First Stage Labor
Sweet Pea Births - ...celebrating every sweet pea and their birth
RSS Follow Become a Fan

Delivered by FeedBurner

Recent Posts

How to Reduce Breastfeeding Inequality
Postpartum Wellness Series: Nutrition
World Kindness Day 2017
Postpartum Wellness Series: SLEEP
In Their Own Words: Erica ~ Part 2

Most Popular Posts

An Inside Look: Modern Mommy Boutique
Breastfeeding Support Groups: La Leche League
A Look At the honest company
An Inside Look: Placenta Encapsulation
Mommy-Con Phoenix Ticket Giveaway


Artifical Rupture of Membranes
Ask the Doula
Avoiding harmful substances
Baby blues
Baby Concierge
Baby games
Baby-led weaning
Back Labor
Bag of Waters
Bedtime Routine
Belly Cast
Berman's Law
Big Latch On
Birth center
Birth Centers Phoenix AZ area
Birth Circle
Birth Mantra
Birth News
Birth place options
Birth plans
Birth Story
Birth Story Listening
Birthing From Within
Blog Carnival
Bradley Day Family Picnic
Bradley Method®
Bradley Method® birth story
Bradley Method® for next baby
Bradley Method® for second pregnancy
Bradley Method® outcome
Bradley® Coaches
Bradley® Dads
Bradley™ classes and the next baby
Bradley™ classes for next pregnancy
Bradley™ classes for second pregnancy
Breast Pumps
Breast Pumps and Workplace
Breastfeeding 101
Breastfeeding Awareness Month
Breastfeeding Challenges
Breastfeeding in Public
Breastfeeding support
Breech presentation
Breech turning techniques
Cassandra Okamoto
Cephalo-Pelvic Disproportion
Cesarean Birth
Cesarean Support Group
Cesarean Surgery
Child Spacing
Children's Books
Chiropractic Care
Co Sleeping
Coach's Corner
Comfort Measures
Cord Clamping
Cry It Out
Dairy Allergy
Debbie Gillespie, IBCLC, RLC
Dehydration and Pregnancy
Delayed Cord Clamping
Drinking during labor
Due Date
Eating during labor
Essential Oils
External Cephalic Version
Eye Drops
Eye Ointment
Eye Prophylaxis
Failure to Progress
Family Bed
Family Fest
Family Fun
Fear-Tension-Pain Cycle
Fetal Distress
First Birthday
First Foods for baby
First stage labor
First Trimester
Flower Essences
Fluid Retention
Full term
Fussy baby
Gestational Diabetes
Going to your birthplace
Green Nursery
Grief Counseling and Support Services
Healthy, Low-Risk
Hearing Screen
Heat Comfort Measures
Hospital Birth
Hyperemesis Gravidarum
Hyperthermia and Pregnancy
Immediate Cord Clamping
In Their Own Words
Increase Breastmilk
Induction of Labor
Infant Care
Infant Classes
Infections and Pregnancy
Info Sheet
Information Center
Information Sheet
Informed Consent
Inside Look
La Leche League
Labor Augmentation
Labor Induction
Labor Marathon
Labor Sprint
Labor Support
Lactation Consult
Lactation Consultation
Managing or coping with natural labor
Maternity Keepsake
Meet the Doula
Midwifery Care
Midwifery Scope of Practice Committee
Milk Supply
Miscarriage or Stillbirth
Modern Mommy Boutique
Monday Mantra
Morning Sickness
Natural Alignment Plateau
Natural birth
natural labor coping mechanisms
Natural labor coping techniques
Neonatal Eye Drops
Neonatal Eye Ointment
Neonatal Eye Prophylaxis
Newborn Care
Newborn jaundice
Newborn Procedures
Next baby
Next pregnancy
Nursing and Maternity Bras
Nursing In Public
Nursing Strike
Obstetrical Care
Pain management
Pain management natural labor
Past due date
Patient Bill of Rights
Phoenix Mommy-Con Mini
Placenta Encapsulation
Planning for Baby
Playing with baby
Postmature baby
Postpartum Depression
Postpartum Doula
Postpartum Plan
Pregnancy Loss
Premature Baby
Premature Ruptture of Membranes
Pre-term Labor
Prolonged Labor
Q&A with SPB
Rally to Improve Birth
Relaxation practice
Repeat Bradley™ classes
Rights for Homebirth
Rupture of Membranes
Scavenger Hunt
Second Stage Labor
Sensory games
Sibling Preparation for Newborn Arrival
Sleep Sharing
Soft-structured carrier
Starting Solids
Stripping Membranes
Support Groups
Sweeping Membranes
Sweet Pea Births
Swelling in Pregnancy
Tandem Nursing
The Bradley Method®
The Bradley Method® classes
The Bradley Method® pain management
Third Trimester
Thoughtful Thursday
Tongue Tie
Tongue Tie Procedure
Toxins, pesticides, chemicals and pregnancy
Upcoming Events
Use of vacuum extraction
Uterine Rupture
Vaginal Birth After Cesarean
Vaginal Birth After Multiple Cesareans
Variations and Complications
Vitamin K
Warning Labels
Webster Protocol
Weekend Activities
Why we chose the Bradley Method® childbirth classes
Wordless Wednesday
World Breastfeeding Week
powered by

