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3 Tips to Help Labor Progress

We like to think when it’s time to have a baby, things just happen as they should. But in reality there are many road bumps and stalls in the labor process. I was reminded of this during my last labor, which was full of stops and starts.

As a doula, my job is to suggest ways to move labor along and help get things “unstuck”, while making the birthing person realize that  are completely normal. Here are a few of my suggestions for when labor stalls or you find your body has “paused” and dilation slows.

Get Moving
One of the best ways to get labor moving is to move yourself. Walking, rocking, and bouncing on a birth ball can all be helpful in labor progression. If you are in early labor and able to rest, that is always my first suggestion. But if you find yourself unable to rest, moving around is your best bet.

If you’ve hit active labor and find yourself stalled, getting up to walk (if you don’t have an epidural) can also be helpful. In the case that moving around isn’t particularly comfortable, or possible, the next tip will help.

Change Laboring Positions
So often I find that people get into one position that feels comfortable and don’t want to move, but when labor stalls and you’re trying to get it going again changing positions is a best bet.

Though I completely understand if my clients don’t want to move. So often the pain of contractions take you by surprise. Once you find a position that is even the tiniest bit comfortable, you may not want to move. However, position changes are really, really helpful. If you can muster the energy to move just a little bit—from seated to lying or standing, from one side to the other, from the bed to a birth ball—it can be a tremendous help.

If you’ve had an epidural, you may be able to shift from side to side using a peanut ball or sit the back of the bed up into a seated position. There are so many ways you can move!

Captain Morgan for Labor Progression
The “Captain Morgan” helps open up the pelvis. The offset stance can be particularly helpful if one side of the cervix is lagging in dilation. This move can be done with or without an epidural. See the video for demonstration of this pose.

When all else fails: take a beat, gather your thoughts, and talk to your partner.

It can be really frustrating and discouraging when labor stalls. Unless there is something urgent going on, the one thing you always have is time. Ask for a moment alone with your partner or provider to talk things out. Talk about how you’re feeling, hug it out, give it a good cry, then try something different.

Soaking in the bath, taking a nap, and walking the halls are great options for getting labor moving again. A good chat and cry can give you a second wind and motivation to keep going.

When labor stalled with Z-Bird (my third baby), the thing that helped the most was having a good cry with my husband and midwife. Vocalizing how much it sucked was what I needed to move past it and focus on the next step.

Labor stalls are completely normal. Rarely does labor start and progress linearly. It’s full of ups and downs, twists and turns, and unexpected blips. Know that the contractions will end and when you get there, the best gift is on the other side.

Cecilia Pearson
Cecilia Pearson


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