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Early Labor Tips

After nine months of anticipation it may be hard to believe you’re in labor.

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But labor has several phases. Although you are welcome to come at any time, during early labor most women feel more comfortable in their own environment. For some women this stage can last from a few hours to a few days. This long early phase is called prodromal labor.

Early signs of labor may be subtle. You may experience:

  • Mild irregular contractions
  • An achy sensation or pressure in your abdomen or back
  • Loose stools
  • A feeling that something is different
What to do
  • Be patient, have confidence that your body knows what to do
  • Sleep when ever you can. If the labor gets stronger it will wake you up.
  • Drink plenty of liquids and eat what appeals to you
  • Try to ignore as much of the labor as you can
  • Do things you enjoy. Read a book, play a game, watch a movie or TV.
  • Go for walks
  • Keep your environment pleasant and restful. Avoid stressful situations.
  • Surround yourself with people with whom you are comfortable
  • If you are missing sleep you should call and discuss it with your provider. Sleep therapy medication to help you sleep may be helpful.

Early labor is the phase when you dilate from 0 to 3 or 4 centimeters. This stage typically takes several hours, accounting for two-thirds of the total labor time.

Contractions typically are more than 4 minutes apart (every 10-4 minutes) lasting 25-45 seconds. You may have some pink bloody show.

Most women feel more comfortable at home during this time, where they can care for themselves and be outdoors, go for rides and occupy themselves with normal activities.

What helps
  • You may feel excited. Try to settle down. Have confidence in your body's ability to do the work.
  • Call your provider, doula and support people to let them know labor has begun
  • Alternate rest and activity, take walks, rest, shower, or watch a movie
  • When your contractions become strong enough that you can't walk or talk through them, it's time to head to the hospital. See Comfort Measures in Labor.

Call your provider right away if your bloody show is like a period or heavier, the baby is moving less than usual, you feel rectal pressure, your water breaks, or if your contractions are closer than every 4 minutes. Some people have a very short early phase or skip right through it.

Remember your labor will not last forever. Your body knows what to do.