Sweet Peas, Pods & Papas: All About Birth, B@@bs & Babies

First Stage Labor

Bruss and Krystyna Bowman, AAHCC : Clearly in early first stage - I can still smile
Bruss and Krystyna Bowman, AAHCC
Clearly in early first stage - I can still smile
Krystyna and Andrea, our fourth quarter QB with the Hail Mary energy : Starting to get a little harder to smile - but - I can still smile
Krystyna and Andrea, our fourth quarter QB with the Hail Mary energy
Starting to get a little harder to smile - but - I can still smile
Krystyna and Bruss Bowman, AAHCC : My face can no longer crack a smile - this is good
Krystyna and Bruss Bowman, AAHCC
My face can no longer crack a smile - this is good
Bruss and Bryan Victor Bowman : These little people make it all worth it - knowing that it is for their well-being makes me feel like I can and will do anything to help them into the world.
Bruss and Bryan Victor Bowman
These little people make it all worth it - knowing that it is for their well-being makes me feel like I can and will do anything to help them into the world.
In order to talk about first stage labor, there is an important question to ask, “Why is the body designed to labor?”
The co-founder of The Bradley Method®, Jay Hathaway has looked at this question and come up with some reasons that I agree with.  Here is a summary – for his complete list and explanation, you can refer to The Bradley Method® Student Workbook, ©2006, page 100.
  • It is an announcement to a family and the community that a new life is about to enter the world.
  • It is a time of physical and emotional preparation for the woman and the baby to accept their new roles.
  • It is a rite of passage that results in a new role as a mother. 
  • It is a rite of passage that results in an intrauterine dependent being born and becoming a new independent human being.
Every teacher is asked to write on this topic as part of our final exam – I imagine that the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth® has hundreds of unique reasons in their archives.  You can read my answer to this question here.
The original reason I sought to have a natural labor and childbirth is that I am a big skeptic about putting anything in my back that doesn’t belong there.  As a lifelong dancer and a yoga student, I had learned that “your spine is your lifeline” and don’t let anyone touch or mess with your back!  There was no way I was going to let anyone stick a large-gauge needle, or anything else, into my spinal column.
The more I learned about natural childbirth, the more I realized that the experience of labor and birth, free of drugs and interventions, was going to be a life-changing experience.  Even when we deviated from our goals to be completely drug and intervention free, we always had epidural-free births and felt all the physical and emotional sensations that accompany labor.  These labors taught Bruss and I about each other, about our baby and cemented our belief that natural birth is a gift to all the people involved: mom, baby, dad and care providers.
So if you agree with me that labor is important and it is an essential part of the birthing process, let’s go forward.  Let’s explore what first stage labor is physiologically and how it progresses.
First stage labor is the body’s preparation for the physical act of pushing the baby out from their warm, comfortable and secure uterus through the birth canal and out into the world to meet you – also known as second stage labor.  First stage labor is designed to progress over a period of hours to allow the intensity to build gradually. 
Depending on your body and your baby, this could vary, though, so if you are having a sprinting labor you will have to rely more on your coach and your relaxation practice.  Your body will go from zero to full steam in a matter of minutes instead of hours.  It is still do-able with ample preparation and good coaching.
There may be a period of pre-labor before you start first stage labor.  Brace yourself – you could be in pre-labor for a week – or more.  It is the body and the baby going for a “test drive”…How does the hormone exchange work?  How will these contractions feel?  How will we handle contractions?  How do we get them to speed up or slow down?
The key here is that although contractions may start, they slow down or stop altogether with a change in position or activity.  Nothing you do can get them to speed up or start up if they stopped.  One phrase we say to our students throughout the course of class from this point forward is, “Don’t pay attention too soon.”  You can waste a lot of physical and emotional energy getting ramped up for a labor that isn’t progressing.  If the contractions slow down or stop completely: keep going about your business, continue eating to appetite, drinking to thirst, and for goodness’ sake, GET SOME SLEEP.  You will need it when you are in true active labor.
Note to The Coach:  This is an important time for coaches to remind laboring mothers that it is okay and that true labor will start soon.  Understand that we feel like we have been pregnant forever and we want to be holding our baby already.  Use any contractions that do happen to practice relaxation as you plan to use it during actual labor.  This serves a dual purpose – coaches can make sure to review and commit the coach’s checklist to memory, and it builds mom’s confidence in your abilities to serve as her coach.
True labor is marked by contractions that do not slow down or stop with a change of activity or position.  No matter what you do, the contractions are progressively gaining in frequency (how close), intensity (how strong) and duration (how long).  That is not to say that they won’t start and stop occasionally – usually a change in venue can result in a stall.  Whether you use natural stimulation techniques or decide wait it out, before long contractions will pick up again and your body will continue to work towards the second stage of labor.
