What to do in the early stages of labour

Signs that labour is beginning:

  • Tightenings turn into contractions – you feel the uterus become tight then relax again, although can be irregular in length and strength to start they will gradually become longer, stronger and more frequent.
  • Backache – a heavy achy feeling, many women also report a heavy period type pain at this time.
  • A ‘show’ – in the early stages of labour you may find you have a sticky pink mucus discharge, this is called a show. The mucus forms a plug that seals the cervix during pregnancy and comes away as labour approaches. Sometimes the show can be a little bloody but if you feel you are losing a lot of blood you should contact the labour ward.
  • Rupture of membranes – this is when the ‘waters’ break, meaning there is now a hole in the bag of membranes that the baby is laying in. You may notice a sudden gush or it could be a slow trickle, either way you should place a sanitary pad in your underwear and notify the labour ward.
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea are also signs of labour starting.

It is advisable to stay at home for as long as possible in the early stages of labour, it can go on for a while and there are different ways to help you cope at home:

  • Relax! This helps you to remain calm and cope better.
  • Have a bath – warm water has been shown to help ease the achy pains in early labour. If you have a pool at home it is safe to use in early labour without the midwife present.
  • Try to remain upright and active – this helps the baby to move into a good position and move down into the pelvis. The baby’s head will then push on the cervix and encourage it to dilate (open).
  • Remember to eat and drink – small and light and high in carbohydrate. This will help to keep your energy levels up.
  • Massage – having your back massaged can help ease the pain of contractions.
  • There are other alternative therapies that are thought to help with labour – yoga can help with keeping calm and breathing well, aromatherapy, reflexology, homeopathy and hypobirthing. Midwifes are happy to work with you if you would like any of these services whilst in labour, however midwives are not generally trained to provide these services and are unable to recommend one service over another. We would suggest you find an appropriately trained practitioner to attend the birth with you.
  • Paracetamol is safe to take in pregnancy and may be of some benefit at this time. If you feel you are not coping and require stronger pain relief please phone labour ward.