Explaining the Concept of “Laboring Down”
When my poor sister-in-law was pregnant with my niece, she went over a week past her due date.
Although our pregnancies overlapped, the birth of my child had long ago changed me from giant, lumbering pregnant woman to giant, lumbering non-pregnant person in the dead of the summer heat. She continued on, suffering the same fate as I, as neither of us were one of those pregnant women with barely-there baby bumps.
No, sirree. None of that for us.
When even our mutual doctor, who much prefers to let labor take its course naturally without prodding along, was starting to feel sorry for her, she decided to schedule an induction one Monday morning early in September.
As is common with inductions (really, labor and delivery nurses see it all the time), her labor started the night before she was scheduled to be induced.
I woke up in the morning, so excited to meet my niece or nephew and texted around looking for an update. At around 9 in the morning, I found out that she was dilated to 10 cm already! Yay! Baby time!
Except baby time didn't come.
We waited and waited. And waited some more.
Around 2 o'clock in the afternoon, I couldn't take it anymore. I called my mother-in-law, wondering what on earth was going on. She too, had been worried. Why hadn't she had that baby yet?
As it would turn out, my sister-in-law went through a very normal, albeit slightly longer than most, process of labor called “laboring down.”
“Laboring down” is a relatively new (as in not historically, but back from the doctor-controlled world of early modern childbirth … shudder) term for what is pretty natural for a laboring mother. Basically, it means that instead of instructing a mother to push, simply because she is fully dilated–as one might see in the movies–the childbirth team will have the mother “labor down” until she feels the overwhelming urge to push.
The reasoning behind laboring down is simple. Just because she is fully dilated, her baby might not be in the prime position to leave his comfy residence just yet. Laboring down allows the baby to get in prime position to make the transition out of the birth canal easier on both the mother and the baby.
Would you want your entire body squeezed every 2-3 minutes while trying to navigate down the smallest slip`n slide of your life?
Also, consider this: every time a mother pushes, that contraction and the force of her contraction, depending on the position of the umbilical cord, has the potential to cut off a big chunk of the baby's oxygen supply – as well as being darn uncomfortable for that poor little baby squished in there. (Would you want your entire body squeezed every 2-3 minutes while trying to navigate down the smallest slip`n slide of your life?) Prolonged and ineffective pushing could lead to tiring both mom and baby out, and lead to dangerously low oxygen levels in the baby, which will affect his or her heart rate, leading to–you guessed it–an emergency c-section.
Moral of the story? Let mom push when she feels ready to push, how she wants to push, and for how long she wants to push and all will be well in the world!
Oh–and my niece was born at 8:54 pm.
How long was your labor?