How do I know I am In Labour?
When the time really comes it is unlikely that you will mistake the signs of labour. But our midwives are on hand to give you advice and support should you be in any doubt.
Signs that labour is beginning
You may have been feeling contractions (Braxton Hicks contractions, when your abdomen gets tight and then relaxes) throughout pregnancy. Lately you will have become more aware of them. When they start to come regularly, last more than 30 seconds and begin to feel stronger, labour may have started. Gradually they will become longer, stronger and more frequent.
Other signs of labour
You may or may not also have the following signs:
- Backache or that aching, heavy feeling that some women get with their monthly period.
- A ‘show’ either before labour starts, or early in labour. The plug of mucus in the cervix, which has helped to seal the womb during pregnancy, comes out of the vagina. This small amount of sticky pink mucus is called a ‘show’ – you don’t lose a lot of blood with a show, just a little, mixed with mucus. If you are losing more blood, it may be a sign that something is wrong, so telephone your hospital or midwife straight away.
- The waters breaking. The bag of water in which the baby is floating may break before labour starts (you could keep a sanitary pad – not a tampon – handy if you’re going out, and put a plastic sheet on the bed). If the waters break before labour starts, you will notice either a slow trickle from your vagina, or a sudden gush of water that you can’t control. Phone the hospital or your midwife, and you will probably be advised to go in at once.
- Nausea or vomiting
The Three Stages of Labour
There are three stages to labour. In the first stage the cervix gradually opens up (dilates). In the second stage the baby is pushed down the vagina and is born. In the third stage the placenta comes away from the wall of the womb and is also pushed out of the vagina.
Coping at the beginning of labour
At night, try getting comfortable and relaxed and perhaps doze off to sleep. A warm bath or shower may help you to relax. During the day, keep upright and gently active. This helps the baby to move down into the pelvis and the cervix to dilate. It’s important to have something light to eat to give you energy because labour, particularly a first one, may last 12–15 hours or more from the early stages to delivery.