated my uterus and caused it to freak out. Took it easy Friday/Sat since hubby was working Sat and I didn’t really want to make him race home for another possible false alarm.
Yesterday was the Monday appointment, still no dilation, scheduled the next appointment for the Next Monday in case I don’t have the baby before then.
Now it’s Tuesday, I woke up this morning having contractions again. This time they feel a bit more like what I was expecting. The tightening with pelvic pressure and some pain. AND my uterus is not all tight (or at least not like last Thursday) so I can tell better when the contractions stop. Early on when I first got up they were like every few minutes again so I took a bath to relax. They slowed down but when I got out and was moving around they were frequent again but when I sat down to start timing and check messages they reduced back to about every 5 1/2-6 minutes or so and were that way for most of an hour. Most of them seem to last about a minute.
The Rule I was given was 5-1-1 Every 5 minutes, Lasting 1 minute AND pattern continues for 1 hour, go to hospital.
Anyway, I’ve done tons of reading and researching and definitely don’t want to be in the hospital much longer than necessary. Especially when I seem to be able to get the pattern to break every so often. I know so many women who insist that “You will KNOW when you are in Labor” But then why do so many people make the dry run trip to the hospital to be sent home? Why are there still women who occasionally give birth unassisted at home without intending to?
Luckily the hospital is only 20 minutes away and being a first pregnancy I expect there is little chance of squirting him out in the car on the way.
So anyway, Long post but my question is about all the descriptions I read about early labor starting talk about the contractions being short and far apart and that they strengthen and get longer and closer together. I don’t think I’ve even had a BH contraction that has ever been as short as 30 seconds and these more recent contractions have almost all been between 1 minute and 90 seconds and they are not necessarily following the progression all the books, classes and resources seem to indicate. So how in the heck am I supposed to know if this is the “real thing” or just another practice run?”
Your comment about women seeking the “safe haven or nesting” during pre-labor and being able to affect the contractions and stuff Suddenly makes a lot of what I’ve experienced so far make sense!!!!
This morning I was kinda agonizing over going to the hospital since I really don’t want to go there too early but the OB doesn’t want me to put it off too long (he really doesn’t want one of his patients to be in the news for giving birth on the way or in the car park.) Anyway, When I started to “get ready to go make the move” the pattern broke and I have not been having contractions quite as frequently since.
This still of course doesn’t answer my question about “well when should I go?” but it does help me to understand how/why I seem to be able to control this early part of labor a bit.
Hi Aleece… your body is normal – the childbirth education classes have got it wrong for you (correct for some). It is unlikely that you will leave it ‘too late’ with a first baby – but still possible. Please come back and share the rest of your birth story 🙂
So far, Been continuing with the contractions all day anywhere from 2 minutes between to half an hour between but haven’t had the every 5 minutes or closer last for a full hour yet (and quite frankly I suspect it probably won’t) I’ll probably give in and go to the hospital if I find I can’t get any sleep (I don’t imagine it will be easy to go natural if I spend all week not getting any rest.) Will update tomorrow maybe.
Trying to figure out how to get through into what would be “admitable” active labor without running myself into the point of utter exhaustion because my body doesn’t want to get there before finding the “safe place”. I don’t seem to want to go through the gauntlet of going into the hospital to spend hours in the “triage room” (not very comfortable) while they evaluate if I’m ready to be admitted and probably send me back out to wander around to see if I progress enough to be admitted. So that by the time I get admitted I’ll be so exhausted that I’ll need meds to get through it.
Been trying to sleep but waking up every 7-10 minutes with a contraction makes it difficult and it is far more difficult to relax through contractions and keep them from being really painful when they wake you up. I’m starting to think I’ll be spending 85% of this labor sitting on a toilet.
The toilet is a good place to spend labour 🙂 I’m hoping your baby has arrived by now.
I survived. Baby is here.
(I’m a little confused where this site is located/hosted since it is listing my earlier posts as being on March 12. That didn’t happen, I actually posted those on March 11th sometime since we headed to the hospital again in the wee hours of March 12th.)
