Monday, February 1, 2010

How Will I know If I'm Having A Real Contraction?

As a childbirth educator, I've noticed that women are petrified of being in labour and "not knowing it". The interesting part of that is that their cause for fear is usually on opposite sides of the spectrum. It's an even split between not wanting to give birth in the car on the way and not wanting to go to the hospital too early. As much as I reassure women that early labour is usually a long and slow process and the chances of them giving birth within a few hours of their first contraction is rare. There is always a story about the woman someone knew who didn't make it to the hospital in time. So here's how I explain how to tell what a "real" contraction feels like:

"Who here has stubbed their toe?" Everyone raises their hands. Then I ask, "You know that feeling you get right after you stubbed your toe, when it doesn't hurt bad yet but you can feel the pain rising up your legs?" Everyone nods. "Then the pain rises up to your head and you can't help but react? You hop up and down, breath out loudly, yell ouch, do a little 'I stubbed my toe dance?' " Everyone nods again. "Well a real contraction feels a bit like that, when it peaks you have to cope, you can't help but move, breath differently or cry out. It is impossible not to react."

So now I've got everyone scared and I've got to do damage control.

"So, we talked about 'pain with a purpose'. Well, think of how much movement has been shown to help the baby move down and through pelvis, your coping mechanism to move, actually helps bring the baby closer to being born. Breathing is very important during a contraction, the uterus which is a big bag of muscles, needs oxygen to work that hard, so breathing in deeply, or often and light, during a peak of a contraction aids your uterine muscles. As for the need to vocalize, there is a relationship between your facial muscles and your pelvic floor. When your mouth is tightly shut, your pelvic floor muscles tighten up as well. We want a relaxed pelvic floor, So having a wide open mouth allows that to happen. How do we keep our mouths open wide? Well by vocalizing, of course. Ladies, you will find your own coping techniques. Though, it is much easier to to listen to your body and find them, if you are able to move around and are comfortable enough in your surroundings to breath and make the noises you feel you need to make."

Anyone else have a different way to explain what a contraction feels like? Please share...