All of the advice contained in this thread is meant as a general guide only. If you have a specific question or worry - especially if you are bleeding or your baby is not moving - then you should contact your healthcare provider
So - you've got pregnant through whichever method suited and worked for you. You've grown a baby and you've waited patiently for labour to start...
Here is my advice to you about what you can do to make it go smoothly... sadly I can't make it painless.
This advice is for all mums, some is more relevant to first timers, some to experienced mums. Not all women are the same - you may be one of the lucky ones who has a 6hr straightforward first labour, but it will do you no harm to prepare for the long 48hr one instead Basics....Don't be too rigid in your planning
- have an idea what you'd like but be flexible. You cannot predict what is going to happen, or how you are going to feel, and neither can the midwife. So go with the flow.....
I often talk to women about labour being like a storm at sea, with waves of tightenings surging up and down. If you try to fight it you'll drown - stay calm, allow the wave to take you, let it wash in and let it wash out again.... The storm may be long but it will
pass....Stay as normal as possible for as long as possible
- when the tightenings begin, maybe every ten minutes apart, maybe every five, remember (especially if this is your first) that you are at the start of what may very well be a long journey. You have to pace yourself.
If it is daytime be normal - eat as normal, drink as normal, move as normal (or, if you are a bit of a couch potato usually, move a bit more than normal). Walk the dog, do some housework, dance and sway..., stay well nourished and well hydrated. If it is nightime go to bed - try to sleep. Whenever it happens take paracetamol, use a hot water bottle or a wheat bag, try a warm bath. But essentially - ignore it for as long as you can... After all, if you stay up all night not eating the first night you won't have the energy to get through the second night....and sadly there is almost always (for first timers) a second night....Get good support around you
- this might be your partner, but it might be your mother or your sister, or your friend or a doula or a combination of all of them.
For hetrosexual couples it is often assumed that the "dad" will be the significant birth partner - but he is not always the best person - and neither is a lesbian partner. This is because any birth partner who is scared, or afraid for their loved one, will transmit their fear subliminally to the birthing woman. I will talk about fear in labour later.
Mums come in two sorts as well - those who trust birth, had reasonable birth experiences themselves, who see their daughter as an equal. And mums who still treat their daughters as babies, or who have unresolved anxiety regarding their own birth experience. Obviously the former is preferable....if your mum is the latter suggest she makes your home ready for you and answers the phone to all your friends who are waiting for news.
Instead choose partners who are accepting of labour pain and who are not frightened. Choose partners who will support you at your most vulnerable, who won't want to talk to the midwife about their own experience (after all its your day not theirs!), and who are thick skinned enough to take the abuse you might throw at them later!
Make sure your partners have enough rest during your early labour - that means if you are in hospital that you let them go home during the night if you are still early. You call them back at any time but they will get better rest at home than in an upright hospital chair. If they are not rested and fed they will be no good to you. Another reason to have more than one if possible...The midwife
- she is doing her job - she may have other women to look after. This is a sad fact of the modern NHS - it is a national health service not a personal one. If you want to be guaranteed a personal midwife you will have to pay for one - sad but true. Make sure you communicate your needs with her, and make sure you understand her plan of care for you. Remember that the plan is made in collaboration - if there is something you want then tell her. If you don't understand her rationale for something then ask.
Remember that your midwife is a person too - she has trained for three years or more specifically for this job. She is recognised amongst all health professionals as the expert in normal childbirth. But she is a person - and she doesn't need to be made to feel like a skivvy or threat, she is there to help you and advise you. If communication between you and your midwife is not working ask for another midwife. She should not be offended - we cannot get on with everybody we meet in life.