By the last weeks of the pregnancy, labor happens as the last hurdle of a woman’s journey. This should typically happen on the woman’s 40th week of pregnancy. It is most noticeable due to signals of labor pains. Although there are some who do not experience pain at all.
This can take hours or even days. Due to the painstaking process, you would probably wonder if there are ways to speed up the process. More than that, you will most likely be very excited to finally meet your baby.
In fact, there are ways to do this properly. To know how this can be done, it is best to understand more about labor and dilation.
Introduction to Labor and Dilation
Labor is the process that happens when the fetus finally leaves the mother’s uterus. This process is what causes the painful contractions which will eventually lead to childbirth. It typically happens three weeks before or two weeks after the mentioned due date by the doctor.
Labor can vary differently from woman to woman. Others experience intense signs of pain while some do not experience it all. This is typical and it really does vary depending on the hormone levels your body will produce.
However, in general, the telling signs of labor would be lightening wherein the woman would feel the need to urinate from time to time, a discharged mucus plug which could appear clear or pink even days before active labor, labor contractions and pain in the lower back and abdomen, the water breaking, and dilation.
Dilation is when your cervix begins to open up in order for the baby to pass through the birth canal. Dilation happens in different stages of labor but most intensely in the first stage, active phase. The rate of dilation varies from woman to woman. Dilation begins at 1 cm and can happen even days before the due date. At 10 cm, a woman is already considered fully dilated.
Stages of Labor
Labor happens in three stages. As mentioned, women experience each stage differently and at various rates. Others only take hours to go through all the stages while others take days. Some would feel intense pain while some will not feel any pain at all.
The first stage of labor is further divided into three phases: early labor, active labor, and transition. In this stage, dilation happens from start to full dilation. Active labor is where it happens the longest with 3 cm to 7 cm of dilation.
Due to intense hormonal changes in the body, each phase is characterized by various moods and pain. It is recommended that during this phase, you should try your hard to relax.
The second stage is where child delivery takes place as the cervix has been fully dilated. However, labor does not end with childbirth since there are still contractions happening after the baby is out. This is what happens during the final stage.
On the final stage, the doctor will deliver your placenta as it is being separated with your uterine wall. This is commonly called the afterbirth.
How Long is a Normal Labor?
For first time mothers, you might be wondering what is the normal or ideal length of labor. Thing is, it actually differs when you have already experienced childbirth before. It takes longer for first time mothers to go through the stages more than the others.
First time mothers, in general, experience active labor for more or less 8 hours. Others experience far longer than that, however, even as long as 18 hours. Child delivery, on the other hand, can take for as long as 2 hours.
For mothers who have had a child before, labor will be faster with around 5 hours to 12 hours of active labor and child delivery lasts no longer than 1 hour. Others have even experienced pushing for only around 10 minutes.
There might be some instances where the doctor would recommend and initiate an induced labor. Inducing labor would mean producing oxytocin which is the hormone responsible for triggering labor.
One common reason as to why doctors resort to this option is the mother has an existing illness or the baby’s delivery is overdue. These two pose a serious harm to the health of both the mother and the baby thus induced labor is performed.
There are those who prefer induced labor for non-medical reasons such as convenience, but this is still a topic of debate among doctors and is not recommended at all.
Various medical and natural ways are performed to properly induce labor. This commonly involves hormone injection or medically breaking the water. Others perform nipple stimulation and eating certain kinds of food.
Why is My Labor Slow?
A slow labor is also commonly termed as a prolonged labor. This happens when the labor exceeds its average or ideal length. Labor that lasts for more than 20 hours for first time mothers and more than 14 hours for experienced mothers is already considered a prolonged labor.
There are numerous reasons why a woman’s labor is slow. This includes factors both from the mother and the baby. The mother’s uterus, pelvis, cervix, and contractions have a huge part in the length of labor. The baby’s position can also greatly affect this.
Ways to Dilate Faster During Labor
Whether you experience a prolonged labor or you just want to really get over with the pain and waiting, there are a handful of helpful ways in making you dilate faster. Here is a list of ways to make labor faster and easier for both you and your baby. These are either natural or medical methods and some can be done prior to labor.
Medical and Mechanical Ways to Dilate Faster
Your doctor might recommend medical options in speeding up your dilation and there is no doubt that he/she knows what is better and appropriate for your situation. To know your options and to understand how each of these will work and react to your body, here are the most common medical ways in speeding up dilation.
