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How much pressure, how intense...how long?

The thought of labor can be scary! The fear alone can be enough to choose medication without considering how intense the surge will actually be, and how long it will last.

Once a woman is in established labor, she will experience surges that come with regularity. From the time a surge begins until the time the next surge begins will determine "how far apart" the surges are. Let's look at this more carefully.

Surges are coming every 3 minutes and lasting for about 1 minute. This means that in 1 hour, the woman will experience surging for 20 minutes, and will be resting for 40 minutes. So what about the 20 minutes?

Bloom of Birth

A surge has a "up" when it begins; a tightening. Then it has a "peak" where you feel it's intensity, and then it goes "down" which is relaxing. About half of the surge is "up" and about the other half is "down" with only a second or two at the peak. Only half (the first half) of your surge will involve the intense pressure and tightening. The other half is relaxing.

Since you can estimate 20 minutes of the hour is spent on surging, only half of that time is spent on going "up". In other words, 10 minutes out of every hour.

Declare your motto "I can do anything for 1 minute". The "up" of a surge will almost always be less than 1 minute except maybe the final minutes before birth.

By taking your surges one at a time - relaxing and slow breathing through the up and then spending the remaining part of your labor relaxing even more deeply, you will find that labor can be managed easily!

Some general guidelines to help assess and manage your uterine surges:

Early Labor

Surges coming 15 minutes apart lasting 25 seconds (12 seconds "up") 59 minutes of rest, intense pressure felt for 1 minute per hour

Surges coming 10 minutes apart lasting 30 seconds (15 seconds "up") 57 ˝ minutes of rest, intense pressure felt for 1 ˝ minute per hour

Active Labor

Surges coming 5 minutes apart lasting 45 seconds (23 seconds "up") 55 ˝ minutes of rest, intense pressure felt for 4 ˝ minutes per hour

Surges coming 3 minutes apart lasting 60 seconds (30 seconds "up") 50 minutes of rest, intense pressure felt for 10 minutes per hour

Transformational Stage

Surges coming 2 minutes apart lasting 90 seconds (45 seconds "up") 37 ˝ minutes of rest, intense pressure felt for 22 ˝ minutes per hour

unpublished copyright, J. Cook-DeRosa, 1999 Jennifer Cook- DeRosa Post Partum doula support