Early signs to look for
Every birth is different, but there are some common indicators to watch out for. Regular, strong contractions are a clear sign that you’re in the early stages of labour, as well as a ‘show’, which is when the plug of mucus in your cervix is released, or your waters breaking (although this tends to happen later in the journey).
Some less-obvious signs are a need to go to the toilet more frequently, an intense back ache or upset stomach, pressure caused by the baby moving and cramping that may feel like period pain.
Stages of labour
Labour is made up of three distinct stages.
Stage 1 – Typically the longest stage, this is when your cervix begins to open and is signaled by your contractions beginning to become more intense and frequent.
Stage 2 – This is the stage most people would consider ‘giving birth’. Once your cervix is fully open, your baby will be ready to appear and will need your help to push them through your vagina as your contractions happen.
Stage 3 - Your womb will begin to contract once your baby has been born, causing the placenta to come out through the vagina.
Preparing for your labour
It’s a good idea to think about what you’d like to happen during your labour. Whether you have an all-natural birth or a C-section, how you’d like to manage pain, who you’d like in the room, what kind of environment you’d like to give birth in – these are all things that you can prepare for by writing a birth plan and making your partner or loved ones aware of it.
And while everything might not go quite according to plan, it’s important to discuss options and possibilities with your midwife or obstetrician as you prepare for giving birth.
Getting the support you need
Although you’re doing the real hard work, labour can still be a team effort, so think about who you’d like to be with you. From help with breathing exercises or holding your iced water, to adjusting the light and music in the room or just giving a much-needed back rub, there are a whole host of things your loved ones can do to help make your labour a positive experience.