Ways to Cope in Active Labor

Officially, active labor is the phase of labor that begins when you’re dilated to 6cm, but most people know active labor by the way it feels. When you get to where you can no longer walk or talk through your contractions, chances are you’re in active labor. Ideally, you wait until active labor is established before being admitted to the hospital (if that’s where you plan to give birth), but most first-time parents arrive at the hospital prior to the start of active labor. No matter where you end up in active labor (often it’s some at home and some at the hospital or birth center), it helps to have coping strategies prepared. Below are 4 known ways to cope with the challenges of contractions during active labor.  

1. Get up and out of/off the bed/chair/couch. The challenge of intense contractions that happen during active labor instinctively encourage most people to stand up and move around. If you find that you’re having trouble coping with contractions and you’re sitting or laying, first thing to do is GET UP! Despite what you may have seen, laying in a bed during labor is the usually the most uncomfortable way to experience contractions. 

2. Get in the water — bath or shower. Water is one of the most soothing sensations/environment for people, and this is especially true when in labor! Get in a warm tub or stand with your back or belly toward the shower stream for relief and relaxation during active labor. 

3. Find a soothing repetitive movement. Often, this coping trick happens organically. People in labor may sway, rock, or move their hips in circles during a contraction. Movement is both soothing and a distraction. 

4. Look to your partner, doula, or loved one. If you have the privilege to do so, choose your birth support team with intention — invite people who will actively and positively support you emotionally, mentally, and physically. When the going gets more challenging, as it will in active labor, you’ll want someone to know how best to support and encourage you. 

It’s important to remember that no coping technique works forever. When a coping technique stops being effective, try something different. You may not immediately recognize when you need to switch things up, but if you’re experiencing an increasing sensation of pain or feeling overwhelmed or anxious with contractions, it’s probably a good indication. 

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