A Quick Guide to the Early Signs Of Labour

by Your Baby Club

The first stage of labour can last for hours, so remember not to panic when you begin to spot pre-labour signs. Women are expected to have irregular contractions in the early stage, but when these become more regular and there is a pattern, this is usually when you should call your midwife or hospital.

Early labour symptoms may include any combination of the following:

  • A show - the plug of mucus that has been sealing your cervix comes away
  • Your waters breaking
  • Contractions
  • A cramping feeling - a bit like period pains
  • Feeling bloated, constipated or a bit of pain in your tummy
  • Diarrhoea or nausea


Remember, if your waters have broken, you should always call them straight away. They’ll advise you on when you should go into hospital.

At the beginning of labour, you can:

  • Walk or move about, if you feel like it
  • Drink fluids – you may find sports (isotonic) drinks help keep your energy levels up
  • Have a snack, although many women don't feel very hungry and some feel, or are, sick
  • Try any relaxation and breathing exercises you've learned to deal with contractions as they get stronger and more painful – your birth partner can help by doing these with you
  • Have your birth partner rub your back – this can help relieve pain
  • Take paracetamol according to the instructions on the packet – paracetamol is safe to take in labour
  • Have a warm bath

No two women are the same. Some have a fast labour, others have a slow labour. But if things slow down too much during labour, it may be necessary to speed them up a bit.


Different hospitals have different definitions of ‘slow labour’, but the main way to spot the signs of slow labour is to measure the rate at which your cervix dilates. If this is less than 0.5cm per hour over a four-hour period, Mother Nature might need a helping hand.

Don’t worry. Your midwife knows all about slow labour signs and will regularly check how you’re getting on. If she detects slow labour symptoms, she’ll talk to you and your doctor before deciding the best way forward for you and your baby.

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Your Baby Club

Your Baby Club HQ
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