Come on Baby!
Tips for Getting Through a Long Labour

You’ve probably heard many labour stories and will by now have realised that the duration can vary massively – from minutes to days! There’s no telling whether your baby will choose to make a quick entrance into the world or take its time over its grand debut. If you’re in it for the long haul, here are a few top tips for getting through:

1. Don’t focus on the clock
Ok, so this article is all about how long your labour may be… but during the event itself it’s best not to obsess over time. Long or short, it makes no difference to the end result! Don’t set yourself any time goals or focus on how many hours have passed because there’s very little you can do about how long it’s going to take. Instead, keep focused on what you’re there for – you’ll will have your baby in your arms soon enough (well, as soon as it’s ready!).

2. Stay at home as long as possible
If you rush to hospital as soon as you feel the first twinge and are only just starting your labour, you’re likely to be sent home again or else be in for a long and boring wait in hospital. Phone the midwife or triage nurse and ask their advice – if the contractions are still a long way apart and not too severe then it’s best to stay at home where you’re more relaxed and comfortable. Run a bath, watch TV, relax or even sleep if you can. Whatever you do, you’ll find it’s much easier to pass the time when you’re in familiar surroundings.

3. Go with the flow
You’ve got a birthing plan and you’ll try to stick to it as best you can – but if things don’t quite go as intended then don’t let it get you down. Your primary aim is to get baby out safely and into your arms, so relax (as much as possible!) and do whatever feels right in the situation. Getting stressed won’t help and the more agitated you are the longer it will feel like you’ve been going through it. Staying calm, listening to the midwives and going with the flow will not only help the time to pass, but it will be much better for you and baby too.

4. Keep moving
Of course we wouldn’t advocate a Zumba session or going for a run during labour, but moving around will not only make you feel more comfortable but time will go more quickly than it would if you just lie in bed. Moving can help labour to progress and keeps your muscles and joints flexible too. Whether you’re pacing the floor or gently rolling on a birthing ball, just keep moving!

5. Don’t focus on the pain
Yes, much easier said than done, but if you can distract yourself between contractions you won’t be clock-watching and waiting for the next time the pain’s going to hit. Don’t think about the pain or anticipate the next bout, just get through each contraction as best you can…each one is getting you a step closer to meeting your baby! The question of pain relief is always a big one – what do you want, what do you need, and when? There’s no easy answer except for, do what feels right for you. Take advice from the midwives and listen to your body. If you need help with the pain, ask for it. If you’re still relatively comfortable, then keep going. Every birthing experience is different, as is every individual’s pain threshold, so there are no rights or wrongs. TENS machines are good for the early stages, and twiddling with the buttons and knobs to get the electrical pulse at the right level is a good distraction too! Find out more about TENS machines and how they can help here.

6. Distractions
Although concentrating may be a bit difficult, finding something to distract yourself will really help the time to tick by. You probably won’t feel up to reading a novel, but flicking through a magazine or watching a light-hearted TV programme during the early stages of labour will help to keep your mind occupied. If you can’t focus on reading, or can’t stay still long enough to hold a magazine, you could ask your birthing partner to read to you instead, or play a game – they’re bound to be bored too!

7. Music
Put your favourite tunes on and immerse yourself in music. Whether your vibe’s rock, pop, hip hop or classical, just focus on your playlist to help you feel more relaxed.

8. Fuel up
If you’re in for a long haul you need to keep your energy levels up! While you won’t feel much like eating a meal, a few drinks and snacks will fuel your body during this long,arduous task. Try having a nibble every hour or so – crackers, fruit or cereal bars are ideal for providing slow-release energy to get you through to the end of your labour (whenever that may be!).

9. Stay cool
There are no two ways about it, giving birth requires a LOT of effort so you’re bound to get a bit hot and bothered. Keeping cool will help you to feel less het up and agitated throughout your labour and again, this is something your birthing partner can help with (well, they need a job!). Whether you use facial spritzes, fans or a good old fashioned cold flannel, keep your head, neck and pulse points cool to help a long labour feel just that little bit more comfortable.

10. Trust the professionals
It may be your first time, but the midwives, doulas, and doctors have seen and done this all hundreds of times before. Trust them, talk to them, ask their advice and take their reassurances. If you’re in labour for a long time you may see a few midwives come and go as shifts change, which can be disconcerting, but focus on the fact that they’re all caring, fully trained, experienced and there for you and baby. Who will be the lucky one to deliver the new arrival?

Whatever happens, remember that giving birth is a marathon not a sprint. You’ve waited nine long months, so what’s a few more hours! When you’ve got baby in your arms it will be worth every second of effort and the long, hard labour will soon be forgotten.

Did you endure a long labour? What are your top tips? Please share your experiences below:


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