How to Speed Up a Lengthy Labour

By Katie Roebuck

March 10, 2021

I am the mother of two children, an RN, Prenatal Educator, Lactation Counsellor, and Sleep Coach. My nursing career has been focused on Maternity and Obstetrics. I am based in the Niagara Region and I enjoy helping moms reach their goals with pregnancy and motherhood!

Labour is like running a marathon without the actual running part. Early labour which is from 0 to 4 cm dilated can take anywhere from 6 – 18 hours and active labour which is 4 – 5 cm dilated onwards can last on average 8 to 12 hours. So the last thing you want to do is get stuck where there’s minimal to no progress in your labour.  Speeding up a lengthy labour is helpful for a few reasons. One is your energy level – again imagine running at a slow pace for over 24hrs. If you can maybe cut that time down a bit, then you’ll have energy remaining at the end. Two is the longer your labour, the increase in possible risks such as postpartum haemorrhage or infection if your water has been broken for an extended period of time.

So how do you speed up a lengthy labour with techniques we know works?

GET MOVING

If you are able to, get up and move around. Pace around your house or your hospital room, or go for a walk outside. Standing, walking, dancing, and bouncing on a birth ball are all great ways to help things along. Going for a curb walk (one foot on the curb, one on the street) is a fun trick to keep things going. Gravity is your friend, especially in those early labour hours, and these positions will help your baby get into the right position which will in turn help you progress in labour.
You can also try the Miles Circuit. It’s a series of moves and positions that’s been shown to help get things moving in labour.
Movement can happen if you’re in the hospital and you have an epidural. Not many hospitals do ‘walking epidurals’ but you can ensure that you change your position every 30 – 60 minutes to help you progress in labour.

GET SOME RELIEF

Anyone with a chronic pain condition will tell you pain is exhausting both physically and mentally. Getting some pain relief can actually help you along. You can try getting in a bath if your water has not broken, or a shower. If you’re in the hospital you can talk about pain medications like laughing gas, narcotics, and an epidural.

BREATHE

Take a slow deep breath, then another. The intentional slow breath helps you stay relaxed and avoid tension in labour. There is a theory that your mouth and throat are connected to your pelvic floor. So if you’re holding your breath and keeping tension, your pelvic floor will be tight and in turn, can prevent dilation. Have your birth partner remind you to breath with every contraction.

PRIVATE TIME

Oxytocin is a labour hormone and is also the ‘love hormone’. If you’re looking for a natural way to stimulate oxytocin to strengthen contractions, you can talk to your partner about some nipple stimulation or even intercourse if you’re up for it and your water has not broken and there’s no bleeding. Just don’t do this one once you’re in the hospital!

CHECK-IN WITH YOURSELF

Are you tired? Dehydrated? Scared? The Psyche is one of the P’s needed for a successful vaginal birth. If a need isn’t being met it can be a potential cause for a slow labour, so satisfying that need by taking a nap, drinking water, or discussing your fears may help move things along.

MEDICAL INTERVENTION

Sometimes the only sure way to speed up a lengthy labour is medical intervention. There are a few options your doctor or midwife may discuss with you if you need to go this route. One is breaking your water if it hasn’t ruptured already. Breaking the water allows baby’s head to press on your cervix and the pressure will increase the strength of the contraction. Next is Intravenous Oxytocin which is the synthetic version of the labour hormones. This will help make your contractions stronger and bring them closer together and in turn help you progress. Finally is an epidural. I know it sounds counterintuitive because being up and mobile is so important, but if you’re exhausted and tired and are unable to relax into the labour process, and epidural may help and I’ve seen many many times in my career as a Labour and Delivery RN that an epidural can sometimes speed up your labour.

OTHER METHODS THAT MIGHT WORK

There are SO many tales out there of people doing this and eating that and it helped their labour. Below are a list of things that might help labour along, but haven’t been proven or fully studied. As always speak to your healthcare provider before trying any of these methods.

  • Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
  • Exercise
  • Spicy Foods
  • Dates
  • Acupuncture / Acupressure
  • Pineapple

What NOT to try

Caster Oil. From experience, just don’t try it because it’s not worth it!

What to know more about managing in labour and what to expect? Contact your local Mama Coach for a prenatal class!

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