Monday, August 15, 2011

Hoping for a Fast Labor? Think again!


There is a list I give out in Class 8 titled "Variations of Labor" and we spend the entire class discussing this list.  Some of the things listed include Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM), Breech, Failure to Progress, etc.  Also on this list is "Fast Labor".  I always start out this class by telling everyone they will have something from this list, but you don't get to pick which one it'll be.  There's always someone in the room that shouts out, "I get the fast labor!" to which everyone laughs and they fight over who gets that one!

My friend, Janet, who I referred to in last weeks post, had a very fast labor with her 2nd baby -- 3 hours to be exact -- and she received so many comments along the lines of, "Well, if my labor was that fast, I could do it without drugs too!"  Comments like that total negate the incredibly hard work she did in those turbulent 3 hours.

Now, if you had a very long labor, I know we aren't getting any sympathy from you!  It's great if there is a balance between fast and hard and long and slow.  While there are things that will sometimes work to speed things up or slow things down, we still don't get to choose.

I don't know how many times I've heard, "Who cares how the baby gets here as long as they are healthy."   We just want labor to be as fast as possible so we can get it over with. 

Any time a mom is dilating quickly, contractions are right on top of another.  She gets very little break, if any.  Now, hindsight is always 20/20.  A mom having a fast labor doesn't know she's having a fast labor -  especially if her last labor was 30 hours.  She's thinking "I can't do this for 28 more hours!" 

Some of you have had a fast labor and you know it was out of your control.  It was like a roller coaster ride that you couldn't get off of and just had to hang on until the end.   When you get off the ride, it's all a blur -- the racing heart, the just wanting it to be over, the nausea, the fear.  Generally, when women have a baby super fast, they just can't believe it when it's over, also a blur.  Most of them will say that they wish it had been longer and they got to enjoy their labor more, to use some of the techniques they learned in class.  They missed out on enjoying the "putsy-putsy" stage, as Dr. Bradley called it, with their spouse.   The processing of a fast labor is unique.

It's hard to explain to a woman about to start labor all the reasons not to hope for a fast labor.  I've seen women hope for a slower labor, only to have a fast one!  Since you don't get to choose the pace of your labor, I don't want to scare anyone, I just am hoping to help some moms to see that maybe a fast labor isn't all that it's chalked up to be.  Let's show some respect to those that had super fast labors.  They were hard and intense. 

A side note about fast labors:  Mom is more likely to tear when the labor is fast because she doesn't have as much time to stretch.  This is also more common with smaller babies that have a tendency to shoot through the birth canal.  Big babies and longer labors ain't so bad after all, my friends.

Some quick tips if you are having a fast labor:

Labor on your hands and knees.  This takes the baby's head off your cervix and may help slow things down a bit.  

Get in the water.  Even if it doesn't slow contractions down, they will at least feel different and more tolerable in water than on land. 

If the baby is coming through the birth canal fast, lie on your side.  It lessens the tension on the perineum and makes you less likely to tear.  

Enjoy that labor.  It belongs to you and your baby.  You only get to experience it once.  Don't wish it away by hoping it goes by super fast. 

I have to end this post with the same picture I opened with, simply because it totally makes me laugh.  Labor is a roller coaster ride.  Embrace the thrill!


Still laughing...

17 comments:

renee said...

i completly agree,i have extreamly fast labours(under 30min start til end)due to that i have alot of blood loss,go into shock and go in and out of conciousness,never made it to a hospital and my babies had horible injuries!i have done it 3 times at home,the 4th was a cord prolapse 2mnths early,thats another horror story..yet people tel me how easy i have it and that i ddnt even have a labour,it hurts as they have no idea what they are talking about!

Shannon said...

After having a 27 hour labor and a 1/12 hour labor that ended with my water breaking on the way to the hospital and a very fast delivery, I would like to say both were equally hard! 27 hours was exhausting, no sleep, hours of walking and slow progression. With my fast labor I felt out of control, and I was the crazy screaming lady that you see in movies for a few minutes because my body did not have time to adjust to the intensity that was my labor after my water broke. I cannot tell you which I would choose if I had to do it again. I would hope for something in between I think. Fast labors are not any easier!

reena31 said...