During early first stage labor, a mom will be talkative and active.  Maybe she will be cleaning or cooking or going about her work.  She will still have an appetite.  It is important to tune into your body and follow the cues.  If you want to eat, eat.  If you want to drink, drink.  Your body will let you know when it’s time to get down to the business of having the baby.  Until then, store your energy and rest as much as possible.  In terms of dilation, the cervix is going from 0 cm – 3 cm.  The duration of the contraction is anywhere from 30-60 seconds, and the frequency puts the contractions anywhere from 5 – 20 minutes apart. 
Where they start in frequency and duration is a good indicator of whether your labor is going to be a sprint, a marathon or something in between.  If the “happy to be in labor” phase starts and mom’s contractions are five minutes apart and closer to 60 seconds long, then you should pay attention for signs of a sprint.  If her contractions are twenty minutes apart and are only lasting 30 seconds, then chances are you are running a marathon.
Active first stage labor is marked by an emotional shift as mom starts to get more serious about contractions.  Contractions start to be 45 – 60 seconds long and their frequency is every 2 – 5 minutes.  The cervix is dilating from 3 – 7 cm during this time.  As you can see, the contractions are definitely more powerful now and mom will want to concentrate during a contraction and rest between them.  She still needs to drink to stay hydrated, but chances are she will lose her appetite, start to lose her modesty and will move around less and want a more quiet environment in general.
Dr. Bradley taught that this was the time for a laboring woman “to nest”.  He suggested that mom’s get into their side relaxation position so that they could completely relax with their contractions and let their uterus work with gravity to get baby in the correct position. 
Although this position was not comfortable for me in a hospital bed, I seem to remember that we got into a seated (on a birth ball) or squatting position (on a birth stool) at this phase of labor.  I would lean forward onto our doula with each contraction, and as I got more experienced, I would lean back against Bruss and nap between contractions.
For some reason, although the contractions are continuing at a regular pace, some of us find that our dilation stalls for a while.  It could be an hour with no change in dilation, or sometimes even longer.  As with all averages, people forget that there are variations that are still normal.  The accepted medical belief is that in labor, the cervix dilates one centimeter per hour.  If you are in a hospital setting, you are probably going to start hearing the dreaded phrase, “failure to progress.”
Marjie Hathaway (who along with her husband Jay helped Dr. Bradley co-found The Bradley Method®) came up with an ingenious phrase that describes what happens to some of us at this point in our labor.  She looked at this phenomenon, and evaluated it with an experienced eye:  she had three natural births herself and years of experience attending births and serving as an assistant coach.  Marjie realized that sometimes a woman’s body was smart enough to know that more time was necessary.  Her phrase for this phenomenon of continued contractions with a stall in dilation is Natural Alignment Plateau. 
It beautifully describes in three little words the wisdom that Mother Nature built into all of our bodies.  Sometimes the baby is in the wrong position and needs time to give the line-up a second or third try.  Smart: take a little longer now to make the pushing phase more comfortable, safer and shorter for all involved.  Sometimes the cartilage needs to soften some more – especially if things have been speeding along to this point.  Smart:  the more pliable mom’s pelvis and baby’s head are, the easier and safer the passage.  Sometimes the body wants to make more immunities for the baby – maybe it’s increasing the supply and quality of colostrum.  Smart:  the mom’s body is designed to perfectly nourish her newborn and growing child – it knows what it needs to do to feed the baby and will take the time to do it well.  The list goes on – see The Bradley Method Student Workbook, ©2006, page 35 for a more complete list.
There might also be an emotional component that could stall dilation although contractions are continuing.  It goes back to Jay’s list – the rite of passage.  Mom needs to accept that she is now a mom – whether it’s a mom for the first time, or her ability to be the mom to multiple children.  Baby also needs to accept that they are ready to live independently of their mother’s – that it is literally time to cut the cord.  When it becomes apparent that dilation is stalled, we suggest that coaches take the time to talk to mom and find out if there is an emotional component that needs to be resolved so that the cervix will dilate and allow the labor to progress.
Instead of accepting the pronouncement of, “You have failed to progress”, look at the whole picture.  How is mom doing – is her blood pressure normal?  Is her heart rate strong?  Is her temperature in a safe range?  How is the baby doing – does baby sound good and seem like he or she is doing well throughout labor so far?   If these things are all showing that mom and baby are well, then be confident in your choice to accept your labor for what it is and ask for more time as long as everyone is strong and doing well.
The good news is that once the body has its Natural Alignment Plateau, the cervix will dilate rapidly and usually to completion (10 cm).  The extra time your body took turns out to be a gift because after the break, labor is in full swing and you will be in transition and into the second stage of labor in a matter of minutes.
I hope this little journey into first stage labor will start to give you the confidence and the patience to accept your labor and use it wisely to learn about yourself, your baby and deepen your connection with your coach/assistant coaches.  The team of you working together will be a memory that will last a lifetime.
The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation. This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.


0 Comments to First Stage Labor:

Comments RSS

Add a Comment

Your Name:
Email Address: (Required)
Make your text bigger, bold, italic and more with HTML tags. We'll show you how.
Post Comment
Website Builder provided by  Vistaprint