So you’re finally 37 weeks and your care provider says you’re in the clear to have your baby. So let’s get it moving, right? Spicy food, nipple stimulation, sex, walking, herbs, essential oils, moving furniture, acupressure...jumping jacks…right?
Well, not quite. The best guess is that your baby will probably come somewhere between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean that after 37 weeks your baby is just enjoying a free ride and putting on extra weight for you to push out later. Your baby is still doing important work in there.
I get it-you’re totally over it. Moving around is a hassle. People are constantly texting to see if you’ve had your baby yet and strangers are asking if you’re sure there’s only one in there. You’re ready to see what your baby looks like in color and to hold your baby in your arms.
Here’s the thing-first and foremost, your body needs to be labor sensitive to start the birth process. No amount of herbs, walking, nipple stimulation, or even medical interventions can do that for your body. It has to happen on its own. When you are trying to force your body to go into labor on your time frame, you can put yourself into “prodromal labor.”
Prodromal labor looks like contractions for hours without any progress. They may stop for a while and start again later, but never move forward into active labor. This can go on for days and even weeks. It’s really emotionally and physically exhausting. How do you plan for meals or childcare when you don’t even know what the next hour is going to bring? Can you meet for coffee with a friend next week? You don’t know (and maybe you secretly hope you can’t.)
If you go to the hospital with prodromal labor, you may be sent home or they may want to start you on pitocin. Again, if your body isn’t labor sensitive, even the pitocin may not be very effective and lead to another medical intervention and another and another...
But what we know is that individual babies take different amounts of time getting ready for birth. Some are ready to go before 37 weeks with no delays or complications. And some are ready long after.
We accept this after your baby is born. You wouldn’t be upset if your friend’s baby said his first word five weeks before your little one. It’s just the natural difference in development. You understand that most kids fall somewhere to the left or the right of the dot labeled “average” and that’s okay. But remember, the same goes for when your labor will start.
No one can predict exactly when you will become labor sensitive. And there’s no telling when your baby will initiate the birth process. (Yes, your BABY initiates the birth process.) When it does, herbs, essential oils, acupressure, nipple stimulation, positioning, and sex can be extremely effective. Before then, at best, they may not do much at all. At worst, they could land you in the no-woman’s land of prodromal labor.
But here are some things you CAN do while waiting:
Going for walks each day can help keep you in shape, give you something to do, and uses gravity to help baby move down so its head can engage with the cervix-which is important for dilation and effacement.
Spinning Babies is a collection of techniques can help you establish balance in your body to stay comfortable and encourage tight muscles and tendons to relax enough to make way for baby. They also encourage baby to be in the best position for labor (beyond head up or head down.) Some of the techniques can even be used during labor. Look for the exercises that can be done daily or weekly and do one or two on most days-no need to stress at the list of daily exercises.
The Miles Circuit
The Miles Circuit is an additional set of positions a mama can do as she gets closer to her due date. It takes 90 minutes, so it’s probably not a daily activity, but it’s a great technique to have practiced a few times late in pregnancy. If you suspect you’re in early labor or if you’re having prodromal labor, this may help baby change positions enough to nudge you into active labor or stop the prodromal labor (which could be your body’s way of trying to get your baby into a better position.)
Connect with your loved ones
We hear a lot about sex in the final weeks of pregnancy, but its about much more than the action. It’s about the connection. The release of oxytocin makes us feel happy and safe. We release oxytocin after sex, but only if it's sex where you feel connected to your partner. We also release oxytocin after any moment when we feel connected to a loved one. Hugs from your partner or snuggling with older kids might be enough.
Again, yoga can help with positioning, but what I really love about yoga is the bliss. When I’m in yoga classes, I feel strong and relaxed. When I was in week three of prodromal labor (yes, I have first hand experience), yoga was the first thing I had enjoyed in weeks. Stepping out of the stress of life and letting go is a wonderful gift to yourself anytime. If you’re not into yoga, find something that is deeply relaxing. You could also check out Float.
Come to a Belly Balancing Workshop
You and your partner will learn techniques that can be used before and during labor to relax tightness in your body and help baby shift. These shifts can help baby's head more fully engage with the cervix so when it's time for labor, your baby and your body are working together. We'll also show you some techniques for having a more comfortable labor. These sessions are available privately (just call or send an email) or see when our next group session is happening.
Those are my favorite activities for the last weeks of pregnancy, but you could do just about anything you enjoy. Favorite meals, time with friends, massage, listening to music, a great book. Can your nipples be touched? Sure. Just as long as it’s for fun.
What did you do during your last days and weeks of pregnancy?