Anyway, After having been in “pre labor” since the really early morning hours of March 11th, Was awake from about 2:30 am and finally got up and stayed up around 4:30 am. Spent all day having fairly strong, 1 minute long or longer contractions as close together as every three minutes and as far apart as 15 minutes. Had a few hours worth where they were a consistent 5-6 minutes apart steadily. That evening I took a bath and managed to get to sleep around 11 pm but woke up before midnight. Took another bath to see if I could get the contractions to calm down. No dice, every 3-5 minutes for an hour before I decided we needed to go back to the hospital around 2 am. Took our time loading the car and heading out, I was about ready to walk there since sitting down into the car was not how I wanted to experience most of these contractions. Got to the hospital sometime in the 3 O-clock hour. Spent a very uncomfortable hour getting checked out (for some reason they keep trying to put me in the really tight belly bands to hold the monitors, I was not outrageously big, being a rather compact woman in the first place and only gaining 35lb during pregnancy.) Anyway, apparently I was still only almost 1 cm and not admitted yet. Sent to walk in circles around the ward for two hours.
Was finally 3 cm after the 2+ hours walking and got admitted at shift change which was 6-7am. And apparently according to the doctors, active labor doesn’t actually begin until contractions are that regular AND 3 cm is achieved.
I went Natural (apparently that is way uncommon at this hospital) Doctor stopped in on his way to the office to check on me, he was thinking I would be delivering during lunch time, wishful thinking I guess. Come Lunch time I think I was only around 6 or 7 cm.
Sometime in the afternoon I got to 9 cm or just a lip which the nurse and the Dr seemed to think was soft and would push aside easily enough but they still didn’t want to let me push. I did not have an uncontrollable urge but I also realize that I’m an incredibly controlled person and think I was probably placing tension in other parts of my body at that point (lets face it at 9 cm one doesn’t necessarily have much focus beyond the moment) I do remember that the nurses told me a couple times that the Dr would want to break my water and I had decided I was gonna let him do it. It was around that time that I remember feeling a trickle of liquid and thinking my water broke, I wasn’t peeing, I could still tell the difference. Nurses didn’t believe me because they figured it was just more urine (I’d been peeing on and swapping towels and bed pads all afternoon after it was too difficult to handle going to the toilet, actually the nurses were all scared of letting me go to the toilet because they thought I would drop the baby in it.) Anyway, they checked me and the act of checking got them the gush they were expecting, Nurse was freaking out saying “I didn’t do that” while I’m saying “I know, it was already broken I told you”. I think I was starting to tense my abdominal muscles with the contractions by that time even through I was on my side supposedly trying to “relax”. This must have been happening during that 6-7pm hour since it was still the day nurse who checked me when the water broke and she was there at the start of pushing but the night nurse was on though most of pushing and delivery.
I must say both those nurses were actually really great. The day nurse stayed around after shift change because she really wanted to see. Apparently she has only attended about 5 natural deliveries and never any that took 12 hours.
The major bummer about my delivery is that even with the Dr deciding to do an episotimy (sp?) I still sustained 4th degree tears all the way back to the anus. Babies shoulder was caught and as the Dr was manuvering it past the pelvis, baby spun opposite way to how the Dr was expecting which I guess is what caused the extreme tearing.
And this baby was larger than any of us suspected. The Dr was expecting an almost 8 lb baby. He turned out to be almost 9 lb (8 lb 14.6oz and 21 1/2″) and that was apparently after he pooped.
Baby was in good shape all the way through labor and delivery. And even still all wet and bloody (I did loose a fair bit of blood though not enough for them to give me a transfusion) the baby on my chest while still attached to the umbilical was ready to start rooting around to try and nurse. He has a good strong latch.
Time of Birth listed as 7:50 pm March 12, 2014.
Now if only I had known to do tons of research on breastfeeding before going into labor.
I am now having some major issues with low milk supply. Such a big baby needs a lot of feeding and conflicting comments and advice while I was in the hospital about breast feeding and now I’m having to supplement to keep him from loosing weight which isn’t really helping my milk supply either.
Everyone says, call your lactation consultant if you are having trouble. However, some one who has never breastfed before will not necessarily know they are having difficulties unless it is a painful latch problem. So my advice is start doing a bunch of breastfeeding research during the 3rd trimester so that you can be assertive about it in the hospital and with family right after discharge. Since I had not done enough of my homework before hand, I had well meaning nurses and family saying things like, “don’t let him use you as a pacifier,” or “never wake a sleeping baby” or “he is sleeping so soundly, don’t wake him to feed.”
