written by Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Shannon Vander Doelen
In medical terms, the first stage of labour is divided into two phases, the latent phase and the active stage. The latent stage begins as the cervix begins to open and contractions begin, although they may be very short and come at irregular intervals.
The active phase begins when the cervix is opened to 5 or 6 centimeters and contractions are about a minute long and are 4 or 5 minutes apart. Typically your doctor or midwife will recommend that you stay home until you have reached the active phase of labour.
While these definitions may be helpful to medical care providers, I don’t think they really have much meaning to the people who are giving birth. You will not know how dilated you are unless someone does an internal exam for you. And to be honest, your cervix can open beyond 5 centimeters without regular contractions or you can have what feels like very strong labour without being open that much. During my own three births, I never reached 5 centimeters dilation until just a couple of hours before I gave birth.
For most people, labour begins with contractions. At first they are usually pretty easy to manage, you may be able to talk through them and they will likely come every 10-20 minutes. This is a great time to do some nice relaxing things; sleep if you can, go for a walk or putter around the house.
As your labour progresses you will find that your contractions:
You can think of your contractions as a wave that you ride that is bringing your baby closer to you. Ideally you want to relax into each of these waves, allowing your body to do its work. The more relaxed you are, the easier the contractions will be to cope with. And remember, after every contraction you will have a rest.
It’s important to make good use of these rest times by breathing slowly and allowing yourself to be as relaxed as possible. This is a time that you will benefit from knowing some non-drug comfort measures. If you do not know any comfort measures, even this early labour can be difficult to manage and the contractions may feel quite painful. Birth is powerful, the physical sensations of birth are powerful and it is easy to become overwhelmed.
Once your contractions are one minute long and have been coming every four minutes for at least an hour, you can start heading to the hospital or call your midwife. This is just a rule of thumb of course, so if you feel that you should go in earlier, follow your own instincts. If you plan to have an epidural, some hospitals will want you to be at least 5cm dilated. Getting an epidural increases your risks of complications, especially if you get it early in labour.
At this point you will meet the medical definition of active labour, but there isn’t anything that will change in terms of how you feel.
Throughout active labour, your contractions will become stronger, longer and closer together as your body works hard to gradually open your cervix. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be for your cervix to open.
Once your cervix approaches 10 cm dilation, you will notice a change in the feeling of your contractions as your body gets ready to push your baby down through your vagina. It is not unusual to feel emotional at this point, even feeling that you can’t do it anymore, or that you want to leave. This is due to a surge in adrenaline that prepares your baby for the descent through your vagina. It can be reassuring to know that you will soon meet your baby!
It is not unusual for your body to take a rest at this point. If this happens to you, there’s no need to rush things. Ask for time. As long as you and your baby have good vital signs, take this opportunity to nap, or have something to eat. When there are no contractions, there is no stress on the baby. Your body will get things moving again once it senses that everything is ready for your baby to be born. Sometimes, you just need to rest to gather the energy for the next stage, or the baby may not be in the ideal position and the rest will give them a chance to move.
This is the end of active labour and is called transition, as your body prepares for the pushing stage.
Sweat, sculpt and stretch in our new 4 Week Body Tone Bootcamp.
Enjoy a 75 min full body workout that starts with an energizing bootcamp session led by Trainer Justine Keyserlingk and ends with a renewing yoga sequence led by Yoga Mamas' founder Jamie Kalynuik.
This class is for postnatal mamas. Come alone or bring your baby.
If you're looking for strengthening movement to tone your muscles, but also love the stretching and grounding of yoga - this 4 week series is for you!
MAY 13TH - JUNE 10TH
MONDAYS FROM 1:45PM - 3:00PM
NO CLASS ON MAY 20TH
Spring is on its way Mamas! The chilled air will soon give way to languid breezes and the frozen earth will soften as April showers encourage new growth. Springtime is a special season for Mama-to-be; as Mother Nature prepares to blossom with life, so too do you. This season is buzzing with anticipation, preparation, and eagerness as we emerge from the long winter months, and no one understands anticipation like an expectant Mama. This is a time of year when the beauty of nature holds a mirror to your life’s journey.