Misoprostol comes in options taken both orally and vaginally. However, a conducted study found that Vaginal Misoprostol is the most common and effective of all options in cervical ripening and labor induction. It is a form of prostaglandin and it induces oxytocin which helps in softening your cervix to initiate childbirth.
Doses are usually given hours apart while monitoring the baby’s heartbeat. It is taken as needed until the cervix has finally fully dilated for childbirth. Not to fret because Misoprostol is known as generally safe provided it is taken with the doctor’s discretion. It is also a relatively inexpensive option.
Dinoprostone is another form of prostaglandin and produces the same effect of the hormone oxytocin. It can be inserted vaginally or through a gel squirted high in the cervix. Multiple doses may be needed and administered by your doctor to fully realize its effects.
Taking Dinoprostone might be harmful if you have allergies. Make sure your doctor knows about your allergic information as well as medical history. It is also better to make him/her know if you are currently taking any medications and vitamins.
Unlike the two prostaglandins mentioned, Hyaluronidase is an enzyme coming from bovine testes. Taking it has been proven to reduce labor length at an average of 2 hours. Other than that, other studies have found that using it has reduced the risk for cesarean sections.
Opting for Hyaluronidase would require injecting it to the cervix. This eventually softens the cervix making it ready for childbirth. Due to its effectivity in softening the cervix, it is the most common option for patients who have not dilated at all.
4. Intravenous Medicine
Oxytocin can be given directly to your body through Intravenous Medicine injected into your veins. This will start off with a small amount and should run through your body at a steady rate. With the doctor’s discretion, the dose may be increased.
The direct application of the hormone would result to stronger contractions. Pain will be felt more than usual. The intense contractions might also be disturbing for the baby. Doctors are then required to monitor the heart rate from time to time.
Note that IV Medicine cannot be performed if the baby lacks oxygen or food from the placenta.
5. Foley Balloon Catheter
This option is ideal for those who do not want to take or cannot have medications. The Foley Balloon Catheter is completely mechanical but still needs to be administered by the doctor.
The balloon part of the catheter, while it’s deflated, will be inserted into the uterus. To be able to determine if this is placed properly, the doctor will either feel it with his/her hands or run a speculum exam.
Once inside, the balloon will be inflated with saline solution. Doing so will cause the cervix to open and eventually increase and speed up your dilation. This method is also useful for kick-starting labor or breaking the water.
Due to the mechanical nature of the method, there are far fewer risks both for the mother and the baby. It lowers the risk for cesarean and it has also proven to show a good track record among mothers who have experienced using it.
6. Laminaria Tent
Somewhat unknown but an equally effective way to speed up dilation is the use of Laminaria Tent. Laminaria is a form of seaweed that absorbs water. Once the doctor inserts the Laminaria Tent in the cervix, it will begin to absorb the amniotic water and then expand. This expansion is helpful in opening the cervix.
Laminaria Tents are proven to be safe and as effective as any form of medical and mechanical ways to induce labor.
Natural Ways to Dilate Faster
There are, on the other hand, natural ways to help you dilate faster. These methods can either be done while on labor or even before labor begins. These are proven to not only make labor faster but as well as make it more manageable and less painful.
Some women do not want to risk any side effects from medications, aren’t allowed take the mentioned medical methods, or just prefer natural methods over medical methods. In that case, these are some of your options in naturally speeding up your dilation.
Exercising while pregnant and on labor may seem scary to some especially to first time mothers. However, this is actually recommended by most doctors as long as your body can handle it.
During pregnancy, there are various exercises you can follow that are very beneficial when your labor comes. Prenatal Yoga, for instance, is recently becoming known to mothers. This certain type of Yoga provides modified moves and poses for you to easily and safely follow. It is said that these help not only your physical condition but mental condition as well.
During labor, there are moves and poses you can try to follow to speed up dilation. These are of course done with the supervision of your doctor/midwife. Walking is one of them. Other exercises include squatting, pelvic rocks, and butterflies.
Listen to your body and determine if you are capable of doing the poses. Do not try hard if it seems painful. Always have someone guide and watch you while doing these.
2. Birth Balls
A birth ball, or commonly known as fitness ball, is known as an equipment for working out. However, it is absolutely useful even during labor and pregnancy. Investing in one would be a smart choice.
There are different ways to use birth balls while in labor. The common position is to sit in front of the ball, rest your head and your belly against it while your legs are in a squatting position wide apart. While on this position, you can gently rock back and forth and side to side. This method targets the spine and the pelvic area to become comfortable.
If you still got the energy to stand up, place the ball on a bed or table and lean forward against it. Have someone massage your back for added comfort. You can also try to lean your whole body onto it on all fours and gently bounce it.