I was discharged from the hospital Friday night with a baby that according to the paperwork weighed 8 lb 5 oz (which was probably his weight 24 hours before discharge actually.) By the time I got to the pediatrician’s office Monday Morning he was only 7 lb 10 oz and I was given the news that we HAD to supplement. They set us up with a cheater feeder (tube feeding set up) which is rather tricky to use and we managed to get him back up to 8 lb 5 oz by Thursday by giving him an extra 1-1 1/2 oz of formula with each breast feeding. Unfortunately, the formula comes out of the tube easier than out of my breast but anyway. Thursday at the pediatrician’s office he said we could phase out the supplement to every other feeding for a couple days and then not supplement anymore. However, since reducing the supplement, baby hasn’t pooped and there are feedings where he drains me and is still very hungry and he is NOT gaining any weight so I’ve broken down and will give him an extra oz of formula through the tube feeder at my breast after a feeding when he is still screaming hungry. He is peeing plenty but no poop and I am a bit heartbroken that I’ll probably need to continue supplementing if I can’t figure out how to increase the milk supply.
I’ve spent all day today trying to get him to eat as much as possible.
I wonder but will probably never know if things would have been different had I done my research early and not let the well meaning advice influence my actions concerning breastfeeding in those first 4 days after birth.
Thank you for sharing your birth story. Have you accessed a lactation consultant to help with your breastfeeding?
I’ve gotten the impression that the WIC lactation counselors at our office are really only useful for latch and positioning help. They didn’t really have any advice to offer me on Thursday when I had the appointment other than take your Iron pills religiously since after the birth I’m anemic. I’ll call and talk to them on Monday to see if they would lend me one of the hospital grade pumps to try to keep my milk up seeing as the consumer pump I got from a friend doesn’t get more than a dribble out of me. But I’ve never even been able to hand express more than a drop or two. I know there is more milk there that the babe is getting since when I was only supplementing about 8-10 oz a day he was re-gaining weight. I’m heading over to the LLL forum to see if anyone has answered my post there.
Hello everybody, here every one is sharing these experience, so it’s good to read this weblog, and I used to visit this web site daily.Nice, I am so thankful that you have shared this wonderful blog
I love your writing, everything makes complete sense to me. I had read some of your posts prior to my labour in December. I was all ready for my lovely hypnobirthing home water birth. I transferred to hospital for a forceps delivery in the end as baby was tired, heart rate dipping occasionally and my pushing wasn’t moving her enough. Funny that, I’d been in labour for nearly 72hrs by the time they transferred me, and less than 3hrs earlier the community midwives had left my house again, telling me I still wasn’t in established labour. I am not saying things might have ended any differently, but I believe my labour was made harder as I felt completely alone and unsupported. Although I’d written no/minimal VE in my birth plan, I changed my mind and felt I needed to know what was happening so I requested one towards the end of the first 24hrs. I was only 1-2cm but at least I knew. They refused to examine me again and just kept telling me I wasn’t there yet as my contractions weren’t fitting the desired criteria. I strongly felt I was progressing, albeit slowly. I waited 8hrs from the time I desperately wanted to get in the pool as they kept telling me it would slow things down and I mustn’t get in without them present. I saw 7 midwives during my labour and they all buggered off and left me to it! I couldn’t sleep the whole time so I was struggling to even think clearly but remember feeling very bemused: I was eventually able to get in the pool at 6am on the last day. My contractions were getting very intense from this point. My notes say that the midwife left my house at 10:15. I was on the phone in a panic at midday demanding they come back with some gas and air as I just couldn’t cope any more and what do you know? On their return I was 10cm. No wonder I was too knackered to push her out. I think if someone had believed in what I was telling them and stuck around to support me, I could have relaxed and progressed more quickly. The whole 3 days were just a nightmare of having to make constant calls to discuss things, meeting new midwives to explain things to all over again, feeling like I was going mad as kept being told I wasn’t “there” yet, going against my natural urges to hunker down in the pool and get in the zone. I was not at all relaxed and felt pretty vulnerable. Sorry for the long ramble, don’t know why really, probably just getting it off my chest but also to let you know that sadly, homebirth isn’t necessarily any better on this front!
