Tips to Get Through a Long Labor

Woman in labor

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While the average length of a first labor is typically 12-18 hours, not including inductions, there are labors that last longer. Some labors last longer because of physical issues, the baby moving into a better position, mom’s body opening. Other labors are longer because of emotional issues like fear of your surroundings or of becoming a parent, or that your partner won’t make it on time. These can be very real things. For the women who have to deal with lengthy labors, it sounds like it’s a lot of pain.

It's important to remember that "long" is defined differently by everyone. If you are being told that you're having a long labor and some intervention is suggested, ask questions and get information before deciding how to proceed; sometimes "long" isn't a problem, just something to cope with for you and your team. Many interventions have potential complications that can come with them and may or may not actually speed up the process.

Here are some tips for getting through one of those long labors.

Don’t Focus on the Clock 

It’s so tempting when you’re in labor to look at the clock. How long have I been doing this? How much longer will I be doing this? When will I get to hold my baby? These are all valid questions, but questions that ultimately keep you from focusing on the work of labor which is what gets you to the end. If you can, remove the clocks near you, have them turned around, or cover them.

Stay Home as Long as Possible 

In your own home, you are most comfortable. You can move freely around, watch television, play on your computer and sit in your baby’s room. These are all the comforts of home. You also have your own bathroom and tub or shower, you can eat and drink to comfort. It is much easier to pass the time in your own surroundings and it can help prevent your labor from stalling by going to the hospital too early. An early labor plan can also be beneficial here.

Go With the Flow

As crazy as it may sound—follow your labor’s lead. In longer labors, there tend to be parts that are slower and calmer. This is the opportunity to rest and even nap. Most women don’t think about this and often view this slow down as a bad thing. But this is usually your body's ability to sense that you need a small break before continuing. Take advantage of these breaks whenever possible.

Use Comfort Measures Early and Often 

If you're anticipating a long labor, you might be tempted to tell everyone to rest up and support you "when you really need it." But going it alone can make you more agitated and more in pain. Let people help you relax and be more comfortable. Staying calm all the way through will take less energy and make you more relaxed, helping labor progress. Also, don’t forget to move around often; this can many times be what you need when labor is taking awhile. It helps protect your joints and skin from being in one position too long.

Start Labor off Right 

When you first realize you’re in labor, the best advice is to ignore it. Remind yourself of why you can’t be in labor yet. You know the list: you can't be in lobor because you haven't washed all the baby's clothes. You can't be in labor yet because it's not the date you picked. You can't be in labor yet because your favorite gown is not packed.... But remember to take your time. For most women, there is no need to rush. Just casually go about getting ready and enjoying these last few hours of pregnancy.

So the next time you’re having a baby and baby seems to be taking his or her time, remember, there is a reason and it’s up to you to handle the labor in a constructive manner that benefits you and your baby.

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