What to do in early stages of labour

Signs that labour is beginning:
  • tightenings turn into contractions – you feel the uterus become tight then relaxed again. Although these 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. Eat small, light and high in carbohydrate foods. 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

When to contact a midwife

At 36 weeks you will discuss your birth preferences with your midwife and when in labour you will need to contact the place you are planning to have your baby. These will be either:
  • Delivery Suite: 01634 825278
  • The Birth Place: 01634 825199
Please always phone before leaving for the hospital. This means we can ensure there is a room and midwife prepared to care for you. In a real emergency, phone an ambulance and they will notify us of your transfer.
When to call
  • if the ‘waters’ break
  • you are having regular contractions
  • if you are in constant pain
  • if you have any fresh red blood loss
  • if you have any worries for your self or the baby.
Please do not forget to bring your notes with you any time you visit the hospital.