Your due date has come and gone. Why haven’t you had your baby yet? You have waited forty weeks to meet your little one and now time seems to be crawling by, especially if you have been having bouts of contractions that seem to be strong, but then just fizzle out.
You may have been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, described as a tightening sensation, for some time but now may be experiencing much stronger contractions, perhaps even with some back pain. Don’t be discouraged. These contractions, although not turning into full labor, are helping tone your uterus and soften your cervix.
As much as we’d like them to be – especially as we get closer to the end of our pregnancies – due dates are not set in stone. They’re guidelines. I saw an article recently where the due date was more correctly referred to as a “guess date.” Babies come on their own schedule. It is very common for babies to come after their due date, particularly first babies, and it’s not uncommon for subsequent babies, too. Babies are free of all the time constraints that we impose on ourselves. They aren’t familiar with calendars nor do they know they need to hurry because grandma is coming into town to help out.
So what now? How do you get through these last days?
Firstly, let’s consider whether or not your baby is ready to make the journey into the world.
Ask your OB or midwife what position your baby is in. Ask for more information than ‘Is the baby’s head down?’ Ask where the baby’s back is. The optimal position for labor and birth is head down with baby’s back facing the front left of your belly. This is called Left Occiput Anterior or LOA. If the baby is not in optimal position this may prolong early labor and produce a stop-start contraction pattern. I cover this in my childbirth classes and you can read more about positioning and find out how to encourage a change in position at Spinning Babies and also The Miles Circuit.
Be honest with yourself
Do you have any fears that may be preventing labor from starting? Is there something that is holding you back? What are you worried about? Try to talk this through with your care provider, doula or partner. While voicing and sharing a fear may not make it go away, it can put it into perspective.
The role of hormones: oxytocin vs adrenaline
Hormones, of course, are an essential factor. Oxytocin – the love hormone – is produced throughout pregnancy by the brain’s pituitary gland, but starts to increase as labor starts. While it is not known exactly what triggers labor, one theory is that the baby also releases oxytocin, which in turn activates an increase in oxytocin by the mother and the start of labor. Oxytocin is released by a positive-feedback cycle: the production of oxytocin produces more oxytocin, which produces more, and so it goes, increasing throughout labor. However, when adrenaline – the stress hormone – is released, it counteracts oxytocin and production stops. So considering this, to be in the right place for labor to start you have to be relaxed and happy.
Read part II – Natural ways to encourage labor to start.