Thanks for sharing your experience Sarah. I am guessing you had your homebirth in the UK, and yes, I agree often the problems of the system are then brought into the home. I was a community midwife in the UK and we were expected to use the hospital policies during homebirth and had restrictions on how long we could stay with the woman, etc. I wonder if your experience would have been different if you had had real continuity of carer ie. the same midwife (or two) throughout your experience who knew you and understood what you needed… working for you rather than the maternity system. And, you need to get it off your chest – acknowledge your feelings around your birth experience.
Excellent and timely article. I am this minute at home, 31 hours into my ‘early’ non-established labour. The hospital has said not to go in until I am having FIVE contractions in TEN minutes. Mine, although up to 90 seconds long and getting stronger, still vary between 3 and 13 minutes apart, so I do not qualify unless I identify myself as not coping. I have heard of friends whose contractions never got closer together than 6 minutes by the time they had fully dilated, and one who actually nearly gave birth in the carpark after being turned away. I really relate to the vicious cycle you outline of not being able to establish until I have nested, but not being allowed to nest at the hospital until I have established. I wonder how my journey would differ if I were able to access some reassurance or if some variation of the 2-3 minutes apart 90 second contractions rule were permitted.
I hope you have had your baby… and wherever you wanted to birth. It would be lovely to have an update 🙂
A very thoughtful and insightful piece!
I am a mother already, but I have a son on the way and I am currently 37 weeks, experiencing what the nurses at the hospital today called “Pre labor”. What bothers me about this pregnancy is that unlike my first one, I have decided not to proceed with an induction which has caused a host of new experiences that I think are making the hospital and OB staff a little impatient with me as I feel my way around them. My last OB decided that I should get an induction at 38 weeks so that I could have the epidural I wouldn’t otherwise be able to have because my platelet count kept plummeting. Even still, when I arrived for my scheduled induction, the anesthesiologist on duty during the time it was time to administer the epidural decided my platelets were too low and that he would feel uncomfortable giving me an epidural, so I labored instead with alternative medication (remifentanil?) It was a difficult labor and I did so for 36 hours, almost having to get a c-section because they were afraid my daughter had been in the birth canal too long. She came out healthy though after I heard them say that between passing out between pushes, albeit with a cone shaped head 🙂 I heard C-section and would not have it!
As you can probably gather, this pregnancy is much different, primarily because I never experienced true early labor with my first child. I never experienced any symptoms. This pregnancy, I am, and I am highly unfamiliar with it. I’ve tried my hardest to refrain from going to the hospital before it’s time, but I had many alarming symptoms that I felt needed to be checked out, ones I was worried couldn’t wait until an appointment scheduled 2 weeks away. My doctor seemed slightly irritated with me for telling him my symptoms and for going to the hospital twice. It bothers me that he reacted that way at my last appointment, and also bothers me every time I go to him as he hasn’t checked my son on the ultrasound since he was, oh I don’t know…12 weeks??? I found out my son’s gender when I was going to a high risk office he sent me to for my GD problems and potential thrombocytopenia again. He also never told me how dilated or effaced I was. I found that out in L and D. Other tests I was given before have never been done, and I just feel in general the level of care and attention with this pregnancy is sub-par.They didn’t even tell me if my strep B test was positive or negative. I found out it was negative in L and D today.
Each time I go to him, he seems more in a hurry to see me and get out and on to the next patient. I’m lucky to have 5 minutes with him after waiting up to an hour and a half to see him and for what? Each time I get sent home from the hospital, I feel so stupid, like they are judging me because I’m a mother already who doesn’t seem to “get” labor and pregnancy. It’s just that I am experiencing such new things, I have no experience with them, so aside from caring for a 3 year old, I feel like a ftm all over again! But I feel like they just think I’m a little spontaneous and that I’m overreacting when I’m really just trying to make sure nothing is wrong. The nurses at the hospital and at the OB office seem very friendly and truly concerned, but there have been times I’ve wondered if they too think I’m just jumping the gun and not “doing this right”. I wonder if I’m doing this right. I just want this pregnancy to be over so instead of sulking about this, I can be happy about having my son in my arms.
