Is there anything scarier than preparing for birth for the first time? I remember being a first time mom and practically biting my nails clean off when I was thinking about contractions and how I would handle them. In my mind, giving birth was one big pain fest that, once started, didn’t end until the baby was in your arms.
Birth seemed scary and overwhelming and I really wanted to know what it would be like before I actually did it.
Have you ever felt that way?
Well, I have some good news for you. While I can’t say that birth will be easy or that you won’t experience any pain, it is not like the scenario of my nightmares above.
In fact, with a little bit of education and a few carefully crafted and practiced coping skills, labor can be totally manageable for most moms.
Today, I want to share with you a few things about contractions that will in fact, make labor not just a little easier, but more like a nice run on a summer evening. Sure, it is hot, sweaty work, but it is fulfilling and wonderful at the same time.
7 Things you Need to Know About Contractions
These are the things I wish all moms knew about their contractions that will make labor easier. After all, knowledge is power.
1. Most of your Contractions will be a Minute or Less
It doesn’t matter what a contraction feels like. The fact is that one contraction comes and then it goes.
You can do anything for a minute.
No matter how intense a contraction is, it only lasts a minute for most of your labor. And you will have three to five minutes between contractions to rest where you will feel no pain or next to no pain.
That means, you will spend more time in labor not contracting, than contracting.
When your contractions are lasting longer than that, and coming closer together than that, well, it’s likely you are in transition or ready to push and you are VERY close to meeting your baby!
2. Contractions are like a Wave. They Build, they Break, they Wash Away
Contractions are not the same intensity from start to finish.
They build in intensity, they reach a peak where they are the most intense and then they release and fade away into nothing. In this way, contractions are just like a wave rolling up on the sands of your favorite beach, steadily and consistently, rising and falling.
A great way your partner can help you handle contractions is by reminding you to find the peak.
Once your contractions are about a minute long your partner can use this trick to help you cope with labor. Once a contraction starts, they begin to count to 30 in their head. When they get there, they whisper ‘peak’ in your ear.
This helps you remember the contraction is getting easier and then will be gone. It also keeps them close and engaged while you are focused on labor. It is especially effective if you are in a slow dance position with their arms wrapped safely around you.
3. Every Contraction is Doing Something for your Body
Sometimes dilation doesn’t take place in a straight line. I’ve often heard it said that you ‘should’ dilate about one centimeter an hour once contractions are consistent and active. However, my experience at over 100 births in the last year has taught me that dilation does not work this way.
Some moms dilate in a steady manner like this.
Other moms will be stuck at a 3 for hours and then be at an 8 in no time.
The important thing to remember is that even if you can’t measure your progress in dilation, each contraction is doing something to bring you closer to your baby.
4. A Contraction is like Flexing your Arm, Except you don’t have to Think About it
(Your uterus is stronger than this bicep! It’s a fact!)
Did you know you’ve felt a contraction before? Flex your arm. Your bicep just contracted.
Your uterus is the largest muscle in your pregnant body. When you feel a contraction, your uterus muscles are flexing, just like your arm muscles flex in a bicep curl.
When your uterus flexes, it pulls your cervix open and helps your baby move down. Did I mention your uterus is strong? And it knows what it is doing, just like your heart, which never skips a beat. Yep, it’s one cool muscle!
5. Your Baby is Safe during Contractions
Some moms worry about what their baby might be feeling during intense contractions.
Here’s a cool fact.
Babies can be found asleep in the womb even when mom is experiencing strong contractions.
Here’s another cool fact. When you are contracting, there is more oxytocin (the love hormone) in your body and your baby’s body than you’ve ever had in your body before.
That means a contraction must feel like a giant love hug for your baby.
6. Contractions may Feel more Intense when you Change Positions
Sometimes when you move positions your labor will intensify. That is a good thing. Try to stick it out for at least 3 contractions in a new position before changing it up again.
7. Every Birth is Different
Every labor is unique. Your labor will not be like your moms, your sisters, your best friends or your previous births. That is okay. This is a new baby and a unique experience. Let it unfold in love and beauty.
Giving birth is definitely one of the most challenging things I have ever done. And yet, the experience brought me an incredible amount of joy, pride, and gratitude for my body. In fact, giving birth was the start of developing an entirely new relationship of appreciation for what I am capable of as a woman, person, and mother. I hope that your labor is equally empowering.
Suzzie Vehrs is a passionate birth advocate, doula, and gelato lover. You can find her hiking to all the waterfalls, relaxing on the beach, and attending as many births as she possibly can because that is her happy place. Check out her blog and her book Divine Birth. If you like cool free things, you can grab her guide 11 of the most surprising things that happen during labor and what to do about them today.
PS: Thank you Suzzie for this amazing post and the opportunity to collab! It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. Make sure to check out her blog and send her some love!