Today we’re offering a special spring meditation for Mamas—an inspiring visualization exercise to help you connect with Babe and harness the transformational power of the season. Not only are you preparing your Little One for life beyond the womb, but you are also blossoming into motherhood.
To get started, you’ll need to make yourself comfortable. Roll out your yoga mat in a quiet space. If the weather is nice, you might like to try this meditation outdoors. Have a light blanket, and a few pillows close by. Sit tall with your legs crossed; a pillow can be used to elevate your hips. The reading portion of this exercise will take about 5 minutes, but we encourage you to linger in meditation for as long as feels good to you. Feel free to lie down once the reading portion is complete, using your pillows and blanket to settle into complete ease for the duration of your meditation.
Take several deep breaths in and out. Let each breath greet your body with complete kindness. Welcome your body and mind into this moment. Here you are safe, supported, and at ease. (Pause) Let the next several breaths greet your Babe with love. Welcome your Babe into this moment with you. Within your body, Babe is safe, supported, and at ease.
You are sitting in a sprawling meadow surrounded by pale gold grass. The long months of winter are melting away. A soft breeze moves across the meadow and it sweeps through the grass like a gentle wave. You sit and listen to the whispering grass. The soft rush comes, and then goes. As you breath in and out you become as vast as the sprawling meadow. Your body feels spacious and free.
You place your hands on your growing belly. No one knows the many months of work you will do in preparation for Babe to be born, but Mother Nature understands. Within the sleeping ground life is stirring. You feel the potential of the earth beneath you and welcome the radical change of spring.
The sun is growing stronger. It warms your face, your neck, and your shoulders. The sun softens the ground in preparation for seedlings, saplings, and sprouts to push through. Leaning forward you plant your palms on the ground. Spring’s transformational energy travels through your hands into your body—a gift from your Mother. As you breath in and out you are connected to the rhythm of this season. Your body feels infinite and mighty.
All around you, the golden meadow begins to change. Fresh green seedlings begin to reach towards the sky. The sprawling meadow becomes lush and alive, filled with colourful flowers of every shape and size—yellow daisies on swaying stalks, delicate lily of the valley, and vibrant tulips of orange, purple, and pink. The air smells sweet and new. You hear the hum of bees and ladybugs dancing from bloom to bloom.
Take a deep breath in, and out. Everything in this place is filled with life. You are connected to everything around you, from the glowing sun above, to the rich soil below. Rest in this beautiful meadow. Lie down and continue to notice the sights, sounds, and smells for as long as you like. Your body feels peaceful and at ease.
When you are ready to wake up your mind and body bring your attention back to the space you are in. Wake up your muscles by opening and closing your hands, shrugging your shoulders, and wiggling your toes. Open your eyes and sit quietly for a moment. Remember that as a Mama-to-be the power of spring is within you! Throughout your journey to motherhood, you may notice how often nature is a reflection of your changing body. Connecting with the rhythm of the seasons is a way to live in harmony with Mother Nature, and trust in the wisdom of your own body.
For a fun and kid-friendly visualization exercise, try our Beach Meditation for Kids.
As the days heat up and schedules fill up, we encourage you to still make time to find your breath and take care of you. We asked Christine Russell, Essential Oil and Yoga expert, to share a cord cutting meditation to clear negative energy and to find peace in letting go.
Not sure what cord cutting means? It is used to serve as a way to remove negative attachments in your life. Do you feel as though something is draining the energy away from you? Is there something you are trying to let go of?
We are connected to everyone in our life and all our life’s experiences and it’s important to consciously cut ties to those that no longer support you.
Practice this 8-minute meditation when you want to cut the energy cords with something you are attached to or wanting to release.
Positivity can be cultivated in a number of ways, such as starting your morning off with a meditation, journaling, or taking time before bed to just enjoy a nice stretch and let go of the day.
If you're interested in learning more about how you can integrate wellness into each day, we invite you to join any of our educational wellness workshops at our studio this season. You will be inspired and walk away with key things you can do at home.