Also forgot to tell you about what is actually happening with the pre labor. Yesterday evening at about 11 pm, I was having a conversation with my mom. I was sitting in a chair at the dining table and then suddenly I felt a slight gush of fluid. Not much, but enough to make me make a funny face and question what exactly that was. I ignored it because I’d felt it before and after 2 hospital runs already that were false alarms, I didn’t want the amniotic test to come back negative again. But shortly after that had happened, another small gush of fluid. Again, I ignored it. My panties were still mostly dry. I changed them. I went upstairs to my bedroom and just laid down to watch a few shows with my daughter. Then not long afterward, contractions began to start up, very noticeable and somewhat different than the standard Braxton hicks I’d felt before. When I started getting what felt like bad period cramps, I began to worry.
I started timing my contractions at 1:07 am and stopped timing them at about 2:06. They werre 5 minutes apart, lasting about 1 minute each. I called my husband at work and just told him to be on the alert and that this might be it, but not to rush home because I was still gauging my symptoms. I suddenly had to go to the bathroom a lot, and I mean diarrhea (sorry if its tmi!) I started to feel unlike myself, talkative, restless, started re-picking out my little one’s home coming and hospital outfits, packing my daughter’s bags for her stay with her grandparents while I labored, looking at baby items online etc. My mom found my behavior hilarious and said she had never really had those symptoms, but I knew, and still know, something isn’t right. I started to get really hungry, but then I would quickly lose my appetite. My body began to ache very badly and I could barely walk during the contractions, though I felt like I needed to move while I was having them ironically. I was also getting shooting pains in my stomach and uterus that would last for maybe a few seconds and then subside. Drinking water, laying on my left side, those things didn’t work. When my husband got home, later that morning at about 5 am I decided since I could not sleep or lay down and get adequate rest I’d take a warm bath. All the bath did was irritate me and I wanted to get out, but while I was in it, what I thought was tiny bits of tissue floating around in the water for some reason, turned out to be mucous that was tinged a slight pink. I got even more alarmed and decided to wait and see a bit longer if I’d need to go or not, just riding out the contractions. By 9 am, I finally decided to go. I had tried to sleep but it wasn’t working.
No sooner than I got to the hospital, my contractions began to lighten up…I thought that was quite bizarre since they had been happening since about 11 pm that night. I was seeing contractions on the monitor, but they were small hills, not big bumps. Only a few sporadic big bumps and irregular intervals. They checked my cervix and I was 3 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced. They said they’d check back again shortly to see if there was progress, which there was none. Urine test came back normal and amniotic fluid test came back negative. The nurse said I was in pre labor and sent me back home. I was so upset. I had waited so long just to be certain I wasn’t wrong this time, and I was.
When I got home, I was able to sleep for about 3-4 hours before waking up nauseated, and like I had the runs. I’ve gone to the bathroom about 10 times today for bowel movements alone. I also am having to urge to have a bowel movement now and there isn’t one! I don’t understand that. I’ve been restless, unable to sleep or relax, and having serious cravings for ice and the smell of cleaners (Laundry detergent, dish soap, disinfectant sprays and deodorizers) more than normal. Also crave something powdery and grainy to feel or eat. I know this sounds weird but this is what has been happening all day. Now as I write this, it is 12 am and my contractions and similar sharp shooting pains in my uterus and stomach started happening in the middle of my typing this. Seems like it started like clockwork at the exact same time it did yesterday. They contractions are worse and cause me to have trouble breathing when they come on. I have no clue what is going on! Will I be in labor? When should I go in next? Should I wait for more tell-tell contractions, or my water to break, even though people say that the absence of those things doesn’t mean you’re not in labor? I know what real contractions during active, progressing labor feels like. These contractions aren’t like that but are painful, like a bad period. Should I wait for the agonizing contractions or what…? I know you may not get this before I go into labor at whatever point, but hopefully I can end my enormous amounts of rambling off with the results of how things went. I apologize for the long entries, but I had a lot to share.
