Early labour varies from person to person, it can be anything from a few hours to a few days. This is the stage when most women will be more comfortable at home. There are lots of coping strategies to help you cope with this important stage of labour.
You may wish to get something to eat and drink to fuel your body for the journey ahead. Some women like to keep active and go for a walk, do light household tasks, some prefer to have a nap or a rest in preparation.
If you have other children and or pets this may be the time to start making arrangements for their care whilst you have your baby.
Questions to ask yourself are:
- Is your bag packed ready and do you have the contact numbers you need?
- Have you contacted your birth partner to let them know you might need them soon?
First stage of labour
The active phase is usually considered to start when:
- Your contractions are strong and regular
- Your contractions last for at least 60 seconds
- Your cervix is at least 4 cm dilated
During the active phase of your labour, your contractions will become stronger and closer together, and lasting longer, as they work to open your cervix. Continuing to use all your coping mechanisms will help you through this last part of the first stage, which can vary in length. Speak to your midwife about further pain relief if you feel you need it.
Remember, you should phone your maternity unit for advice if:
- Your waters break
- You are bleeding
- Your contractions are coming around every 5 minutes and lasting 60 seconds
- You are worried and need advice or support
- You are not coping
- You are worried about your baby's movements
As your labour progresses, your midwife will be there to support and advise you. They will assess how your labour is progressing by offering you vaginal examinations as needed. Your midwife will also feel your tummy, check how well you are contracting, and check how you and your baby are responding to labour. These things will show the whole picture of how your labour is progressing. The team will share this information with you and your birth partner at all times and give you the opportunity to discuss any worries or questions you may have.
Some women have clear plans of what they do and don’t want to happen during their labour. These plans can change as labour progresses. The midwife caring for you will support you and explain any changes to your birth plan. Try not to feel bad if things change. Talk things through with the midwife and/or obstetrician caring for you, so that you understand why the changes are advised.
Your midwife will confirm when your cervix is 10 cm – this means you have reached the second stage of labour, and you will be meeting your baby soon.