5 Tips for Surviving a Long Labour

St Albert doula

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, I hope you’ll have realized by now just how unpredictable birth is. Regardless of how your pregnancy has been so far, or how your mom birthed, birth will take place whenever and however it must! I’ve covered the side about rapid birth in my Precipitous Birth post, so now I want to write about the opposite scenario: long labours. I find that long labours are more common among my clients than quick ones are, likely because they are usually first-time moms, and taking off my Edmonton doula hat and putting on my mom hat, I have personal experience with long labours as well.

So what do you do to prevent having a long labour? Well, other than a few things that could possibly help, theres just too many factors at play to completely avoid having a long labour. However, many women have had vaginal, intervention-free and positive births after labouring for what feels like forever. Here are some tips if you find yourself (especially without a doula in Edmonton) in a long labour:

1. Ask yourself, where is baby?

Optimal Fetal Position is becoming more and more prevalent in the birth world as experiences and evidence moves forward. In layman’s terms, how your baby is positioned in your womb matters. That being said, us Edmonton doulas want you to know that it doesn’t mean the birth will all go to hell in a hand basket if baby is not optimally positioned! The most important thing is knowing how baby is positioned and taking steps to enhance that. The most ideal position for your baby is with them engaged in your pelvis and facing towards your spine (anterior or OA). In this position, contractions will likely (but not always) progress smoothly, you’ll feel a lot of pressure down low that will build and build, and you won’t feel a lot of kicks in the very front of your tummy. If you notice these signs, then follow your body and do what feels right. There are tons of other positions baby could be in, but a less ideal one that can be in is posterior or OP. In this position you may have a labour that stops and starts often, you may feel instant back pressure that can be quite painful, you may feel tons of kicks right in the front of your tummy and you may feel that baby is still quite high up. If you find yourself in a situation with any of these symptoms, head on over to www.spinningbabies.com and troubleshoot with some of their awesome positions to help you feel more comfortable.


If you’ve ever had a baby and hired a doula in Edmonton, you were probably told when you first stared labour to get to bed and sleep. Easier said than done, right? While I know first hand how impossible it may seem to sleep at an exciting time like this, it is simply a must! First of all, you’ll need lots of energy for the parts of labour where sleep is actually impossible… and especially if you’re labour ends up being quite long. Second, sleep can really help you forget that you’re in labour which is actually what you’re going for at this point. Might sound silly, but the saying is true – a watched pot never boils! You’ll end up driving yourself crazy if you watch your early part of labour like a hawk, so get. to. bed.

3. Clear the air with your thoughts

Prodomal labour is a term that refers to labour that starts slow but drags on for days and sometimes weeks without any progress. I don’t know about you, but that sounds to me like my own personal form of hell… I’m way too impatient to want to deal with that long of a wait! While no one has really found a specific reason as so why prodomal labour happens, many Edmonton doulas (myself included) have a hunch that maybe it is a mental blockage thats preventing things from getting any further. Our bodies have a unique way of blocking oxytocin from being released from the brain at certain times (I dive into this more in my Stages of Labour post) and this is because of our fear or stress-induced fight or flight response. So if you are freaked out by the thought of pushing a baby out, or you’re nervous about the contractions getting stronger, or even if baby coming right at this moment is bad timing with other life events or children that need attending to, this can ALL slow down our labour, stop it completely or prevent it from progressing any further. My best advice for this? Tap into your psyche. Try journaling or scheduling a meeting with your doula to get these feelings out through conversation. Take some time for yourself at a float or a walk or a bath while listening to music. Anything to keep those hormonal responses to fear or stress at bay is crucial to see some progress begin.

4. The Gate Control Theory is your best friend

Never heard of the Gate Control Theory? Let me give you a quick explaination: this theory says that there is a gate located in your brain that lets in a limited amount of nerve signals to your senses at a time. Therefore, if we flood this gate with pleasurable signals, we’ll prevent from having too many painful signals getting through and therefore perceive pain with less intensity. There are tons of ways to stimulate with pleasure signals and you can really get creative with this one! I’ve seen simple things like hair combing, eating something sweet (Tim Hortons chocolate chip muffin, oh yea) and taking a bath work, and there are higher levels like sterile water injections and using a TENS machine that work well too. Think pleasure sensations and the possibilities are endless!

5. If you’re birthing in the hospital, know when to go

For some of us, going to the hospital too early will literally ruin your labour. Crazy, I know! Reason being: if you feel uncomfortable, stressed or unsafe in your environment, the oxytocin can’t flow optimally. Some are quite comfortable and maybe even prefer being in the hospital but I know for many of my clients as an Edmonton doula, and even for myself, things like the smells, the beeping, the harsh lighting, etc. really hinder my ability to keep calm. The great news is if you are hiring a doula in Edmonton they will know when a good time would be to head in. In my opinion, the best case scenario is you are only in the hospital for a few hours before pushing, and your spending the rest of your time at home before you head in relaxing, being intimate with your partner and getting ready for your little one’s arrival home.

How long was your labour? I’d love to hear your stories about getting through the long journey of birth, use the comments section below!

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