I hope you have had your baby by now or that things have settled down. It is impossible for me to determine what is happening or give advice without being your care provider and being involved in your care. It seems that you are not getting the support and information you should be from your care providers. It is normal in early labour for your contractions to slow or stop when you are disturbed ie. going into hospital… this disruption interferes with the release of oxytocin required for contractions. However, once the labour is well established with high levels of oxytocin and endorphins disruption will have less, if any effect on contractions. I hope you come back and let us know what happened/s.
Thanks so much for this post! I was thinking pretty much the same about the situation being so contradictory. When I have kids (not happened yet) I want to get into a safe, settled space in order to labour and birth, I have no experience but this is what seems sensible and productive to me. This is what all other mammals do. But the hospital system is set up in such a way that I have to plan to move myself exactly at the point when I want to be most secure and settled. How is that putting the woman’s and baby’s needs first? Plus there is the whole issue of how on earth, as a first time mother, am I supposed to know when is the ‘right time’ to go? This is one of the big reasons I would seriously consider home birth, simply to avoid a last minute dash. My cousin had her kid in the car!
It is kinda a catch 22. I spent over 12 hours in labor in the hospital and I know that the Dr stretched the rules a bit by not pushing me to accept interventions. Luckily the baby showed no signs of distress during any of it so they let us progress naturally and in hind sight we might have done well enough with a home birth. However, The tearing was extensive and clean up/repairs may or may not have been a good idea at home (I’ve heard some people say that midwives are often better seamstresses but I’m not sure if one would have been all that comfortable with it if I had experienced such tearing at home, then again, it is hard to know if the tearing would have happened in a home birth, I know I was feeling a little rushed as we were pushing,) it was kinda nice to have help from the nurses that first night in the Hospital
I’m sorry that you experienced tearing. I hope you are healing well. You might be interested in this post: http://midwifethinking.com/2010/08/07/perineal-protectors/ I’d hope that in a home setting you would not be rushed or coached during pushing… this increases the chance of tearing.
i am 30 weeks pregnant and i am in preterm labor the hospital gave me stuff to slow it down…does anyone now how long that will last for i am at home now still having my contractions every four mins to five mins apart for an hour long then they stop then start back up later again…
You need to contact the hospital!
Thank you so much for this article. I’m reading it in tears as a first time mum who has been in early labour for 4 days now and not knowing myself when things are real or not. The fact is its all real I’ve just been made to feel like a nuisance by the hospital. I’ve gone in with contractions lasting well over a minute about a minute apart hugely intense pain. As soon as I get there they stop completely and I get patronised for not coping with pain and for coming in too early. I’m so scared of going in too soon again but equally scared of waiting until it’s too late. My trust in my body has been put to doubt. I just hope I regain it soon enough to have the birth I had hoped for.
You’ve made me feel normal. Thank you
I hope you have your baby in your arms now… it would be great if you can come back and let us know what happened.
And you are normal! 🙂
I really enjoyed the post.
I recently have birth to a healthy daughter. I started labor at home and did this for 7 hours before the 1 hour drive to the hospital, during this time my contractions were strong and I was breathing through them and they were about every 3.5 mins apart and 45 seconds long.
On arrival to the hospital a midwife made rude remarks about how big my bag was, laughing asking if I thought I was staying a week.
My husband and I were nervous and scared as this is our first baby and we did not need a comment like that. Sounds silly now I know.
The midwife checked me and informed me I was only 3 cm dilated and to go home. We informed her we lived a hour away, this was during the exam, once she heard we lived an hour away I felt intense sharpe pain from what she was doing and grabbed my husbands hand from shock, she then said I have been a bit naughty and pulled your cervix forward that should get things going for you.
Scared shocked I went into the shower to labor on a fit ball.
Three and half hours later the pain was getting intense my waters broke and the pain was all in my back, I could not see around me or was not aware of anything in the room, I vomited from the pain and was saying I was not coping and could not walk from pain and had pain inbetween contractions.
I was examined and told I was only 4.5 cm, I keep saying I can feel something there (feeling like I was about to have a baby) and was told it’s just pressure as your baby is low and right there. But you are only 4.5 cm. I was in extream pain and felt that I was still hours away from birthing my baby, going off how many cm I was. I then at 12 hours in I opted for a epidural and gave birth 5 hours later.
