Top 5 Tips to Cope and Prepare for Labor

Top 5 Tips to Cope and Prepare for Labor


A majority of people think of labor as a huge rush and whirlwind. Thank you, movies and media! Although labor can unfold in this way, it is more often a slow process! Labor for a first-time parent on average is 30 hours. Don’t worry, it’s not 30 hours of intensity and coping, it’s typically many hours of ignoring, resting, staying nourished, and distracting before it gets to the coping stage. 


Most doctors will tell their patients to stay home until contractions are 5 minutes apart, last a minute each, and for 1-2 hours, this is 5-1-1.

4-1-1 or 3-1-1

Most midwives will tell their patients that they can stay home until contractions are 3-4 minutes apart lasting a minute each and for 1-2 hours. 

What this means is MOST of your labor will be at home (in most cases)! After supporting thousands of families through labor as a birth doula, childbirth educator and doula agency owner, I have learned that the better a family copes in early labor, the more manageable their birth will be.

Here are my top 5 tips for coping and preparing for labor:

  1. Do not wear yourself out! If you spend all of early labor walking, doing stairs and trying to get things going, by the time you need to cope for comfort you will be far too tired to move and your only option will be an epidural. Early labor is a great time to relax, rest and sleep.
  2. Stay nourished! Spend early labor eating healthy foods that are high in protein. You will need to be sustained and have energy to cope.
  3. Stay hydrated! It seems so simple, but I promise you it will make a HUGE impact on the intensity of the contractions and how you feel. Both you and your baby will do better if you stay hydrated.
  4. Time contractions periodically but do not make this your focus! There are plenty of free apps to track contractions, but keeping a general idea of how far apart contractions are will be the most helpful. Contractions often start to spread apart, maybe even 15-20 minutes apart, and will slowly get closer. It’s better to focus on resting, eating and stay hydrated in early labor.
  5. Simple coping methods will go a long way in early labor! The best ways to cope in early labor include ignoring or distracting yourself, taking a bath or shower, cuddling and spending time with your partner, cooking, etc. For example, ignoring or distracting yourself can mean watching a movie, napping, eating, talking to your partner, etc. Focus on bigger coping techniques only when you absolutely need to! This may be when you are entering active labor and contractions are 4-5 minutes apart. Active labor means active coping!

Go about your day & night

Once you realize that most of labor is manageable and not too intense, it doesn’t feel as daunting. Remember to go about your day or your night as long as you possibly can and stay home as long as possible. Being in your own space will be the most helpful in getting labor moving!

Blog written by Anna Rodney, owner and founder of Chicago Family Doulas and Birth & Baby University. She is a leader in the perinatal field and a trusted resource for expecting families and perinatal professionals.

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