So, the time has arrived.
Baby is now past 37 weeks and could arrive at any time.
You’ve had some tightenings and even very painful Braxton Hicks contractions but then everything stops.
Your hopes are dashed.
The following night, things start up again.
Painful tightenings get closer and closer, sometimes taking your breath away.
You’re up pacing the house in the wee small hours but then morning comes and the contractions fade as the sun rises above the horizon.
You can feel like you’re going crazy. No sleep and no progress can really bring you down.
What do midwives recommend for those long relentless hours?
This is really really important. There is no easy way to tell how long this will last but in the worst case scenario, you may still have some days to wait until labour becomes consistent. Take whatever rest you can, in large and small amounts spread throughout the day. If you have older children, enlist family and friends to entertain them for a while so you can nap. It’s not easy, but perhaps it is mother nature’s way of preparing you for the sleepless nights to come when baby arrives!
Get plenty of good nutrition on board. Labour is extremely hard work and you need to have a good supply of energy to help keep your contractions strong and effective. When labour really kicks in, you might not feel like eating so think like a marathon runner and eat as preparation.
Try out your pain relief strategies:
Some people go into labour knowing exactly how they will cope with the pain. Others have no idea what they want to try or what will or won’t work. There are so many strategies to choose from, it’s an entire post of its own (coming soon). However, these early painful episodes can be useful in figuring out whether your partner is any good at massaging, or whether the TENS machine you hired online is just going to drive you crazy.
Bathe or shower:
Water is well known to relieve labour pain, although you may have to wait until you get to hospital to try out the wonderful wide, deep birthing pool. Luckily, you can definitely try a comforting bath or stand under a cozy warm shower at home at this early point. For some, this may settle the pains down, which will give you a chance to rest. For others, the warm soothing waters can relax them enough to help the contractions get stronger.
Check your bags are packed and ready:
Another good idea is to take the time to make sure you’ve got everything packed ready for the hospital. There are tons of great lists online of what to pack and my own list is on its way. While the pains are reminding you of their purpose in bringing baby ever closer, use that focus to ensure nothing gets left behind.
However long these times last, please remember that the baby at the end is definitely worth everything you’re going through. You are stronger and fiercer than you know and you can do this!
Are you worried that the pains are too early or might be real labour pains? Please contact your local maternity unit as soon as possible.