My baby was posterior and I laid on my left hand side under midwife instruction to try and rotate the baby.
After delivery, my placenta did not deliver and it turns out I had placenta accreta, went on to hemmorage and have surgery to remove placenta, received blood transfusion, went back to theatre to remove more in a second attempt another blood transfusion followed by two days in intensive care.
The midwifes also told me i had a very fast labor and said I was not in labor until the time where I had my epidural. This made me feel very discounted of the 12 hours I had been through and made me feel like they believed I had not even laboured. This made me feel as of I was a failure for receiving epidural as I only had a five hour labor in their eyes and had the epi at the start of that 5 hours.
I have a question, can you be in transition phase (pain wise) and not very dilated at the same time?
I also wonder if I Would I have been able to cope with the pain if I was allowed to progress naturally with out midwife bringing cervix forward?
I felt like I was on the clock in the hospital, and know I wasn’t coping without pain relief, but question if other things could of been different I may have been able to cope without epidural but turned out I needed to be in the hospital and the blood transfusion saved my life.
Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry that you did not receive the support and care that you needed. It makes me sad that this approach to care is common.
Placenta accreta is rare but dangerous.
You were in labour when YOU were experiencing YOUR labour process. Yes, you can be in transition when your cervix is not very dilated… the cervix is not a good indication of how far in your labour you are. It is one part of a much bigger story.
If you had been supported to follow your body and trust your own ability things may have been different.
Oh Rachel you are so good, I wish you could help here in Zimbabwe, the rate of unnecessary ceasarean birth is just parthetic. Thank you for this blogged – so helpful!
Oh, this post is such a comfort to me! With all three of my babies now I have had protracted starting-and-stopping early labors over the course of 3-4 weeks, followed by precipitous active labor phases and babies that just seem to “pop out” with minimal pushing. At my last check a few days ago I was 3cm and 70% effaced – no doubt the result of a few consecutive evenings of uncomfortable contractions that settled into a pattern (every 5 minutes over the course of 3 hours) and then inexplicably backed away. Last night, I had what I consider a whole night of labor. A feeling of being in a “zone,” near-constant back pain, medium-strength contractions 5 minutes apart… but never the *switch* into active labor I needed to go to the hospital. No sleep for me! I sit here now, contracting every 20 minutes, knowing my cervix is changing S L O W L Y… basically laboring at home over the course of a few weeks with limited support from anyone (least of all my other kids who just want Mom to be herself again!)
I am not “abnormal” – though maybe atypical. I am undoubtedly laboring! My body is just doing it in its own unique way – unfortunately in a way that hospital maternity care in the US just doesn’t have the resources or understanding to help with.
So good to know there are caregivers in the world who are thinking about how to make this better for women like me.
You are perfectly normal 🙂
Not sure whey vaginal examinations are being done as they are totally pointless in this situation. The cervix is only one tiny piece of the complex physiological process. It does not give any useful information about when the baby will be born http://midwifethinking.com/2015/05/02/vaginal-examinations-a-symptom-of-a-cervix-centric-birth-culture/
Good luck with your birth – listen to your body and trust that it is labouring in the perfect way for you and your baby 🙂
I think this is a good article, but at what point do you listen to the mother. I was in labor with my third child and turned away at 4.5cm because my contractions were only 10 mins apart. I was told to go home and rest. Well by the time my contractions got a little closer then they got sparatic, I was tired of being in labor and left for the hospital. We made it 1.5 miles from my house and delivered my baby in my car on the side of the road. I understand hospitals are under staffed, however I think mothers are turned away to quickly too.
The point of the article is that you listen to the mother as a priority. Your experience is exactly why I wrote the article.
