Deciding when to go to the hospital, or call your midwife, can be stressful for a lot of people! Knowing when to call your doula shouldn’t be! Here are tips to know exactly when to call your doula.
Note: If at any point in your pregnancy you feel concerned by anything physical, first call the nurses hotline or your care provider immediately. Especially if you are experiencing any signs of labor before 37 weeks gestation!
Plan to labor at home for as long as possible! Try to ignore labor until you can't ignore it anymore. Typically, when you are approaching your birthing time, you will begin to experience early stages of labor. You will at some point begin noticing an obvious change or shift in emotion. Physical signs may include lower backache, contractions every 10-20 minutes, cramping, increase in vaginal discharge, and increase in vaginal pressure (not the urge to push though). These signs do not necessarily mean that baby is coming that day, or even that week, but these signs do mean that your body is making the proper preparations to have a baby! During this early stage it is important to inform your doula what you are experiencing. Your doula will have recommendations on ways to relax, and actions of self-care that you can take to help the early stages go smoothly and comfortably. Many birthing people feel comfortable laboring alone, with a supportive partner, or simply ignoring this early time. Don’t be discouraged if things don't escalate quickly during these early stages of labor; your body is doing exactly what it needs to be doing.
With my clients I am open to coming fairly early on in the process. I enjoy arriving with a bit of extra time to help my clients create their birth sanctuary. I am always happy to set up some LED candles, turn on some nice music, diffuse clary sage, rub some feet for a little while, and chat, especially if it is during the day. This is a time for everyone to hunker down, drink water, and sleep! Conserving energy is essential at this point. Pain is not your worst enemy during your birthing process, but exhaustion is! So sleep, rest, and relax as long as you can. Contractions will continue to get longer, stronger and closer together, embrace this process.
As contractions increase in intensity, there will be a time where you start feeling like you need additional support. This support can be additional emotional support, or physical support. If you’ve been ignoring early labor, and you just cant seem to ignore it anymore, CALL YOUR DOULA! Most Doulas, including myself, typically come when contractions are really “rocking and rolling” and you are at the 4-1-1 or 5-1-1 rule (4 or 5 minutes apart, lasting 1-2 minutes, for 1 hour).
It's worth noting, however, that some women (including myself and both my sisters), never have the clockwork 4-1-1 contractions. If you feel your labor is becoming intense, call your doula regardless of the "stats."
Don’t rush to the hospital because your water breaks. Call your provider, and ask them how long you are able to stay at home. If you have no contraindications, your provider will probably give you the go-ahead to stay home for a few more hours. At that point, throw on some Depends, and a good movie. Keep your large water bottle near and sip on some homemade bone broth. Munching on some light, healthy snacks may also be okay. Oftentimes in the movies or in the media chaos ensues when a birthing person's water breaks. This is not the case. Water breaking can happen prior to the early stages of labor. It can happen well into active labor, and for some people the water wont break until the pushing phase. One in 80,000 babies will actually be born “en caul” this means the water never breaks, and bag remains fully intact.
Your cervix is not a crystal ball. It is so tempting to look at labor on a linear basis and rush to the hospital to get checked to “see where you are at”. It is hard not to think, “ok, well—it took me 5 hours to get to a 5, that means it will take another 5 hours until I am a 10. The truth is, every birth is unique. You can dilate to a 5 in hours, or days, or weeks! Natural cervical change does not always, if ever, work like clock work. Look for shifts and emotional changes. Center yourself and allow your instincts to speak to your logical mind. Be intuitive with your body and your baby. Look for the moment when you are needing additional support. Your Doula is there for YOU. Call your Doula when you and your partner feel ready for that additional support.
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