Good insights. My first labor had a long putsy stage (20 hours), but things took off quickly after that: like going from 10 mph to 80 mph in 2 contractions. Baby arrived 3 hours later after only about 20 min. of pushing. Not what I expected with my first. Baby was just under 6 lbs and "shot out" so fast I did tear a lot. My last baby was quite a bit bigger (8 lbs), and I chose to birth her on my side. Guess what? Barely a skid mark. As you suggest it can sometimes be "easier" in the long run to birth a larger baby.

~Aimee~ said...

Thank you! This was my favorite part: "so many comments along the lines of, "Well, if my labor was that fast, I could do it without drugs too!" Comments like that total negate the incredibly hard work she did in those turbulent 3 hours." My last two births have been weeks (6-8 weeks) of 'early labor' with contractions all day and night, dilating early, then a short, intense active labor (2 hours and 1 hr 15 mins). Neither time did I realize how fast the labor was going, and I definitely had the thoughts of "I can't do this for many hours!" I was running on instinct, could barely use any of the typical comfort measures to help with the labor, and I mostly just got mad that it hurt so bad. Another thing with short labors, is that you don't get the benefit of the endorphin build up either, so it just freaking hurts until the baby comes out. Labor, no matter if it's slow or fast, is hard work!

Claire Coleman said...

I remember you saying this in class and I not getting it at the time. After Anson I totally agree! I have fast labors and the 2nd time wanting to go natural/no pain meds I was prepared, or so I thought. But the thing is it happens so fast that you don't have time to mentally prepare yourself for the different stages. I freaked out b/c of this and forgot how to breath, relax and everything else. So now I can definitely understand why you say you might not want a fast labor. So thanks for this post and thanks for the suggestions of what to do during a fast labor. Next time I'll use those for sure!!!

RoseRed said...

My labor was four hours total and I remember very clearly thinking, "Oh my God, I can't do this for 12-18 hours". I had no idea then how quick the whole thing was going to fly by. My fear now is if the 1st labor is the longest, do I dare get in a car to go anywhere when I get within a month of my due date with the next one?

ashley said...

Thank you! I have had three fast, unmedicated births and people always say how lucky I am. My first was 5 hours, second was 3 and my third baby was crazy!! I went from 3 cm to delivery in 1.5 hours! There were moments when I swear I was hallucinating from the contractions :) So many people tell me how jealous they are but I don't think they realize how intense it can be when you take what they experienced over 20+ hours and cram it into 1,2 or 3 hours.

Sara said...

Thanks for this list- my first birth was 5 hours first contraction to birth, but honestly it wasn't that hard! I still don't know how that happened, but I went from 3 hours of mild contractions 6 minutes apart, to powerful contractions 2 minutes apart instantly. 20 minutes later I was pushing, and we barely made it to the hospital.
For me, the hardest part of the birth was adjusting to NOT being pregnant after she was born. I didn't really believe that I was in labor until 1 hour before she was born, so it was very hard to grasp that she was here and the experience that I had worked up to for 9 months was...over.
I am 10 weeks pregnant with our second, and I'm worried about how fast this birth will go. My husband wants to go to the birth center, but I am concerned that we won't make it! Thanks for the suggestions on how to slow down labor and minimize tearing :)

M. Schlansker said...

I had fast labors with both of my two (6 hours and 4 hours) and lots of people/friends made the comment about "if my labor was fast I wouldn't have needed drugs either" it would infuriate me. Every labor has its pros and cons I suppose.

Joyful713 said...

I had two fast deliveries (4 1/2 and 3 hours). I had taken Bradley classes and planned to do it naturally (although I couldn't have had pain meds if I wanted to since they went so fast!). Both were definitely intense. My 3 hour labor was particularly stressful because we almost didn't make it to the hospital in time and I felt the need to push in the car. Also, laboring through transition and times of intense pain is not comfortable and it was difficult to put into practice what I had learned in class as my husband is whipping around round-a-bouts trying to get to the hospital in time! And I so relate to the comment "well, if my labor was that fast I wouldn't need drugs either!" I've gotten that a bit.

luckylass319 said...

i loved my three hour labor (as much as you can love labor lol) It was intense, but I knew what was going on and had no tearing or hemorrhaging. Maybe this was because I always have contractions for three weeks before my real labor starts...don't know. But I've always read that in very healthy cultures, women have pretty quick childbirths and great recoveries. I was reading on an Alaskan doctor who wanted to see an native Inuit birth because the women bounced back so quickly...but he could never make it in time!