I went into labour 3 weeks before my due date with my 2nd child. It was all of a sudden, sporadic but INTENSE. I rang the hospital remembering the same level of intensity with my last labour being close to giving birth. The midwife on the phone was irritated that I wasn’t answering her questions (couldn’t talk through contractions) and then scoffed at me for wanting to come in while only being in labour for 15 minutes. She WARNED me they would send me home if I came in while my contractions weren’t yet regular (living 40 minutes away from the major hospital, this scared me). I got off the phone, had another contraction and said, “I’ll risk it. This baby is coming soon”. By the time I got to the car I knew I wouldn’t make it. We drove to the little local hospital that no longer ‘do births’ and the midwife (who happened to be there that day) asked if I’d stayed home too long. I said I’d only been in labour for 20 minutes and she told me she would have to send me to the other hospital. I was in such a state of distress at being told this (and could’t walk for labour pain) I said I wasn’t going anywhere. She ‘agreed’ to do an internal to determine how far along I was (this was her reluctant attitude, NOT a request by me) and upon finding I was ‘already’ 8cm dilated, agreed that I would not be going anywhere. She then pushed something firmly into my tummy during a contraction and I asked, “could you please not do that during a contraction? That really hurt.”
She replied, “That’s the POINT. I HAVE to listen to the baby’s heart rate DURING a contraction to know if it’s ok!” I shut up after that.
Half an hour later of silent labouring I called, “it’s coming!”
She asked, “another contraction?”
“no, baby” I replied.
She washed her hands and walked over just in tome to ‘catch’ him.
I decided to home birth any other babies after that. Which I did. 2 freebirths without any midwives to question my ‘knowing’, ridicule me or touch me in any way without my consent.
And after the MOST BEAUTIFUL and EMPOWERING experiences I have EVER had in my ENTIRE LIFE with freebirthing, I decided to become a midwife and do things the way I knew they could be done. As a student midwife, I believe my purpose is to bridge (as much as possible) the homebirth experience in hospital.
But, as I haven’t started my placement yet, I can only hope I don’t lose sight of this purpose. Homebirth midwifery may be where I end up if ‘The System’ can’t change.
Thank you Rachel for all that you are and say and do.
I am honoured to be one of your students.
I am so sorry that you had such a disrespectful experience of birth. However, I am pleased it led you to your empowering freebirths and into midwifery. The system and women need you 🙂
Thank you so much for this wonderful article. It has really helped me to make sense of my recent experience and why the midwife treated me the way she did. I had severe PGP throughout my pregnancy which felt very similar to the contractions I later had in labour. I was very uncomfortable for the last week of my pregnancy but despite being hardly able to move felt the urge to clean my house. After day spent cleaning the house I woke up at 3 in the morning with what I thought was bad PGP, then at 5:30 I lost my mucous plug. After that my contractions started to increase I thought that I was probably in early labour but at NCT classes we had been told how long a first labour could be. I told my husband to go to work as normal and I pull keep him updated.
My contractions progressed very rapidly after that to one every 2 minutes lasting on minute. I had a shower which helped with the pain but I was not getting any of the respite between contractions that I had been told to expect. I called the hospital and they told me to come in, I phoned my husband and he arrived at the same time as me. This was around 9:20 in the morning. The midwife who admitted me said that although my contractions were only 2 minutes apart she didn’t think they were strong enough to be established labour and that it could be days and days before I had my baby. Nobody had a fast labour for a first baby. She did not examine me. I felt like I was really pathetic. She tried to send me home but I could move and my husband persuaded her to let me stay. At this point I was in so much pain I kept being sick and felt ready to push. I went into the toilet and pushed by myself. No one came to check on me in over an hour. My baby’s head came out and I could feel myself tear. A different midwife came in and helped me to get off the toilet. My baby was born covered in meuconium and needed help to start breathing. This came as a huge shock to me.
He is fine now but I feel guilty that I didn’t push for anyone to check on him as his heart rate wasn’t monitored at all in labour. I never noticed my waters braking I think with hindsight they must have leaked out slowly in the week before he was born. If I have another baby I would probably have a home birth
Thank you for sharing your experience. I am so sorry that you were not listened to and respected. You did nothing wrong. The guilt should not be your’s. It belongs to those who let you down.
One of the things they really need to start teaching people is to trust their instincts more and quit teaching the medical professionals to brush off the concerns of patients.
A sensible and helpful article. My daughter has been in labour, at home, for 28 hours. I looked for some information as I am concerned at her becoming exhausted before the final ‘push’. I was reassured, but also concerned, that being in hospital longer may increase the chance of a medical intervention. Thank you for a balanced discussion.
Good luck to your daughter. You might find this post helpful too: https://midwifethinking.com/2017/02/03/understanding-and-assessing-labour-progress/