BEING RESTED FOR LABOR
When you are in the final days and weeks of pregnancy there is an anticipation about how labor will unfold. How will I know? Where will I be? How long will labor last? And of course, when? When is more than the day or date but when within a 24 hour period?
If labor starts early in the morning after a full nights rest, then Woo Hoo and Hallelujah! If it's late in the day or evening and you've been up all day, then you need a strategy. Labor is labor. It is work, and work when you are already tired can be difficult. Being rested, nourished and hydrated can make a huge difference in how your labor unfolds, especially when it's time to push. That being said, I totally understand the desire to get the show on the road and meet your baby but ask yourself this question: "How will I feel if I am still in labor twenty-four hours from now?"
If labor starts late in the evening, it may be difficult to settle and sleep with all of your excitement and you may not feel the need to sleep. Ask yourself, "How will I feel if I am still in labor twenty-four hours from now?" Active labor may not begin for another twenty-four hours. It is so important to get as much sleep in as possible before active labor begins!
Please don't let this happen to you! It happens so often and is understandable. Just remember that early labor with a first baby almost always necessitates that you try to sleep at some point, despite the excitement and physical discomfort you may feel.
Napping during the day, especially in the last few weeks of pregnancy is always a great idea too.
TIPS TO SLEEP IN EARLY LABOR: AT HOME
- LIE DOWN IN A DARK ROOM, even if you don't fall asleep right away. Letting your body rest in a horizontal position in the dark, for as long as possible during overnight hours is important. Also, lying down results in less frequent contactions.
- TAKE A WARM BATH. Dim the lights! Quiet music or nature sounds are a great addition. This may slow or temporarily stop the contractions of early labor (but not advanced labor) so you can rest, according to the Journal of Nurse-Midwifery. This may help you relax and make you drowsy and ease pain. You may need to stay in for a full ninety minutes for contractions to stop.
- YOU MAY DRINK A SMALL GLASS OF WINE to help you to fall asleep. Alcohol is considered a tocolytic, or labor inhibitor, and may give you a couple of hours without contractions as well as help you feel drowsy.
- SLEEP IN A SEPERATE BED if you're both restless, so he will be less likely to be sleep-deprived too.
- DRINK EXTRA FLUIDS AND WATER. An early labor that is not strongly established will often slow down and allow you to rest if you maintain good hydration.
TIPS TO SLEEP IN ADVANCED LABOR: IN THE HOSPITAL
- A DARK AND QUIET ROOM, and play soft relaxing music, nature sounds or use a sound machine or app. Ask your nurse, midwife or doctor to allow you to rest without interuption for one to two hours. Using the time that you are on a fetal heart monitor to rest or sleep is a good idea.
- GENTLE MASSAGE OR TOUCH from the partner of doula can help the mother relax and help them drift of to sleep. This sleep is usually for short periods between contractions but beneficial. The rest is cummulative and adds up.
- YOU MAY BE ABLE TO REQUEST MEDICATION to induce therapeutic sleep. If labor is still mild, the effects may get you almost a full night of sleep.
- LOVED ONES, TAKE A NAP IN THE HOSPITAL. You will need to also be rested and save your energy for the final stages of labor, when she needs you the most. The doula can help the mother to sleep with massage while the partner sleeps for an hour of two. Bring earplugs and/or headphones and a sleep mask to fall asleep mare easily in a busy hospital.
There are two apps that I also recommend to clients: Calm is the #1 app for "mindfulness and meditation to bring more clarity, joy and peace to your daily life." I personally use this almost every day, especially the sleep stories. The breathing and body scan sessions are also extremely helpful. I've experimented with using the "Walking Meditation" for my cool-down after a run. Being on-call means that I must practice what I preach to my clients, so that I can be at my best for them, anytime of day or night!
Expectful is another guided meditation fertility, pregnancy, and motherhood. There is a free 14-day trial.
Combine these tools with scripture, prayer, a playlist of worship songs or other relaxing music can help to tune out distractions and anxiety, allowing the body and the mind to rest. I firmly believe that putting this into practice during pregnancy can make a tremendous difference during labor!