What Should you Do When Labour Starts
You've been waiting for labour to start; but like so many things, it doesn’t always resemble what you see in the movies. So firstly, and most importantly, Don’t Panic!
You’ll probably recognise the signs of labour when the time comes, but if in doubt, don't hesitate to contact your midwife. They can advise you on when to come in. The main signs of labour starting are strong, regular contractions, your waters breaking, and a ‘show’ (though this doesn’t occur in all cases.) You may also get backache or the aching, heavy feeling that some women experience with their monthly period.
When you're having regular, painful contractions that feel stronger and last more than 30 seconds, labour may have started. As labour gets going, your contractions tend to become longer, stronger and more frequent. If your waters break before labour starts, phone your midwife or the hospital for advice. Without amniotic fluid, your baby is no longer protected and there's a risk of infection.
As a very general rule, the contractions should be about 10 minutes apart if this is your first pregnancy; in subsequent pregnancies, they should at least arrive at regular intervals. Things often take some time to get going before actual labour sets in (and your baby may not arrive until 12 hours or more after labour starts), so your doctor or hospital will advise you how best to proceed. Depending on certain factors, you’ll be told either to stay at home or go straight to hospital.
So what do you do if you’re not rushing into the delivery room straight away?
- Call your birth partner to let them know
- Time the contractions (how long they last and how much time is between them)
- If you’re having a home birth, let your midwife know that you think labour is starting.
- If you have other children, let whoever is going to be minding them know.
- Check you have everything you need: Hospital Bag, Car keys or taxi number, Phone, Hospital notes etc.
- If there’s time, have a shower, brush your teeth, and make sure you’re wearing comfy clothes (that are easy to whip off). It’s going to be a long ride.
How to cope when labour begins
- We’ve said it before, but Stay Calm! Remember what you’ve learnt in antenatal classes (but not as if you’re having an exam on it. You can do it.
- Keep yourself hydrated. Sports drinks may help keep your energy up.
- Get your birth partner to rub your back. It may help with the pain.
- Walk around if you feel like it.
What will the midwife do?
Whether you’re at home, in hospital, or in a birth centre; the midwife will:
- Check your blood pressure, pulse, and temperature
- Examine your tummy to check which way baby is lying
- Check baby’s heartbeat
- Give a vaginal examination, to see if the cervix has started to soften or open ready for birth.
These checks will be repeated as labour progresses.
What was your experience of going into labour? Was it a dramatic rush, or did you have time to mull things over (possible too much!) We'd love to hear.