Sarah said...

I love this post. I have one child and I went from not feeling a single contraction to holding her in my arms in four hours. My husband's in the Army and he said my delivery was worse than combat. I was scared and had no time to put any techniques into practice. And I even did hallucinate -- I was at a picnic with my friend's family and then wondered why the nurses were picking me up off the floor... It was so frightening and intense, and I too hate when people "envy" me for it.

The Fabulous Mrs.M said...

Thank you for posting this. My labor lasted 4hours start to finish.I barely remember it. While there is no "perfect" labor, I can say that I would have preferred longer (maybe not 50 hours). I have a close friend who puts down my birth experience because it was so quick. Like I did it to spite her. She constantly reminds me how lucky I was etc... For me laboring that quickly was scary and much like most things in birth and babies you can't prepare for it.

Crunchy_Conservative said...

Let me add my thanks for this article. Even when you do expect a fast labor (the run in my family), it's still frightening how intense it can be. My births were 5, 4 & 2-1/2 hours long. There were beautiful - truly three of the best experiences of my life - but there were also moments that were terrifying. I was literally holding onto my sanity by my fingernails, just trying to stay on top of the waves of contractions pouring over me. The last birth was especially intense - I went from 6 cm to holding baby in just 45 minutes. There was very little Bradley breathing, no massage, no cool cloths, and no HypnoBabies trance! I remember looking around afterwards and wondering what had just happened, was my birth actually over? It was very surreal.

I, too, get the comments about how "lucky" I am, how it's no wonder that I love birth, how they would have their babies at home too if they could just pop them out like I do. It's infuriating, and more than a little hurtful. It discounts everything that I went through when people imply that fast = easy (or that I should just be grateful that I had a vaginal birth rather than a c-section). Why do we women feel the need to compare everything about ourselves to each other? It's so nice when people can just hear birth stories without having to judge or compare them.

Crunchy_Conservative said...

Oh yeah, and that 2-1/2 hour labor? It was on my hands & knees, in the water, and the baby was 9lb 3oz. Nothing was slowing that girl down! (However, the water did make a big difference comfort-wise.)

Lindsay said...

My last baby was born after a very quick and scary birth, and I am now 34 weeks with my 4th. I am so terrified of another frightening ride! Other than the great suggestions you give, do you have any other advice? Maybe just to handle the fear? I am most afraid of damage to my "undercarriage" - it's already been through the wringer washer, ya know?

Kathryn said...

My fast labor (6 hrs) actually was "easy" -- at least compared to my first labor! Not to say it wasn't hard work. It was! The "easiness" didn't have much to do with the length. It was because this time it was ALL ME, BABY! Not a thing that wasn't my body and my baby working together. The only "intervention" was a single VE when I arrived at the birth center: 8cm. I couldn't believe it! I thought surely I had hours to go! I guess I should have recognized the signs (contractions right on top of each other, lots of sounding). It was awesome! Oh, and I spent practically the whole labor on my hands and knees, and the last hour in the water. 9lb 2oz, no tearing! I still feel like a rock star.

Because I feel like sharing:

My first was MY failure. I wanted natural but wasn't committed enough and didn't do enough research. In hindsight, I can see red flags that should have made me fire my OB, but I didn't even recognize them at the time. Long story short, my membranes were stripped at 40 weeks without my permission. That night, the contractions I'd been having every 10-15 minutes for weeks were suddenly 5 minutes apart, then 2-3 minutes, so went to hospital. Was only 1.5cm, ended up with pitocin, AROM, internal monitoring, amnioinfusion, oxygen, yadda yadda yadda, somehow birthed vaginally but with an episiotomy. I didn't give informed consent for ANYTHING AT ALL. I recognize that I failed and so I did it differently the next time!

I did do something right for that child, though: co-sleeping for over a year (and he still climbs in bed with me most nights) and still breastfeeding at 31 months.