Walking helps in both dilation and labor pains. When you walk, uterine contractions become stimulated and the cervix becomes pressured. This pressure in the cervix causes it to dilate. While walking, the baby also benefits as it makes them prepared to go deep through the birth canal.
To be safe, walk in a pace that you are comfortable with. Have someone walk with you for guide and support. Once your water breaks, immediately notify your doctor and let him/her decide if you are still allowed to walk.
4. Warm Bath / Shower
A warm bath is said to help in making your dilation faster. This is because the warm water eases up any tension in your muscles which is found helpful in child delivery. Warm showers are proven to be hygienic while giving birth. But more than that, it is also helpful in reducing pain during the first stage of labor.
Warm bath/shower is basically free, easy to do, and has no risk of side effects. There is no harm in trying it while going through labor. As always, of course, ask for your doctor’s opinion.
5. Nipple Stimulation
As mentioned, in order to induce labor, the hormone oxytocin is needed and is helpful in triggering it. Nipple stimulation has been a topic of debate among practitioners. Thing is, the method only works and is only applicable to certain situations.
Nipple stimulation can only be done if you are only ready for labor and you’ve had no complications throughout your pregnancy. It’s not a way to start labor but to intensify the contractions which is further helpful in dilation. But nipple stimulation can take a long time to perform compared to other methods.
During the nipple stimulation, the body reacts in a way that it assumes you are suckling your baby. When this happens, it sends signals to your uterus and it will start its contractions. Due to intense contractions, there are cases that too much of the method might disturb and be harmful to the baby.
With the doctor or your midwife’s guidance, perform the method by massaging your whole nipple with the palm of your hands in circular motions. You can do this simultaneously or alternately.
Acupressure is an old method of relieving pain and illnesses through determining external points of the body connected to certain internal parts of the body. This tradition originates from China and is another form of acupuncture. However, in acupressure, the fingers are used instead of needle.
There is an increase in practice of acupressure among mothers and midwives. Many have been debating whether the practice is effective or not. Acupressure is, in fact effective, but only proven on one pressure point.
The certain pressure point that showed a result in the effectiveness of labor induction is the SP6 Acupuncture Point. Commonly known as San Yin Jiao, the pressure point is known to relieve urological, pelvic, and menstrual pains as it directly targets the uterus. This point is located above the ankle about 4 fingers in height apart.
Studies have shown that the pressure point was effective in both reducing the length of labor and reducing its pain. This is most effective in stages 1 and 2 of the labor. All the other pressure points that are said to make dilation faster have no research nor proof yet.
Skip on These Methods
Labor is hard, long, and painful and mothers would do anything to make it easier for both her and her baby. Due to this, many have come up with ways of making this easier. However, these seem to have no enough proof to support effectiveness. Here are some of the methods you can definitely skip on.
1. Raspberry Tea
Some accounts say that ingesting the leaf or drinking its tea helps in their pregnancy and eventual labor. However, studies show that there really is no significant difference in the length of labor and the pain it provides.
Raspberry tea is also not recommended to women who have suffered complications during pregnancy or have a history of serious medical illnesses. Save the time and the hassle and skip on this method altogether.
Some claims have mentioned that sex produces oxytocin and that semen contains prostaglandin. Much like nipple stimulation, sex also has a huge reaction on uterus contractions. However, even with these scientific components present, there really is no evidence that sex is helpful in inducing labor or in making it faster.
Although sex is generally safe while pregnant, once your water has broken contact with bodily fluids can pose infections. Partners also found this method rather uncomfortable.
3. Castor Oil
Castor oil is, in fact, effective in providing contractions and uterus reactions. This is because the essential oil is most known for causing diarrhea which stimulates the intestines and the colon. These two are located just behind the uterus which in turn affects in labor contractions.
However, doctors are keen in skipping the method altogether because it’s not worth the try what with the side effects castor oil provides. Aside from unpredictable diarrhea, the oil also produces nausea and muscle cramps.
A woman’s pregnancy is a precious journey for families and most especially for the mother. Thus, ensuring its proper delivery is a priority. Labor as the pregnancy’s final stage is also the most critical. Not only is it painful it is also very exhausting.
You always have the option of making your labor fast and easy for you. This article made mention of medical and natural methods in doing so. Not to fret because these are all proven to show effectivity and safety. There are also some identified methods that may pose harm or are not effective at all. It is suggested to skip these methods.
In doing these, always remember to take the opinion of your doctor or midwife as they know your conditions better.