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Early Labor Tips

Today’s post is on what we’ll call… “when it’s not active labor… yet.”

Let’s talk.

One of the first signs labor is upon us is contractions. Contractions (or what we like to refer to as surges) can sometimes be confusing – even if it’s your fifth baby. Every single labor is different. Early labor might not be something you’re familiar with. Have you experienced it yet? Did your memory lump labor all into one space?

Undeniable labor is when those surges get longer, stronger and closer together. But it’s just not always as cut and dry as that though. Which is why we’re talking about early labor today.

In early labor, you may experience:

  • consistent period like cramps (no start or end to them)
  • inconsistent surges – some 5 minutes apart, some 20 minutes apart
  • surges that are typically shorter (45 seconds or less of contracting)
  • the ability to still talk through surges, and
  • the ability to still move about your day

They are annoying, but completely manageable.

Your body is preparing for baby.

Early labor is when your body is preparing for baby. Signs beyond surges include spotting (brown, pink or red when you wipe), loose pieces of your mucous plug (globby mucous sometimes tinged with blood), and loose bowels or feeling nauseas (coupled with surges). Note: Saturating a pad within the hour with blood or clots is not normal. You’ll want to connect with your provider STAT.

Our biggest recommendation for early labor is to REST.


We know that there is a potential for labor to continue for multiple days (look up the term “prodromal labor” to learn more); and caring for a newborn baby after not sleeping for a significant amount of time makes for a harder postpartum transition (both healing and mental health specifically).

The number one reason we see moms opt for pain meds when they weren’t initially planning to receive is not because of pain, it’s because they are exhausted. 

Our labors progress more normally when we are well rested.

We also make more sound decisions when we are rested, which leaves less room for regret.

You can prepare for this time in labor.

It’s true! You can prepare for early labor, which truly will gift you with greater ease on the road ahead. Here are some tips:

  1. Attend an OUT OF HOSPITAL childbirth education class. When we understand what is happening during each stage of labor, we can better prepare our minds, our environments and our bodies. These classes are geared towards all birth environments and not specific to hospital policy only.
  2. Think of early labor like an orgasm.  Yup, we said it. We say often, “watched pots don’t boil.”  Your labor will not get off the ground (i.e. progress) if you have a bunch of people watching, distracting or asking you questions… all which pull you from the primal space that is needed to move forward.
  3. Consider what early labor will look like (in light of this). Your Cherry Blossom Doula is available to answer questions and give suggestions but – we wait for you to communicate how labor is progressing because we don’t want to hinder this sensitive stage or make you feel that you should be performing in a certain way.
  4. Boost that oxytocin. Connecting with your partner can help you feel safe and get that oxytocin going! (Which will stimulate contractions.)  Kissing, snuggling, foreplay, orgasms, and intercourse are all great options if your bag of water is still intact.

One more tip: It’s normal to feel excited, anxious, and want to “do all the things” that you have learned in your classes.  Don’t you worry, that time will come soon enough. Right now, we actually want to forget everything. It’s not time to use that kind of energy.

On that note, we highly recommend taking a sleep aide that’s safe for pregnancy, herbs that can help calm your nerves like lavender, or even a glass of wine. A heating pad, hot shower or bath, dark room, guided meditations, music, or even diffusing essential oils can also be helpful. (Remember to always check with your provider for any recommendations you think you may want to use.)

Any of the above can help you rest in between surges, without shutting your labor off.

You will still continue to contract, you’ve just taken the edge off! And really, when you are less anxious, managing surges is way easier.

What to do when rest isn’t working.

Once resting is no longer an option, The Miles Circuit can ensure that baby is in the best possible position before labor progresses or in the very early stages.

More food for thought.

The questions we get around early vs. active labor are numerous. So, here’s our FAQ.

Q: What should I eat in early labor?

A: High carb, high protein foods!  Sustainable food that will fuel you 24 hours down the road.  Your uterus is a muscle that will be working hard through labor and needs support too! A hearty breakfast (think oats and congees), earthy soup, dates with almond butter – anything that sounds good, with the least amount of acidity! 

Q: What happens if surges don’t get closer together?

It serves no one to force a labor along when their body is telling us that it’s not time.

Sometimes we have contractions for reasons other than labor;

  • Dehydration. Make sure to drink at least oz of water and take an epsom salt bath
  • Baby is not in a good position. Our bodies are wise! Our uterus will contract to get baby into a better position.  A chiropractor can be really helpful in these situations, you can find our recommended providers here.
  • Overexertion. On your feet more than normal or pushed your bodies too far for the day? Your body will tells you by contracting at the end of the night. Just like in postpartum (when our bleeding will get heavier or we will start to bleed again if it had started tapering off when we’ve overdone it).
  • Normal labor prep. We see this more in moms pregnant with subsequent babies (and less in first time moms.) These are noticeable surges that can sometimes be uncomfortable, but they eventually stop and have no pattern. This can go on for months and is NORMAL. The benefit of all of this prep means that it’s helping baby get lower in the pelvis, softening the cervix and starting dilation…. All which take time off active labor itself.

Are you in early labor right now? Preparing for it? Boost your oxytocin levels either way and find someone to hug. This can feel like a stressful time! It can also be a joyful, beautiful, and easier experience when we do just a little bit to prepare (see our notes above).

Our biggest recommendation for you in early labor is to ignore it until you have to actively breathe, move and vocalize through your surges.

Questions for us? Have a tip we haven’t mentioned? It has been an honor to share this space with hundreds of women across Arizona who have trusted their bodies through the sacred transitions in bringing baby earth side. We are here with you and for you. Reach out!

Your Cherry Blossom Doulas

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