Remember that you may experience pre-labour for several days before the real thing. The contractions/tightening’s might be painful and regular but they won’t be debilitating, and they won’t get closer than five minutes apart. These contractions are working on ripening your cervix, toning up your uterus and helping the baby get into a good birth position. It is best to eat, drink, rest and ignore these pains for as long as possible. Consider pre-labour as like going for a walk on the flat. You get tired and breathless but it’s not that hard. Real labour is like walking up a steep hill – it gets harder, stronger and takes more work.
These usually start out irregular and mildly painful. Over the hours they will get stronger, longer and closer together. Until they are 4-5 minutes apart and 90 seconds long it is not real labour, but “pre labour” and you must rest while you can. Once they get to 4-5 minutes apart, and 90 seconds long, we consider it “established” labour – but we still like you to labour at home for a few hours before going to hospital (unless you are planning a homebirth!). Let your midwife know they are now close and strong. Start using your “active labour” techniques – breathing, rocking, squatting and walking. It is almost time for your baby to be born.
Every labour pattern varies so it is hard to say black and white “rules” of when to call but we will discuss this in our appointments.
Everyone deals with pain differently but the best way to approach labour pain is to welcome it, breath through it and surrender to it. It will pass and the sooner you relax into it and go with it, the soon it will do its work.
Pain is a funny thing- if we fight it, become scared, fearful, or stressed, our perception and experience of pain increases. You have the power within you to decrease your perception of labour pain by relaxing and going to semi-sleep state between contractions to allow the hormones to flow. Your support people can help you with this by keeping your environment relaxed with low stimulus, calm, happy, and to offer you things such as gentle back rubs, drinks, snacks or a warm shower.
It is important to remember to keep going to the toilet regularly throughout labour to empty your bladder.
phone your midwife anytime if:
You are and you think you may be going into labour (having regular contractions) or your waters break
You begin to bleed from your vagina, especially if it is heavy, fresh, bright red blood with or without clots and with or without pain
Your waters break and they are green, brown or heavily blood stained
You do not feel your baby move when he or she normally moves, or you feel the movements are reduced