How Can I Help My Client “Get Labor Going”?

christyshields post
photo by Nicole Jade Photography

If you frequent labor doula forums and groups, this question comes up almost daily.

Some common scenarios include:

  • My client has been having contractions for about 2 hours every night but they stall out before morning.
  • My client has been having sporadic contractions for the past 12 hours and they aren’t getting stronger or coming closer together.
  • My client asked me to join them at the hospital last night because she thought she was in active labor. Once we arrived, contractions spaced out and she was only 1-2 cm dilated so we were sent home.

Each of these scenarios is typically followed by the question “how can we get labor going?” Because doulas do want to support one another and are happy to share their tips and tricks, a handful of well-meaning voices will start chiming in with terms like “Miles Circuit” or “Walchers.” They often describe acupressure points and other forms of stimulation or they suggest teas, herbs, and oils. Sometimes emotional work like fear release comes up.  All of these suggestions are typically supporting the idea that this mother’s body just needs a little something to get into gear to do the work of childbirth.

Unfortunately, the less often heard voice is of the elder doula: too busy for Facebook, too gentle to contradict all of the other voices, or simply feeling like she has responded to this topic too many times before. Experienced doulas who have supported many women through this and have seen many women “chase” labor only to end up exhausted and defeated have very different thoughts. Maybe this mother knows exactly what needs to be done before labor can begin. Sometimes her body is working perfectly to gently move this baby into the best position for birth. It could be that her body needs to move slowly and methodically in the early stages of labor because that is exactly how she is designed to birth this baby. Perhaps she just needs to rest and let go.

Instead of working so hard to stimulate those stronger contractions, what most mothers need at this time is rest and confidence. Some suggestions that might help: take a warm bath, take a relaxing walk, enjoy a nap with your toddler or partner, get a pedicure or massage, or consider acupuncture to help relax vs stimulate.  Though sometimes chiropractic adjustments are suggested as a way to get labor started, an adjustment by a chiropractor who specializes in pregnancy may help move baby into a better position which will slow these contractions since her body no longer has to do this work. The most important thing is to help her remember that she isn’t broken, her body does have the strength and the inherent knowledge to birth this baby, and every bit of work she does brings her that much closer to having her baby in her arms.

Your body is doing important work to get ready for active labor

Your body knows how to birth this baby

As doulas, we want to put all of our hard-earned knowledge to work and DO things to help our clients. Sometimes the most important service we can offer our clients is the belief that they have the instinct and knowledge to birth exactly as they are designed.


Christy Shields


Christy first joined CAPPA in 2005 and immediately volunteered to join the team to further the CAPPA vision. After attending her first CAPPA conference in Atlanta that year, she immediately felt like part of the CAPPA family.  She certified with CAPPA as a labor doula in 2006, and recently certified as a childbirth educator with CAPPA.  Christy has enjoyed volunteering with CAPPA in a variety of positions, and she served as the Region 4 Representative from 2010 – 2012.  She is looking forward to participating in helping CAPPA continue their mission of educating, supporting, and inspiring women in their journeys as mothers.  Christy has been happily married since 1997, and is the mother of two amazing children.

Copyright CAPPA 2015

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5 thoughts on “How Can I Help My Client “Get Labor Going”?”

  1. Well said. I love this. After 14 years of doula work, the slow and patient wins the race. Encouragement reduces fear. Again, nice.

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